Bedford Prison: Serious concerns remain about violence,

09/06/15 Doors gallery - Bedford, Bedford'Bedford Doors - Bedford Prison PNL-170616-143623001
09/06/15 Doors gallery - Bedford, Bedford'Bedford Doors - Bedford Prison PNL-170616-143623001

Bedford Prison is still making insufficient or no progress in key areas of safety and security - almost 12 months after a scathing inspection and urgent notification (UN).

HMI Bedford was found to be fundamentally unsafe at the full inspection in August and September 2018, with alarming levels of drug-fuelled violence.

And when inspectors returned last month to make an independent review of progress, they found:

*A very high level of violence, with some serious incidents;

*Self-harm had increased dramatically;

*Prisoners felt able to keep pushing boundaries with staff;

*Use of force by staff was “exceptionally high”;

*Drug use was a “major problem”, while the lack of a body scanner to detect drugs was “indefensible”.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, added that bosses had been far to slow in tackling the myriad problems.

He said: “A new governor took up post in January 2019 and had to take some time to assess what he found and draw up his own plans.

“The result was that it took around six months before the prison started to make any properly focused response to the UN.

“This is not the first time I have had to comment on the slow response to a UN. At Bedford, urgent action should have been driven by the clear threats to the safety of staff and prisoners identified during our inspection.

“The slowness of the response is difficult to understand.”

The report did find some progress. This included improvements to living conditions, including “appalling” conditions in segregation, as well as prisoner access to basics such as bedding and furniture.

However the inspectors said that Bedford remained an unsuitable location for prisoners with severe physical mobility problems.

A serious problem with rats had been successfully tackled, and there was good progress overall in ensuring prisoners lived in clean and decent conditions.

There had been no increase in the time that prisoners had out of their cell for association, outdoor exercise and completing domestic tasks. However, Ofsted inspectors judged there to be sufficient progress in two of the three themes they reviewed. Progress in the three areas of rehabilitation and release planning that were reviewed was rated ‘reasonable’ or ‘good’.

Mr Clarke said: “There is a real need for the corporate HM Prison and Probation Service response to Urgent Notifications to become prompt, focused on specific HMIP recommendations and regularly monitored against outcomes.

“It is to the credit of the leadership at Bedford that they have generated their own plans that are focused on the specific issues affecting the prison, and are much more closely aligned to the concerns expressed by HMIP. There has not yet been time for them to have the desired impact, but at least there is now encouraging progress in some areas.”

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