HM Chief Inspector of Prisons renews call for an independent inquiry as to how HMP Birmingham descended into appalling, chaotic conditions in just 18 months.

Inmates at one of Britain’s largest jails walked around “like zombies” while high on drugs in scenes likened to a war zone, the Prisons Inspectorate reveals.

The Chief Inspector of Prisons also makes renewed calls for an independent inquiry as to how HMP Birmingham descended into appalling, chaotic conditions in just 18 months.

Prisoners at crisis-hit HMP Birmingham flouted rules without challenge from staff, many of whom were “anxious and fearful” as they went about their duties, HM Inspectorate of Prisons found.

Its report said: “We witnessed many prisoners under the influence of drugs, and some openly using and trafficking drugs around the site.

“Shockingly, some staff were ambivalent and accepting of such behaviour, and failed to respond to this overt drug misuse.”

On one occasion, when inspectors reported smelling drugs an officer was said to have “shrugged and laughed”, while another said they had “only just come on duty”, according to the report.

It quoted one prisoner describing a wing at the jail as “a war zone” with inmates “walking around like zombies, high on Spice”.

Spice, a psychoactive substance, has been identified as a major factor in the safety crisis that has hit much of the prisons estate in England and Wales.

At the time of the inspection in the summer, HMP Birmingham was run by G4S.

In the wake of the visit, Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke triggered the “urgent notification” scheme to demand immediate action from the Government.

As the first details of his findings emerged in August, the Ministry of Justice announced it was taking over the running of the prison for at least six months.

publishing the full inspection report on Tuesday, Mr Clarke renewed his call for an independent assessment into how the prison had been allowed to “slip into crisis”.

He said: “Why was it that those with responsibility for Birmingham either did not see these problems unfolding or seemed incapable of acting decisively when they did?

“Put simply, the treatment of prisoners and the conditions in which they were held at Birmingham were among the worst we have seen in recent years.”

The inspectorate’s report said:

– In the previous 12 months, there had been more assaults at the establishment than at any other local prison

– Frightened and vulnerable prisoners “self-isolated” in locked cells but could not escape bullying and intimidation

– Control in the prison was “tenuous”, with staff often not knowing where prisoners were

– Many cells were dirty, cramped and overcrowded

– The prison was failing in its responsibility to protect the public by preparing prisoners adequately for release, including hundreds of sex offenders

Prisons minister Rory Stewart said: “We have conducted a full and thorough investigation of the situation at Birmingham to understand the causes, learn lessons and prevent it happening again.

“We will keep a close eye on progress to ensure Birmingham returns to being a place of stability and reform, and we won’t hand the prison back until we consider it is safe to do so.”

A G4S spokeswoman said: “The well-being and safety of prisoners and prison staff is our key priority and we continue to work with the Ministry of Justice to urgently address the issues faced at the prison.

Mr Clarke added:

“The challenges facing this prison are huge;managers and staff need support if they are to turn the establishment around.

“The helpful action plan published by the Secretary of State provides an important framework for progress and is a start, but there also needs to be accountability among those implementing the plan.

“It is crucial for there to be transparent, open conversations about the state of the prison and the progress being made.

“It will undoubtedly take some time for Birmingham to make the improvements needed, and as an Inspectorate we leave the prison with a number of recommendations.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:

‘The Chief Inspector of Prisons renews calls for an independent inquiry as to how G4S allowed HMP Birmingham, one of Britain’s biggest jails, to descend into appalling, chaotic conditions in just 18 months…’?

Hold on, let’s read that again.

“The Chief Inspector renews calls for an ‘independent inquiry'”?

That’s like the surgeon in theatre ordering that the patient on his operating table be taken to hospital.

They’re already in a hospital – and the Prisons Inspectorate is already ‘independent’.

Who then is better placed than the Prisons Inspectorate, with statutory independence and all expertise and experience that they have on tap to find out exactly what happened at Birmingham, if not the Prisons Inspectorate itself?

It sounds awfully like they’ve ‘fessed up’ to not being up to the job.

Or could it be they’ve recognised that any truly independent inquiry into Birmingham is inevitably going to find that the Prisons Inspectorate and Independent Monitoring have their own contributing failures to answer for?

The unpalatable truth for the Prisons Inspectorate is this:

Our prisons are in the mess they are largely because the Prisons Inspectorate have been quietly complicit in a system that has allowed governments over the last ten years to routinely ignore Prison Inspectorate recommendations with impunity.

I wrote an investigative article about this a year ago in The Independent, an article that (welcome by-product of another process or not I don’t know) saw the Urgent Notification procedure being signed four months later – but the fact is the Prisons Inspectorate doesn’t have clean hands here.

Yes the Urgent Notification procedure is a huge improvement, I welcome it, but I’ve never understood why we have to wait until a jail is in complete security, safety and control meltdown, warranting an Urgent Notification, before corrective action is taken?

Every recommendation of the Prisons Inspectorate should be seen as an ‘urgent notification’ – because unless it is, inevitably one day that is precisely what it is destined to become.

Read the Report here.

HMP Magharberry: Violence and disorder at high security prison reduced

A prison once branded dangerous and Dickensian has made immensely encouraging progress, a report said.

