CARLISLE criminals serving long jail terms are using Facebook to show off their body-building prowess - and boast of how their prison is like a “holiday camp”.

The Cumberland News has exposed how convicted offenders from north Cumbria are routinely using smartphones and posting messages on Facebook - which is banned in all UK prisons.

Those involved are - or have been - inmates at HMP Northumberland, which holds more than 1,300 prisoners and is run by private contractor Sodexo Justice Services.

In a series of posts - clearly done inside the Morpeth jail - prisoners from Carlisle speak openly about their life, which includes regular sessions at the gym, with one prisoner telling a pal on the outside: “I’m cushty, mate. Holiday camp here, boyo.”

That was from 26-year-old Liam Ford, now serving four years and two months for a spate of offences, including an assault on a 14-year-old Carlisle boy with a hammer. Masked and high on drink and drugs, Ford and an accomplice sneaked into the boy’s home to search for drugs and cash.

Ford also attacked the boy’s sister as she bravely confronted the intruders. It took six police officers to overpower him. In another Facebook post, Ford talks of topping up his tan in the prison yard.

In yet another message, he shares a picture of himself, bare-chested, clutching a silver trophy with the comment: “Third place HMP Northeast. Deadlift 200; bench [presses] 150; squats 145. Carlisle Power Kid and 21 months to go.”

Elsewhere on his page, he is pictured with four friends, the caption stating: “HMP Cumbrian boys.” Regular Facebook messages have also been posted by Carlisle man Steven Hall.

In June last year, the 24-year-old was jailed for nine years after he bit off the end of a man’s nose in a horrifying attack in Carlisle city centre.

The sentencing judge described the intentional wounding as “repulsive and cowardly.”

In his posts, Hall, from Raffles Avenue, Carlisle, complains about his life as a prisoner, bemoaning how long it took for him to receive a copy of the new album by a Canadian rapper. “Just got Drake’s new album,” he wrote. “It took five weeks to come, like but that’s jail for you. It’s unreal.” Other messages speak of how training at the prison gym has helped him.

Hall has received supportive Facebook messages from friends in Carlisle, with one telling him: “You know the lads are here for you, pal. Chin up, chest out and we’ll all get you through it.”

Within hours of our reporter contacting Sodexo, prison bosses closed down three Facebook accounts of serving prisoners. The Prisons Reform Trust said inmates throughout the UK are barred from having smart phones and using social media.

“It’s not allowed for very good reasons,” said Matt Day, from the trust.

“Having that access may have an impact on victims. It would be illegal to have a mobile phone in prison and they do what they can to stop them because they can illegally trade in them.

“They can create problems with bullying.”

Mr Day said many UK prisons offer very limited access to phones. Providing prisoners with phones in their cells would allow them to stay in touch with relatives in a safe and regulated way, while cutting demand for illicit phones.

It would also help prisoners prepare for release, allowing timely benefits claims and a chance to resolve housing issues, boosting their chances of staying out of trouble, he said. Contact with family also protects mental health.

Mr Day added: “There will be a significant proportion of people using smart phones purely to stay in touch with loved ones; but there will also be prisoners using them for criminal activity.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson attached no weight to the prisoners’ Facebook comments, saying they may have been prompted by bravado. He added: “Prison shouldn’t be like a hotel but you have to ensure conditions are reasonable.

“I’d like to think we’re a civilised society.

“People who are incarcerated don’t have the freedoms we have. Traditionally, prisoners have been entitled to correspond and make phone calls, which is monitored by the prison authorities.

“You’d think the same would apply to their use of modern communications.

“It’s right that prisoners should stay in touch with family and friends. But these things should be properly supervised and if it’s not allowed the authorities should be looking into it.”

A spokesman for HMP Northumberland said: “The smuggling of mobile phones is a challenge that HMP Northumberland, like other prisons, faces but one that we continue to tackle. As soon as we were made aware of this incident, we took immediate action and investigations are ongoing.”