Strangeways Prison Riot Begins
The Strangeways Prison riot and occupation that lasted 25 days began on April 1, a fact that supposedly fed in to the confused initial response to the troubles. When the last five prisoners were brought down from the roof £55 million worth of damage had been caused to the old buildings. Add to that the cost of policing and the subsequent cost of trials, and the total bill was more than £100 million. Far more than it would have cost to provide basic decent conditions.
During the riot one prison officer died, though he had not been injured in the violence at Strangeways; and one remand prisoner – Derek White - who had been attacked as a suspected sex-offender by fellow inmates also died later in hospital, though again he suffered from a pre-existing condition. Some 147 prison officers were injured, however, along with 47 prisoners.
Media coverage of the riot early on gave grim details of sex-offenders hanged inside the jail; of torture, mutilation and castration, later found to have been rumours reported as facts.
The authorities carried out aggressive prosecutions of prisoners who had taken part in the riot. Though it might not be acknowledged by officialdom, the trouble did spark the eventual end to the medieval practice of slopping out. But not of the overcrowding that saw many in Strangeways vintage 1990 spending 23 hours a day in their cells: in 1990 Britain’s prison population was roughly 45,000; government projections show that by 2015 double that number may be held.
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