Maghaberry high-security jail in Co Antrim holds life prisoners convicted of the most serious offences including murder and paramilitaries.

Many struggle with substance abuse, self-harm, lack of education and poor mental health and some are extremely vulnerable.

In April watchdogs revisited the institution three years after finding it “unsafe, unstable and disrespectful”, and said excellent leadership efforts to stabilise it had borne fruit.

The inspectors said: “We rarely see a prison make the sort of progress evident at Maghaberry and it is to the credit of all those involved that many of the outcomes for the men held at the prison are now among the best we have seen in this type of prison in recent years.”

Levels of violence and disorder had reduced significantly and the prison was much more stable and calm, while relations between staff and prisoners had been “transformed”.

Areas where inmates congregate were once no-go zones for staff but are now regularly patrolled.

Reservations remain over the handling of vulnerable prisoners, the inspectors said.

Five inmates have killed themselves since the last inspection and a “very high” 500 reports of prisoners at risk had been opened recently.

Observation cells for inmates vulnerable to self-harm had been used 200 times and strip clothing, designed to be resistant to suicide bids, in 80% of cases, which inspectors noted can add to distress.

The unannounced inspection was conducted in April this year by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and the Education Training Inspectorate.

It said the regime inside was much better than observed previously and was being delivered reliably.

It also said learning, skills and the provision of work had improved but much more still needed to be done.

The inspectors said rehabilitation and release planning work was amongst the best they had seen.

Prisoners received good support on arrival, a special area is set aside for the first few days with arrangements for mentoring by other prisoners and enhanced contact with family and friends, and the prison seemed safer, with a relatively low level of violence but many men still said they felt unsafe, the report said.

Robust and effective action had been taken to reduce the supply of illegal drugs.

Some men spent long periods in a special care and supervision unit but more was being done to integrate them, inspectors said.

Levels of self-harm had fallen but management arrangements were too risk- averse, which can mean over-reliance on intrusive monitoring which can itself be stressful, and the underlying issues were not addressed adequately, the review found.

The response to recommendations following deaths in custody was “insufficient”, the report said.

At the time of inspection there had been five self-inflicted deaths since a previous inspection in 2016.

Living conditions were reasonable, although some “houses” offered poor cell accommodation, the inspectors said. A new block is being opened soon.

A more conducive environment for training and learning was created but inspectors said not enough activity places existed and the curriculum was too narrow.

Attendance records needed improvement. Long waiting lists were noted for more popular courses. Outcomes were not sufficiently good.

Release from prison planning and outcomes for prisoners were good.

The report made 14 recommendations surrounding the negative perceptions held by many prisoners, the need for timely responses to health complaints and poorer outcomes seen by Catholic inmates.

It said the practice of supplying medicines which had been prescribed for direct administration by prison staff should be reviewed to reduce the opportunity for bullying by other prisoners.

Prison Service director general Ronnie Armour said: “This latest report demonstrates the huge progress which has been made at Maghaberry Prison.

“From a facility which was described in 2015 as ‘unsafe, unstable and disrespectful’, criminal justice inspectors are now reporting ‘progress rarely seen’ with ‘outcomes for prisoners now among the best’.”

HMP Peterborough (Male): Many strengths but serious problems with drugs and violence

Peterborough men’s prison has much good practice to share with the wider service but was found by inspectors to have become less safe over the last three years because of the ravages of drugs and violence.

The jail, holding 800 prisoners and run by Sodexo, is on the same site as a female prison and the two establishments share a management team. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said there was much to commend in the men’s jail when inspectors visited in July 2018.

“However, the simple fact was that while Peterborough was a safe prison in 2015 (the previous inspection), our judgement on this occasion was that safety had declined to such an extent that we had no choice other than to reduce our assessment in this area by two levels, to ‘not sufficiently good’.” That is the second lowest assessment in HMI Prisons’ “healthy prison tests.”

“In common with many other prisons, Peterborough has suffered the ravages of the epidemic of drugs – especially new psychoactive substances (NPS) – that have flowed into them in recent years and the debt, bullying and violence they cause,” Mr Clarke said.

Over 50% of prisoners told inspectors it was easy to get hold of illicit drugs, and more than one in five had acquired a drug habit since entering the jail. “As a result, levels of violence had doubled since the last inspection. Unsurprisingly, 55% of prisoners had felt unsafe since coming into the prison and 20% felt unsafe at the time of the inspection.”

Inspectors noted, however, a determined attempt by the jail to get to grips with the drugs and violence. Encouragingly, in the three months leading up to the inspection, there had been a reduction in levels of violence.

Aside from the violence, and the need to strengthen the governance and clinical oversight of health care, most of the functions that a prison must perform were being delivered well. Dedicated staff, many new and inexperienced, worked hard in very difficult circumstances.

It was refreshing, Mr Clarke said, to see a local prison where time out of cell was good for most prisoners and where there were activity places for 80% of the population. In rehabilitation and release planning, the prison was judged to be ‘good’, the highest assessment.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“HMP Peterborough still had much work to do to reduce the violence that had flowed from the influx of drugs into the establishment. Nevertheless, at the time of this inspection the signs were promising that further progress could be made. It is essential that the prison is restored to being a safe place, so that all the good work that was being delivered in so many areas is not put in jeopardy.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, said:

“HMP Peterborough continues to provide a positive regime with good levels of purposeful activity and an effective resettlement scheme to reduce reoffending. As with other prisons across the estate, Peterborough has faced a rise in the illicit supply of drugs and a population more prone to violence – tackling this is a priority and progress is being made. The prison’s Director will use the report’s recommendations to support further improvement.”

