Rule breakers at HMP Bedford locked in cells for more than a hundred days over just three months, figures show

Numbers of inmates locked up are revealed
Numbers of inmates locked up are revealed

Inmates were confined to their cells for more than a hundred days over just three months for breaking rules at Bedford Prison, according to Ministry of Justice data.

The Howard League for Penal Reform say punishing inmates with confinement contributes to worsening conditions in prison.

Bedford inmates committed 249 proven offences between July and September, of which 23 resulted in the culprit being confined to a cell.

The offending prisoners received 172 days of confinement - the equivalent of more than five months between them.

HM Prison and Probation Service guidance states that adult prisoners can be confined to their cells for up to 21 days for a single offence, with young offenders getting up to 10 days.

The majority of offending prisoners at Bedford were confined to their cells for violent offences, like assaulting or attempting to assault a fellow prisoner or member of staff, with 13 incidents over the three-month period leading to 89 days in confinement.

Being disrespectful or verbally abusive led to four offenders receiving 34 days locked in their cells.

One prisoner was found to have endangered the health and safety of another person, racking up three days in all.

Long periods of cell confinement can cause the mental and physical health of prisoners to deteriorate, according to HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

In a 2017 report, the Inspectorate said it was also concerned that many inmates were spending up to 22 hours in “unpleasant” cells, worsening the impact of extended confinement.

Offenders can be sent to a designated segregation unit, but are often locked up in their own cells.

Howard League chief executive Frances Crook said: “Prisoners punished with confinement will have their things taken away and are locked up with no stimulation.

“If there are cellmates involved, that creates a lot of resentment and tension, since taking away things like TVs and radios effectively punishes them as well.”

The Howard League said it recognises that sanctioning rule breakers is necessary, but said an incentive and praise-focused system would be more effective.

Ms Crook added: "Justice is not a synonym for punishment.

“Prisons should be trying to create hope for the future, rather than trying to punish their way out of problems.”

An HM Prison Service spokesperson said: “It is right that governors who know their prisons best have the freedom to decide how to deal with those who break the rules.

“We are reviewing the existing disciplinary processes as part of our wider programme of prison reform.”

Across England and Wales, nearly 7,000 incidents over the three month period resulted in almost 50,000 days of confinement - the equivalent of 130 years locked up.