06:37, September 13 299 0 theguardian.com

2018-09-13 06:37:04
Prisons inspector takes emergency action over HMP Bedford

The chief inspector of prisons has taken emergency action over dire conditions at HMP Bedford as the jail crisis in England and Wales escalates.

Peter Clarke invoked the urgent notification protocol for the prison after inspectors found high levels of violence and inexperienced staff struggling to maintain control.

The protocol requires the justice secretary, David Gauke, to draw up an action plan within 28 days to turn the prison around.

Bedford, a small jail with a high turnover of prisoners staying for short periods, had a major outbreak of violence in November 2016.

A large number of prisoners were subsequently removed, but in May this year, the inspectorate found Bedford was making insufficient progress and it was placed in special measures.

A further inspection on 6 September revealed continuing problems. In his letter to Gauke, Clarke wrote: “The clear view of the inspectorate is that immediate and decisive intervention is needed at HMP Bedford to avert further decline and an even more dangerous lack of control than is currently the case.

“It is of great concern that for seven years the prison has been on a path of seemingly inexorable decline. Repeated inspection findings clearly show that this has been the case. For much of that time there was a marked inconsistency in the leadership of the prison, with frequent changes of governor.”

Bedford is the fourth prison to be subject to the urgent notification protocol, after Exeter, Nottingham and Birmingham, which was temporarily taken from its private operator, G4S, and returned to state control.