A copy of the full report, published on 27 November 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Prisons: Yet to turn the corner on safety says Chief Inspector

The jail safety crisis is yet to show signs of reversing, the Chief Inspector of Prisons has warned.

Peter Clarke cited his annual report for 2017/18, which was published in July, saying it made for “pretty gloomy reading”.

He told MPs: “I’m afraid I haven’t seen anything since then to give me optimism that any significant corner has been turned.

“The violence figures are going in the wrong direction, we still see far too many drugs destabilising prisons.”

The latest official statistics on safety behind bars showed assaults, including attacks on officers, and self-harm incidents at record levels.

Mr Clarke added that his inspectorate had not seen any “significant improvements” in living conditions.

Giving evidence to the Commons Justice Committee this morning (Wednesday 21st November), the chief inspector suggested there was a “direct correlation” between worsening safety levels and falls in prison officer numbers.

He said: “In the five years leading up to 2013, levels of violence were steady or even slightly declining in some areas.

“Since 2013, there’s been an inexorable rise. The correlation is that the second half of that decade coincides with the reduction in staff numbers within the estate.

“I’m not in a position to show a causative link but you can show a very clear correlation.”

Two years ago, ministers launched an effort to boost frontline prison officer ranks.

As of September, the number of staff in key operational roles was at its highest since July 2012, but it remains more than 2,000 below the level in 2010.

Mr Clarke said the Government’s recruitment drive “will help” and has yielded some positive changes in prisons.

He added: “Whether they will achieve what needs to be achieved is another matter.”

HMP SEND – Excellent women’s prison but it must address the deterioration in education, work and training.

HMP Send, a closed training prison for women, including many high-risk offenders, was found by inspectors to have kept up high standards of safety, respectful treatment and rehabilitation and release planning.

The Surrey jail had, however, undergone a disappointing deterioration in its provision of ‘purposeful activity’ – education, work and training.

Overall, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, described Send as an “excellent” prison dealing with a “highly complex population” of up to 282 often high-risk offenders.

Three-quarters of those held at the time of the inspection in June 2018 were serving over four years and 67 were serving indeterminate sentences, including life. A substantial number, although not all, lived on one of three therapeutic or specialist facilities which “sought to address the needs of women as part of a structured personality disorder pathway.”

In 2014, inspectors assessed Send as ‘good’ in all four healthy prison tests, the highest assessment. Only purposeful activity dropped, to ‘not sufficiently good’, in 2018.

Send remained was a very safe prison, with very little violence. Though the HMIP survey raised some concerns about issues of bullying and victimisation, inspectors found the prison’s response to such behaviour had improved. Recorded self-harm had almost doubled but it remained much lower than comparable prisons. Force was rarely used and the prison, commendably, was able to operate without the need for a segregation unit.

Living conditions were clean and decent and most women reported very positively about many aspects of daily living. Relationships between staff and women were excellent and, Mr Clarke said, “were at the heart of the prison’s success.” Work to promote equality had improved and was generally very good, although more could have been done to support some groups, notably younger women and foreign nationals.

The management of resettlement was strong and offender management was at the heart of a prisoner’s experience.

Inspectors’ principal concern, Mr Clarke said, related to purposeful activity. Most women had more than 10 hours out of their cells and inspectors found very few locked up during the working day. “That said, the management of learning and skills was not robust and quality improvement lacked challenge. The range of education on offer was good but opportunities in work and vocational training were more limited.” Allocations to activity needed improvement and employer engagement was insufficient. Attendance and retention in education and vocational training were mixed and in some vocation and work settings women were insufficiently productive.

Overall, though, Mr Clarke said:

“HMP Send was an excellent prison run by a very effective governor and caring staff.  The women at the prison were treated with decency and care, being kept safe and treated with respect. The prison provided services for some very difficult and potentially dangerous women, yet did so with confidence and competence. There was work to do to improve education, vocational training and work, so we have left the prison with a few recommendations which we hope will assist in this process.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, said:

“As the Chief Inspector says, Send does excellent work with a complex and challenging population. The Governor and her team are committed to maximising opportunities for the women in their care and will use the recommendations in this report, along with the measures outlined in the government’s Education and Employment Strategy, to improve the quality of training available to support women into employment on release.”

Read the Report

HMP Manchester: Deteriorating Safety, Respect and Purposeful Activity

HMP Manchester, a large local jail with a small number of high-security prisoners, was found by inspectors to have become less safe and respectful, and to have deteriorated in its provision of training and education, over four years.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that in 2014 the prison had been assessed as reasonably good across all four of HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ ‘healthy prison tests.’

In June and July 2018, only its rehabilitation and release work had remained reasonably good. It was now assessed as ‘not sufficiently good’ for safety, respect and purposeful activity, in what Mr Clarke described as a “disappointing inspection”. He warned the prison against complacency in its view of its own performance.

