WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 19 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Conditions at ‘neglected’ HMP Bedford the ‘worst’ seen by Prison Inspectorate

Conditions at ‘neglected’ HMP Bedford the ‘worst’ seen by Prison Inspectorate

A recent report following an inspection of HMP Bedford has identified severe issues with the prison’s accommodation, safety, and management. The full report follows an urgent notification in November 2023 for action to be taken on issues of violence, overcrowding, and poor conditions.

One of the core findings of the report was the inadequacy of accommodation. Conditions were described as ‘filthy’ and ‘squalid.’ The inspection found evidence of rat, cockroach, mould, and pigeon infestations. One segregation unit was found to be flooded with raw sewage after heavy rain, meaning prisoners had to be regularly moved. Furniture was both sparse and often broken. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor, declared in the report that some of the accommodation was ‘the worst I have seen.’

Concerns were also identified with prison overcrowding and safety. Bedford held 334 prisoners at the time of the inspection, 50% over its certified normal capacity of 229 prisoners. Rates of self-harm were noted to have increased by 84% since the last inspection, with 533 incidents of self-harm and one self-inflicted death in the last 12 months. Staffing levels and mental health support were also identified as insufficient and the number of assaults on staff ‘were among the highest in the country.’

Bedford prison has been the subject of heavy scrutiny over the years by the HM Prison Inspectorate. Concerns rose to national prominence after a 2016 prison riot. The most recent report follows a similar investigation by the HM Prison Inspectorate in 2022 which identified issues with conditions, safety, and rehabilitation. However, the prison has failed to achieve most of the recommended improvements. In fact, evaluation scores for safety, respect, purposeful activity, and preparation for release have all worsened since then.

The Howard League for Penal Reform, the world’s oldest prison charity, has responded to the report, with Andrea Coomber KC (Hon.), Chief Executive of the Howard League, saying, ‘These images are an utterly appalling indictment of the prison system today, and they should compel politicians on all sides to work constructively to ensure that no one is held in such terrible conditions ever again.’