Bedford prison riot was ‘a sad picture of devastation’

MBTC Bedford Prison riot
MBTC Bedford Prison riot

The first shocking insight into Bedford’s infamous prison riot describes how inmates’ anger simply “boiled over” on the fateful Sunday.

Prisoners wielded improvised weapons and knives, started fires and gained control of A, B and C wings after officers were advised to withdraw.

MBTC prison riot

MBTC prison riot

Gangs of them gained access to the segregation unit and intimidated vulnerable prisoners, while others donned helmets and protective padding taken from storage lockers.

They even smashed through the prison’s security system to get to the central offices, which they ransacked.

A report published this week by the Independent Monitoring Board reveals the prison was running with half the required number of staff during the week before the riot.

“In the days prior to the riot prisoners were locked up for most of the day and became angry and frustrated,” said the report.

MBTC Bedfprd Prison riot

MBTC Bedfprd Prison riot

It added: “This anger boiled over when prisoners were unlocked for a curtailed period of association on Sunday afternoon (November 6 2016).

The inmates stuck hand-written notes to the prison walls saying: “This was caused by a 23-hour lock-up” and “we need to be treated like human beings”.

No officers were injured during the riot, but one prisoner was assaulted and another experienced breathing difficulties.

The report criticises the security infrastructure in the Victorian jail, describing it as “inadequate”.

Some 126 officers from other prisons and the National Tactical Response Group were drafted in and order was restored six hours after the riot began.

The damage was described by the IMB as extensive.

“A and B wings were totally trashed with broken furniture, fittings and doors. The segregation unit was attacked and most of the prisoner records there destroyed. It was a sad picture of devastation.

“Poignantly, the library, a facility prisoners valued, remained untouched whilst the area around it was pulled to bits.”

The IMB has praised the prison’s senior management team for tackling the issues that caused the riot and said there is now “significant improvement” at the jail.