SAFETY: Prisoners spent too long locked up in reception and there were gaps in first night care. Induction processes were reasonably good. Levels of violence had increased and were high and one in three prisoners felt unsafe. It was too soon to judge the effectiveness of promising work to reduce violence. The use of force was high and lacked sufficient scrutiny. The regime on the segregation unit was poor. Some aspects of security work were excellent. The drug strategy was inadequate. There had been three self-inflicted deaths in the last six months. Levels of self-harm had increased and the care provided to prisoners in crisis was too variable. Outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in HMP Manchester were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 22 recommendations in the area of safety. At this inspection we found that 11 of the recommendations had been achieved, one had been partially achieved and 10 had not been achieved.

RESPECT: Relationships between staff and prisoners required improvement. Many parts of the prison were in disrepair. Areas in residential units were dirty and infested with vermin. Consultation and peer support were reasonable. There was a lack of confidence in application and complaints processes. Work on equality and diversity remained underdeveloped. There had been improvements in the provision of health, social care and substance misuse support services. Outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in HMP Manchester were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 29 recommendations in the area of respect. At this inspection we found that 10 of the recommendations had been achieved, two had been partially achieved and 17 had not been achieved.

PURPOSEFUL ACTIVITY:  Too many prisoners were locked up during the core day instead of being engaged in purposeful activity and despite the availability of sufficient activity spaces for every prisoner. Prisoners in the general population could attend an appropriate range of activities but vulnerable prisoners and category A prisoners were disadvantaged. Prisoner allocation to activities was poor and not enough was done to improve attendance or punctuality. Prisoners who did attend activities behaved well. Too few prisoners completed their courses but achievements for those who did were good. Outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in HMP Manchester were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations in the area of purposeful activity. At this inspection we found that four of the recommendations had been achieved, two had been partially achieved and six had not been achieved.

REHABILITATION & RELEASE PLANNING:  Children and families work was reasonably good but the visits experience for some families was difficult. There were gaps in the reducing reoffending strategy which resulted in a shortfall in services for some prisoners. Some good casework demonstrated a proper focus on risk and sentence plans. Contact between offender supervisors and prisoners was good in many cases but was still inconsistent. MAPPA (multi-agency public protection arrangements) processes were managed well. More prisoners were being released on home detention curfew (HDC), although some were delayed beyond their earliest release date. Available interventions were appropriately targeted. All prisoners had a resettlement plan but too many prisoners were released without settled accommodation. Outcomes for prisoners were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in HMP Manchester were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations in the area of resettlement.7 At this inspection we found that three of the recommendations had been achieved and nine had not been achieved.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“HMP Manchester is a complex prison with a very important role in protecting the public. The prison seemed to be adequately resourced and we were told that the prison had been improving of late. Local managers had a stated commitment to ensuring the basics were right, although if we had an overarching criticism it would be that, in fact, the basics were not always well attended to. The prison had to guard against complacency and in many respects ‘up its game’.”

Read the Report

HMP Kirkham – successful jail but should address prisoners’ perception of negative treatment by staff

HMP Kirkham, an open prison in Lancashire holding more than 600 men drawing close to the end of long sentences, nearly half for drugs offences, was found by inspectors to be a safe and successful prison.

There was little violence or bullying among prisoners, including 117 classed as presenting a high risk of harm and a fifth of whom were linked to organised crime gangs. Use of force by staff was rare. Inspectors noted that the prison was trying to create a “motivational and incentivising” culture.

However, many prisoners said they felt victimised by rude and abrupt staff. Their “very negative” perceptions about the attitude of some staff were at variance with the survey of staff, 72% of whom thought staff-prisoner relationships were good.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “There was sufficient evidence, in our view, to suggest the prisoners may have had a point, and that the approach of some, certainly too many, staff was unsupportive of the ethos to which the prison aspired. Addressing this shortcoming in the quality of staff-prisoner relationships was the key priority to emerge from this inspection.”

The grounds at Kirkham were immaculate, with one prisoner telling inspectors the grounds had “a pacifying effect on previously violent prisoners.”

Prisoners were never locked in their rooms and had access to reasonably good education and training. The prison made extensive use of release on temporary licence (ROTL). Six prisoners had absconded from HMP Kirkham in the six months leading up to the inspection in June and July 2018, compared to 13 in the first six months of 2017. Breaches of ROTL had also fallen in recent months.

Drug misuse was a serious problem for the prison and had worsened since the previous inspection in 2013. Most positive tests were for cannabis (51%) and cocaine (25%). There had been no positive tests for new psychoactive substances (NPS), synthetic drugs which have caused huge problems in other jails.

Outcomes in the prison’s core function of resettlement were judged to be reasonably good overall, although more needed to be done to ensure greater continuity, consistency and coherence in the work.

Mr Clarke said:

“Kirkham continues to be an effective open resettlement prison. Good outcomes were evident and this was reflected in a good report. A cautionary note would be that the prison needed to guard against complacency. Offender management provision required some new and joined-up thinking and, in our view, staff needed to ensure they were fully committed to the prison’s values and purpose.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, said:

“As the Chief Inspector makes clear, Kirkham is a safe prison which achieves good outcomes and supports effective rehabilitation. The work to assist prisoners into employment on release has been particularly impressive. Respect for prisoners was rated “reasonably good”, but we are fully committed to delivering a positive rehabilitative culture and the Governor has started consultation with staff and prisoner groups to improve relationships.”

