Assaults, intimidation and food tampering. This is the daily regime for the residents of K Wing, which houses HMP Liverpool’s most vulnerable prisoners, including convicted paedophiles.
A recent inspection by the prison watchdog has discovered that violence and bullying are still widespread within the jail. Although the HM Inspectorate of Prisons said it was "a better prison than four years ago" progress has "stalled" and many key issues "had still not been tackled".
However the residents of K Wing paint a damning picture of extortion, mental and physical abuse and humiliation.
The names of all the men who were interviewed for this JMU Journalism exclusive investigation have been changed. All of them have been released from prison.
Brian X, a child sex offender, told how some prisoners are targeted. He said: "Some people go in and everything is taken away from them and they just can't cope."
These inmates quickly become easy prey for the more ruthless lags
who attempt to extort money, tobacco or food. If they fail to pay up they
are beaten or suffer relentless verbal and physical abuse, often driving
their victims to the brink of suicide.
Anthony X, who spent two years on K Wing, said: "Most people
entering prison for the first time are traumatised and frightened. However that fear is nothing compared with the sheer terror you feel in Walton."
From being offered 'protection' in exchange for cash, to being subjected to unwanted sexual advances, Anthony suffered daily abuse. A tribunal was even held in his cell to see what punishment he should receive from a gang within the prison. He said: "God knows how I got through it without getting slashed - perhaps my little bit of education helped me find the right word that day."
Violence is commonplace and prisoners reported ambulances arriving at HMP Liverpool on a weekly basis to take injured men away for treatment. Assaults have included lighter fuel being thrown into a prisoner's face and set alight and six men armed with table legs beating two prisoners.
Another widely-used way to inflict injury is to throw hot water which contains sugar into somebody's face; the sugar sticks to the skin and burns deeply, prolonging the agony.
Food tampering is widespread with those working in the kitchens keen to exert their influence. Liquids are the easiest to contaminate, with boiled eggs being the only foodstuff the prisoners trust. Alex Williams, who was released last year, said: "You just don't eat anything that drips."
Human faeces, pubic hair and broken glass have all been found in the food and prisoners are forced to survive on food purchased from the prison canteen using personal money, or wages earned within the prison.
Chris X, who was released last year from a six-year sentence for rape,
was served custard with excrement in it. After refusing to eat any further
food in the jail he lost three stones in weight in just six weeks.
Peter X, a convicted paedophile, explained that many of K Wing's prisoners are only on the Vulnerable Prisoner wing due to running up debts on other wings and are moved there for their own safety. He said: “They seem to group themselves more into mini gangs of three and four and they target the older men and more infirm men."
The prisoners interviewed were in agreement that sex offenders should be kept separate from other prisoners on the VP wing.
A serving prison officer at Walton, who asked not to be named, said: “Staffing levels have dropped, and more prisoners are being locked up. This means that the prisoner to officer ratio is higher. Officers cannot hope to cover all parts of the wing, giving the gang and bullying culture scope to increase.”
JMU Journalism approached Her Majesty’s Prison Service for a reaction to our investigation, but they refused to comment.
EXCLUSIVE by Liam Deveney
More JMU Journalism stories
Former Walton Jail inmates have described how violence is a regular feature of life on K Wing
"You just don't eat anything that drips"
"Nothing compared with the sheer terror you feel in Walton"