Signs of improvement, despite Bedford Prison still among the worst in the country for violence

Bedford Prison is showing some signs of improvement, despite violence remaining unacceptably high.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 1:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 1:29 pm

That's according to independent monitors IMB, which says ongoing improvements at Bedford Prison do give optimism for the future.

The prison had been subject to an urgent notification (UN) after a scathing inspection last year, where frightening levels of drug-fuelled violence were and are a cause for alarm.

But, according to the annual report in June of this year - which has only been published today - positive steps are being taken, giving "cause for optimism for the future".

Bedford Prison

The positive achievements are:

* Security initiatives have proved successful in reducing the supply of drugs to the prison

* Improved levels of cleanliness; the burgeoning rat population appears to have been mostly eradicated but there is still evidence of cockroaches

* Clear improvements within the education service following an earlier judgement of ‘inadequate’ by HMIP

* Reduced waiting times for healthcare

But, it's not all plain sailing for the prison - far from it - with the report saying violence remains unacceptably high with Bedford Prison among the worst local prisons in the country for self-harm.

The independent monitors said the prison is "in the worst 25 per cent of 30 local prisons for both assaults on staff and the use of force to restrain residents".

And added: "Levels of self-harm are amongst those of the top three jails in the country. A new violence reduction strategy has only recently been brought in and the system for analysing data around violent incidents is not effectively used."

According to the IMB, work still needs to be done in several areas including:

* The impact of inexperienced officers and high levels of sickness, makes it challenging to maintain a stable environment

* Violence remains unacceptably high, including assaults on staff, use of force for restraint, and levels of self-harm

* There are consistent failings in the fairness of some of the prison processes and the importance of equalities is not yet embedded

* Problems arising due to prisoners being released without a fixed address

Kevin Whiteside, chairman of the Bedford IMB, said: “Despite some entrenched problems, particularly around levels of violence and self-harm, there is a lot of evidence of emerging

improvements, with a cleaner environment and better education arrangements. This, together with a strong new management team, gives optimism for the future.”