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook described the report as ‘honest and positive.”

Mr Leech said: “Having served time in a number of open prisons the negative attitude of some staff is always the main problem in such places, forever threatening a return to closed conditions for the slightest misdemeanour.

“Governors need to address this and not, as in Kirkham, overlook it.

“It leads to increases in absconds and ROTL failures – prisoners are not in custody to be threatened by staff who in many cases have no place in a modern prison system.”

Prisons Inspectorate Issues 4th Urgent Notification About HMP Bedford

Inmates have effectively taken control at a violent, overcrowded and vermin-infested jail, a watchdog report has warned

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke raised the alarm over the potential for a “complete breakdown” in order and discipline at HMP Bedford.

Pressing the Government to take urgent action, he said a recent inspection of the prison had revealed a “dangerous lack of control”.

Mr Clarke’s assessment, sent to Justice Secretary David Gauke on Thursday, detailed how “extremely inexperienced” staff struggled to exert their authority.

Prisoners regularly and blatantly ignored rules and staff instructions, often without sanction or challenge.

Mr Clarke said: “Despite the best efforts of staff at all levels, there was a dangerous lack of control in many parts of the prison, leading us to fear that there could all too easily be a complete breakdown in order and discipline.

“At times it felt as if prisoners were effectively in control, choosing when or if to comply with directions and consent to authority.”

On one occasion during the visit, an inspector found prisoners throwing food from higher landings.

Mr Clarke said: “Prisoners’ behaviour was very rowdy and unrestrained and the incident had the potential to escalate.

“Staff were unwilling to go upstairs to intervene, and prisoners told the inspector this was not unusual.”

Mr Clarke triggered the “urgent notification” scheme, which means the Government must respond within a month to set out its response to the findings.

The inspection at HMP Bedford, which concluded last week, found:

– Assaults on staff had risen dramatically, with the rate – 116 in the last six months – the highest in the country;

– There had been five self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection;

– The smell of cannabis and other drugs being smoked “pervaded” some of the wings;

– Living conditions were poor, often overcrowded, dirty and vermin-infested.

It emerged in May that HMP Bedford had been placed into “special measures” after the Prison Service determined it needed additional, specialist support to improve performance.

In November 2016, the facility for adult male inmates was hit by a major disturbance, which reportedly caused £1 million of damage.

Bedford is the fourth jail to be subject to a notice under the urgent notification scheme since it was introduced less than a year ago.

Last month, Mr Clarke triggered the process as he published a scathing assessment of HMP Birmingham.

Mark Day, of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “This fourth urgent notification issued against a local prison since January this year should be a wake-up call to ministers.

“The Chief Inspector highlights an unchecked decline in standards over the space of nine years and so no-one can say that they didn’t see this coming.”

Prisons minister Rory Stewart said: “Bedford prison faces serious challenges. We placed it in special measures before the inspection was conducted and we are bringing in senior experienced managers.

“Our focus will be on reducing violence and drugs along with supporting our prison officers to turn Bedford around. It is abundantly clear that further action is needed.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said:

“Its truly shocking – honestly, how could it have got to this?

“Peter Clarke reports [page 4]: ‘Two prisoners who were amputees were unable to shower regularly as they didn’t have the necessary adaptations. One said he had only had five showers this year and to wash himself he had to sit on the floor of his cell and try to splash water on himself from the sink.’

“Come on, be honest; what if that was your son – and if it isn’t yours, it will be someone’s right?

“Charles Dickens wrote books about prisons like this and, were he alive and able to walk its landings, a lot of what he saw he would still recognise as Bedford Prison today.

“Does the Ministry of Justice have no shame?”

Main Points

HMP Bedford has:

  • Had NINE YEARS of unchecked decline in standards
  • Managed to implement just 21 of the 68 Inspectorate Recommendations made in 2016;
  • The highest rate of assaults at any prison in the whole of England and Wales;
  • Prison Staff where well over three quarters of the total compliment have less than ONE YEAR Prison Service experience;
  • Cannabis smoke pervading through the wings, and;
  • Deplorable conditions in which no one should be made to live or work.

 

INSPECTORATE FINDINGS

1. Safety

Reception processes were good but many prisoners were not supported well enough on their first night. Too many prisoners felt unsafe and violence, particularly against staff, was very high. Perpetrators of violence faced few challenges or sanctions. Victims of violence were poorly supported. Use of force was exceptionally high. Conditions in the segregation unit were appalling and managerial oversight was weak. There was a lack of order and control on some wings. Drugs were easily available. A good local supply reduction plan was in place but was undermined by a lack of investment nationally. Levels of self-harm were high and prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm were not well supported. Outcomes for prisoners were poor.

Early days in custody

Reception staff and prisoner orderlies were welcoming but holding rooms were bland and provided little to occupy prisoners.

Initial safety interviews were now conducted in private and had a suitable focus on risk issues.

