Mum says easy drug access caused son's prison death

A prison where seven inmates died in just over two months will see more deaths if more is not done to stop drugs getting in, a bereaved mother has said.

Clare Jones believes the Ministry of Justice should now take over HMP Parc - currently run by security firm G4S - where her son Ross Appleby, 29, died from an overdose on 18 January last year.

Four of the deaths this year at the prison in Bridgend, south Wales, are thought to be drug-related.

Parc prison said it is investigating Mr Appleby's death in custody.

G4S said it had a comprehensive drugs strategy in place to reduce drugs in the prison, including working with the police and working with substance misuse service providers.

The category B local prison opened in 1997 and holds convicted male adult and young offenders and convicted and remand sex offenders.

At the time of a 2019 inspection it held 1,612 prisoners, making it one of the largest prisons in the UK.

Mr Appleby had been remanded at Parc in 2022 and was sentenced to a three-year jail term for drug dealing offences.

Ms Jones, from Newport, was told by the prison governor that her son had died of a drugs overdose after taking the synthetic cannabis, spice, in January 2023.

She said: “It's sad hearing of these deaths... It's not a surprise any more, there's just going to be more and more."

Claire Jones
Ms Jones says she fears there will be more deaths at Parc prison due to drugs [BBC]

Ms Jones said she feared drugs were easy to access at the prison.

"[Ross] was on B wing and said it was like a jungle with no authority," she said.

"It's so easy in there to get whatever you want. He said there was one guard on there at night time with 300 [inmates].

"I know they're in there because they’ve all done wrong, but they're in there to be rehabilitated not killed, and that's basically what's happening."

She said her son's mental health declined after he was stabbed in prison, and he became reliant on drugs.

“G4S need to get out, they're not capable of running a jail," she said.

"They need to go back to being run by the Ministry of Justice."

Describing her son, she said: "He was liked and didn't like conflict and he was a father.

"He wasn't bad, he just made some wrong choices which took him to a bad place."

Synthetic drugs

On Tuesday 30 April this year Wayne Hay, 47, became the seventh inmate to die at the prison in just over two months.

In March, South Wales Police said nitazene, a synthetic opioid drug, had been identified in connection with four deaths.

The force said spice, another synthetic drug, had also been identified in two of those four deaths.

Zack Griffiths, 31, from Llanelli, has been in 15 prisons over the last seven years, and says that HMP Parc was by far the worst.

He was first sent to Parc in 2016 after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

He was released in 2020 but later recalled to prison, spending the end of 2023 behind bars where he said he witnessed an increase in drug use.

Zack Griffiths
Zack Griffiths says Parc is the worst prison he has been incarcerated at [BBC]

“When I was there, I saw that there was a huge uptake in the amount of drugs that were available," he said.

"It’s this sort of culture that’s been embedded into the prison. It’s been there for years but for some reason it’s just become more prevalent.”

Mr Griffiths described Parc as "chaos", saying there was a lot of violence and self-harm.

“It’s time for G4S to be stripped of their contract," he added.

HMP Parc said: "Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Ross Appleby.

"As with all deaths in custody, this is being investigated by the prison and probation ombudsman and the cause of death is for the coroner to determine."

It added: "We completely reject the characterisation presented by Mr Griffiths of HMP Parc.

"The health and safety of prisoners and staff is our number one priority."

"As with every other prison in the country, we have comprehensive strategies to root out drugs and contraband.”

Additional reporting by Rowenna Hoskin.