Match-fixers start jail sentences
THREE of the men jailed over the cricket match-fixing scandal were due to start their sentences in a cold and cramped Victorian prison, where conditions for many prisoners were described as "below what could be classed as decent" in a damning inspectorate report this year.
Salman Butt, 27, Pakistan's former captain; fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28; and Mazhar Majeed, 36, the corrupt sports agent, were expected to be taken to Wandsworth Prison in south London where Muslim and ethnic minority prisoners have reported feeling more unsafe than other inmates on their first night, according to the inspection report.
In his damning assessment, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, said in August the treatment of too many prisoners was "demeaning, unsafe and fell below what could be classed as decent".
The report said that victims of bullying were not adequately protected and some prisoners were out of their cells for just two hours a day. It also added that "black and minority ethnic prisoners were disadvantaged in significant areas of the prison".
The category-B prison has seen high-profile prisoners pass through its gates within the last year, including Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, who was held there on remand, and the disgraced MP David Chaytor after his conviction over the expenses scandal.
The men were unlikely to receive any preferential treatment, prison staff said. After handing over valuables, they will have gone behind screens to strip and given just a towel to wear, said Mark Leech, the editor of Converse, the prisoners' newspaper. They will have been searched, weighed and measured.
After seeing a doctor and being told to supply a urine sample for drug tests, they will have been given a blanket, pillow and sheet to spend their first night in cells where, inspectors reported in August, racist graffiti was scrawled on the walls.
In addition to daily exercise in the yard, the professional sportsmen and Majeed will have the opportunity to sign up for sports classes and may not be completely cut off from the sport they sullied, according to Stewart McLaughlin, the branch secretary of the POA, the union representing prison officers.
While there will be no outdoor cricket, staff may run games using softer balls and smaller stumps inside one of the prison's three gyms. Though, with some 1,600 inmates held there, they will get only a few opportunities a week. McLaughlin said the men need have no fears of being picked on despite their wealth and formerly elevated status. "They will be well treated," he said. "We've had other high-profile people in here, and they have all been treated with professionalism."
The last man convicted, Mohammad Amir, 19, was expected to be taken to Feltham Prison for young offenders.