Shortages of prisoner kit meant some new arrivals were not issued with sufficient clothing and bedding. Too often new prisoners did not go to the dedicated first night unit as it held prisoners who could not be located elsewhere. Instead they were located wherever there was a space, and these cells were not well prepared. Wing staff were often unaware of new arrivals and did not routinely check on their welfare.

In our survey, less than half of prisoners said they felt safe on their first night.

Induction was adequate, but many prisoners did not attend all elements. Peer worker involvement was positive but was not overseen by staff.

Managing behaviour: Encouraging positive behaviour

In our survey two-thirds of prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some time and over one-third felt unsafe at the time of the inspection.

Recorded levels of assaults, when measured over 12 months, had increased significantly since the last inspection and were much higher than all but one local prison. Assaults on staff had risen sharply and were higher than at any other local prison.

Some detailed work had been undertaken to understand the causes of violence and a comprehensive safety strategy was in place, but there was no dynamic action plan to monitor actions to make the prison safer.

The Governor chaired the safer custody meeting which was well structured, but minutes showed a lack of engagement from some key areas.

The current prisoner violence reduction scheme was largely ineffective. There were few challenges or sanctions faced by perpetrators of violence beyond use of the incentives and earned privileges (IEP) and formal adjudications processes, which in themselves were not effective.

There was still no specific violence reduction strategy for young adults who were over-represented in violent incidents.

Support for victims of violence was inadequate.

Vulnerable prisoners located on the dedicated vulnerable prisoner wing received a reasonable regime but others located elsewhere across the prison were often intimidated by other prisoners and had a poor regime.

The IEP scheme was ineffective. It did too little to incentivise good behaviour and was applied inconsistently. Too many IEP reviews did not take place on time. Target setting for prisoners on the basic level of the scheme was poor. Some prisoners were given generic targets, and others no targets at all.

The adjudication system was not used effectively to tackle more serious concerns and challenge poor prisoner behaviour. Over the last six months only around one-third of adjudications had been completed. The prison had begun to address the dysfunctional process for police referrals.

Use of force

Use of force was very high, at four times that at the last inspection and almost three times that of similar prisons we have inspected. Baton use was high. We found numerous occasions where special accommodation was used but not recorded.

Although there was some analysis of available data to identify hotspots and trends, managerial oversight was insufficient and the use of force committee did not review videos or incident paperwork. Almost all dossiers were incomplete and none included an injury to prisoner form.

Segregation

• Use of segregation was similar to last time and to that of other local prisons.

It was evident that the unit managed some extremely challenging behaviour, but it was chaotic and managerial oversight of both the unit and segregated prisoners on normal location was lacking. Recording of individual behaviour was poor and the daily occurrence log was rarely used.

The environment and conditions in the segregation unit and overspill landing were appalling. General areas and cells were dirty and in constant need of repair, toilets did not flush properly and some cell call alarms were inoperative. The regime for those currently on the unit was poor.

There was some evidence of previous reintegration of prisoners back onto normal location, but too many prisoners were transferred out of the prison without their issues being addressed.

Security

The lack of order and control on some wings was a major concern. Staff struggled to contain an act of concerted indiscipline during our visit and we frequently observed periods where staff control was tenuous.

Dynamic security was poor and we witnessed little effective engagement from staff on some residential wings.

Intelligence was well managed and searching resulted in regular finds of drugs and other contraband, but too few searches and suspicion drug tests were completed.

The prison was focused on known and emerging threats, including organised gang activity, drug supply and associated debt. There was an appropriate focus on the risks posed by extremism.

• Almost half of all prisoners surveyed said it was easy to get illicit drugs and a fifth said they had developed a drug problem at Bedford. Random drug testing rates were at 27%. We regularly smelt cannabis and other substances being burnt throughout the prison. A supply reduction strategy and action plan was in place, but it was hampered by a lack of funding and investment in available technology.

Safeguarding: Suicide and self-harm protection

There had been five self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection, the most recent a year ago. Progress against Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) recommendations was too slow and some actions had not been completed.

The number of incidents of self-harm had increased substantially since the previous inspection and was higher than in similar establishments.

ACCT processes (case management for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm) were weak. Initial assessments were mostly adequate but some care plans were missing or failed to address the issues of concern to prisoners. Many staff comments were observational rather than demonstrating quality interaction.

In our survey only a third of prisoners who had been subject to ACCTs felt cared for, and any care provided was severely undermined by poor living conditions and a lack of purposeful activity.

There were too few Listeners to meet the needs of the population and they were not available during the night.

 

2. Respect

Most staff were extremely inexperienced and struggled to exert their authority. Prisoners regularly and blatantly ignored rules and staff instructions – often without sanction or challenge. Living conditions were poor, often overcrowded, dirty and vermin-infested. Access to clean clothing and bedding was inadequate. Food and purchasing arrangements were reasonable overall. The number of complaints was high and too many were responded to too late or not at all. Equalities work was developing but too little was done to support most minority groups and outcomes for some disabled prisoners were particularly poor. Health care and substance misuse services were reasonable overall but mental health provision required improvement. Outcomes for prisoners were poor.

Staff-prisoner relationships

Staff-prisoner relationships had deteriorated since the last inspection and were of considerable concern.

