Standards at HMP Bedford have declined to unacceptable levels, said chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke after an unannounced inspection of the prison.
HMP Bedford has 493 prisoners and at its previous inspection in February 2014, inspectors made 72 recommendations.
On this more recent inspection, only 12 recommendations had been achieved and four partially achieved.
Inspectors were concerned to find that although the prison knew where and when violent incidents were occurring, far too little was being done to take action to reduce the violence, the levels of self-harm had increased dramatically since the last inspection and there had been self-inflicted deaths.
The availability of new psychoactive substances was having a serious impact on safety but no drug supply reduction strategy in place, the physical condition of the prison was poor, with many prisoners living in cramped conditions and offender supervisors, who prepare prisoners for release, had infrequent contact with prisoners.
These were the main concern points published in the report, however, inspectors were pleased to find that most prisoners (79 per cent) said staff treated them with respect and the food was rated good or very good by 43 per cent of prisoners.
Peter Clarke, said: “This is a disappointing report.
“It is hard to understand how such an abject failure to address our previous clear recommendations has been allowed to happen.
“As a result, standards in the prison have declined to unacceptable levels.
“I am not suggesting that staff at HMP Bedford are not working hard – they clearly were, and some important things had been put in place to improve things in the future.
“The management of the prison is aware of the challenges they face but have not yet been able to address them.
“The lack of consistent leadership is unlikely to have helped. There had been four people fulfilling the role of governor since the last inspection in 2014. “The responsibility to deliver on our recommendations lies mainly with the governor but there also has to be effective oversight at a national and regional level.”
Mark leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, said: “What we see at HMP Bedford from this shocking report is being seen across the prison system nationally, Bedford prison just brings it into sharp focus.
“Since 2010 we have lost over 12,500 full-time prison officers, seen the prison population rise by 4,000 prisoners and the prison service budget has been cut by over £900m.
“This report on Bedford Prison shows what happens when you try to run a modern prison service on a tuppence.”