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Standards at HMP Bedford have declined to unacceptable levels, says the Chief Inspector of Prisons.
Today Peter Clarke published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local prison.
HMP Bedford held 493 prisoners at the time of this inspection. 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 analyse them and take effective action to reduce the violence;
" the levels of self-harm had increased dramatically since the last inspection;
" there had been self-inflicted deaths, but not all recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman had been embedded into practice;
" the ready availability of new psychoactive substances (NPS) was having a serious impact on safety but there was no effective drug supply reduction strategy in place;
" the physical condition of the prison was poor, with many prisoners living in cramped conditions;
" offender supervisors, who prepare prisoners for release, had infrequent contact with prisoners; and
" delays in implementing the community rehabilitation company (CRC) arrangements meant resettlement arrangements were weak.
However, inspectors were pleased to find that:
" most prisoners (79%) said staff treated them with respect; and
" the food was rated good or very good by 43% of prisoners, more than double the figure in similar prisons, and PE facilities were good.
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."
A Prison Service spokesperson said: "Safety in prisons is fundamental to the proper functioning of our justice system and a vital part of our reform plans.
"There are a number of factors, including the availability of psychoactive substances that must be tackled, from today we are rolling out mandatory nationwide testing of synthetic drugs, which will help to end the flow of these dangerous drugs into our prisons.
"The Secretary of State is determined to make sure our prisons are safe and places of reform and will announce further measures this autumn.”
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