The prison was managing a challenging, dynamic mix of prisoners, with a particularly inexperienced staff group. Seventy-seven per cent of available officers had less than one year’s experience and almost half of middle managers were temporarily promoted.

Staff at all levels were committed to their work and trying to do their best, but as a group they were out of their depth. This lack of experience was having a significant adverse impact on many aspects of prison life.

Some prisoners routinely and blatantly disregarded rules and appropriate standards of behaviour, without challenge. We frequently observed prisoners refusing to do as instructed by staff – and getting away with it. Poor supervision and control of prisoners created unacceptable risks.

Daily life Living conditions

Living conditions were poor. Common areas in most wings were not kept clean. A wing, in particular, was filthy. Despite recent attempts to control vermin, rats, pigeons and cockroaches were everywhere.

There were too few working showers in some wings. Many shower rooms were dirty and in poor physical condition. Some were decrepit.

Many cells were overcrowded and cramped. Cleanliness was variable and many cells were grubby and poorly decorated. Some toilets were dirty and many were poorly screened. There was much graffiti, some of it offensive.

Most cells had basic equipment such as kettles and TVs, although some had insufficient furniture. Some bunk beds were broken and a number had no ladders. Some cells had missing windows and many had broken, or blocked, observation panels.

There was a huge backlog of general repairs and maintenance. Many cells were vandalised and assessed as not fit for habitation, but we nevertheless found a prisoner located in one.

Laundry facilities were inadequate. Prisoners struggled to get access to essentials such as sufficient clean clothing. Towels and sheets were changed only every four weeks which was deplorable.

Residential services (catering and shop)

The food was of reasonable quality, although breakfast packs were meagre. Having the main meal at lunchtime was not popular. The kitchen, despite a period of severe understaffing, was well organised and standards of hygiene and cleaning were high, but non-core work such as consultation and special event menus had suffered.

The weekly small-item purchasing system worked well, but prisoners had to wait up to 10 days for their first full order which increased the likelihood of debt. The catalogue order system had improved, but many electrical items had been delayed for weeks awaiting testing.

Prisoner consultation, applications and redress

Prisoner consultation arrangements were adequate.

Until recently oversight of the applications process was poor. We were not assured applications were dealt with in a timely manner, or at all.

The number of complaints submitted was high. Too many responses were late and 12% in a recent three-month period had not been responded to.

Most complaint responses were adequate. However, some had not been properly investigated and apologies were not always offered when warranted.

Some complaints about staff were not always investigated by an appropriately senior or independent person.

Insufficient support was available to help prisoners with their legal needs.

Equality, diversity and faith

There was now an established pattern of equality meetings and protected characteristic forums. Our survey showed relatively few major differences in perception between minorities and others, although staff-prisoner relationships stood out as the one area where black and minority ethnic and Muslim prisoners had more negative perceptions than others.

There was good use of local data to look for evidence of inequity between different groups. However, there were, as yet, few real actions coming from the processes of consultation and analysis, except in a few cases such as the library.

There were prisoner equality representatives, and equality officers had been identified but were not yet active. The handling of discrimination incident reports had improved, but the quality of investigation was inconsistent.

Foreign nationals who spoke little English were disadvantaged by a lack of translated material and low use of telephone interpretation, and were at risk of being very isolated. Visiting immigration staff, whose visits were irregular, were the only source of information, though forums had been held.

Prisoners with disabilities were identified to some extent, but for those on the wings there were no care plans and insufficient attention to meeting their basic needs. A few with significant disabilities were living in very poor conditions.

A transgender prisoner was given reasonable care. No current prisoners had identified themselves as gay or bisexual. There was no positive affirmation of different sexual orientations to encourage openness.

There was no distinct provision either for under-21s or for older prisoners, though the latter were largely content with their treatment.

Faith and religion

• The chaplaincy team was now much stronger; it was well led and core tasks were carried out efficiently. Additional services were provided, such as bereavement counselling, yoga and some through-the gate work through faith channels. There was insufficient focus in the establishment on enabling worship sessions to start on time with full attendance.

Health, well-being and social care

Health care services had improved since our last inspection, but some concerns remained regarding mental health provision.

A range of primary care services was available, but the team was struggling to engage podiatry services which had been absent for four months. Waiting lists were acceptable for most clinics.

The confidential health complaints process was not routinely used by prisoners, and forms were not widely available. Prisoners had to ask wing staff and peer workers for health care application forms, which was inappropriate.

Inpatients received a good level of care from all staff and had good access to a range of activities.

One prisoner was receiving social care. Processes for referral and assessment were effective.

Medication administration on the main wings was poorly supervised by prison staff and was not confidential.

Dental facilities had improved since our last inspection, and the service was good.

A well-integrated mental health team offered a limited range of primary support, but lacked capacity to provide sufficient levels of therapeutic interventions. Secondary care was reasonable. Urgent referrals were seen promptly but routine referrals took too long to be assessed.

Overall provision for prisoners with substance misuse issues had improved, although only 55% of new arrivals requiring stabilisation were located on D wing, the designated drug treatment wing, which was unsatisfactory. Twenty-four-hour monitoring and observation was now taking place for most prisoners. Clinical care was good and we observed good joint working between clinical and psychosocial support services. Psychosocial support for prisoners with drug and alcohol problems had improved, and a third of all prisoners were engaged with the service. While one-to-one support was available to all, there was still limited access to group work for those not located on D wing.

 

3. Purposeful activity

Time unlocked was poor for most prisoners and when they were unlocked most had nothing purposeful to do. Library and PE services were adequate. The leadership and management of education, skills and work activity were inadequate. There were sufficient education, skills and work places for all prisoners to work at least part-time, but very few prisoners chose to attend. Far too many were unemployed. The range of provision was narrow and low level. The quality of provision, including teaching and learning, was inadequate and prisoners made too little progress. Too few prisoners completed their courses and gained a qualification. Outcomes for prisoners were poor.

Time out of cell

Time out of cell was poor and few prisoners used it constructively, mostly spending it on the wings with nothing purposeful to do.

A restricted regime had been in place for many months but there were often lengthy delays in locking and unlocking prisoners and moving them to activities.

The few prisoners who engaged in work, education and training had up to five and a half hours out of cell most week days. Most others had about two and a half hours.

Too many prisoners, around 39%, were locked in cells during the working day.

Library and PE

Access to the library was reasonable and facilities were good. An adequate range of materials was available but activities to promote literacy were too limited.

The gym was a well-equipped facility and the PE department offered a range of recreational PE activities, but nothing for older prisoners. We were not assured that access to PE was monitored for fairness.

Education, skills and work activities

Leadership and management of education, skills and work activities

Leaders and managers had made very slow progress in tackling the weaknesses identified at the last inspection. All of the past weaknesses remained, most notably prisoners’ low attendance and involvement in activities and induction, prisoners’ poor punctuality, and the narrow and low-level range of provision.

Further weaknesses at this inspection included some key aspects of teaching and learning which were still not good enough, a sharp fall in the number of prisoners attending initial skills assessments, and the low proportion of prisoners completing their courses and gaining qualifications.

The prison’s quality improvement arrangements were ineffective. Regular externally-led evaluations of purposeful activity provided thorough and accurate assessments about the quality of provision but ultimately charted a progressive decline in its effectiveness. Leaders’ strategic planning did not lead to clear or systematic action planning. The prison did not promote a culture which recognised education, work and skills as a means of rehabilitation.

There were enough activity places for all prisoners to attend work, training or education at least part time. But we found only around 20% of prisoners were engaged in any form of purposeful activity at any one time. Too many sentenced prisoners were not allocated to an activity and a third of prisoners were recorded as being unemployed.

The community rehabilitation company (CRC) had begun to provide prisoners with pre-release support to enter employment, training or education, but this was mostly  recent and poorly attended. The education provider had begun to provide some useful information advice and careers guidance. Prison managers did not gather meaningful or accurate data to monitor prisoners’ involvement in education, training or employment after release.

Quality of teaching learning and assessment

Teachers were professional, committed and resilient but were not all providing consistently effective teaching and learning. Teachers’ expectations of learners were not routinely high enough and there was a lack of challenge for prisoners generally.

Planning for individual learning was too often ineffective, not least because most teachers did not know routinely who was going to attend a class. The few instances of prisoners’ poor behaviour were not always managed well enough by teachers which led to low-level disruption of learning.

Prisoners were not all making enough progress in sessions observed or over time.

No specialist learning support was available to the substantial number of prisoners requiring it.

Personal development and behaviour

Prisoners’ behaviour in sessions observed had improved since the previous inspection but was still not consistently good. However, interactions observed between prisoners and with their teachers were generally positive and respectful.

Very few of the prisoners we interviewed valued their learning or believed it would enhance their prospects on release.

The accreditation of prisoners’ skills developed through work was poor.

Too few prisoners actually attended following enrolment on a course, and too many arrived at sessions determined to be sent back to the wings.

Achievements and outcomes for prisoner

Too many prisoners started but did not complete an accredited course or gain the qualification. This was particularly the case in full functional skills courses in English and mathematics, ESOL and employability. The relatively few prisoners who did complete an accredited course usually achieved their qualification.

Too many prisoners left the prison no more qualified or skilled for work than on entry to the prison.

 

4. Rehabilitation and release planning

Work with children and families was adequate. A majority of sentenced prisoners, including all high-risk prisoners, received regular and meaningful offender supervisor contact. However, the offender management of low- and medium-risk prisoners – about 40% – had effectively ceased because of staff shortages. Many prisoners did not have an up-to-date OASys. Home detention curfew (HDC) processes were not effectively managed. Prisoners struggled to progress and move on to other suitable prisons. Public protection arrangements were reasonably good. The need for housing and debt support was high but provision was too limited and too many prisoners were released homeless. Demand for release planning was high and resettlement needs were identified promptly on arrival, but there was no assurance they were met. Outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good.

Children, families and contact with the outside world

• There was a good new strategy document on children and family ties, but the level of delivery had reduced, with no parenting courses or family ‘craft box’ sessions. Children’s visits were held regularly, a cycle of quarterly family days had begun, and a community worker provided a valuable service for families of prisoners who lived locally.

• The visits hall, although of limited size, was well run, with good assistance from Ormiston Trust staff and volunteers. The environment was tired with fixed rigid furniture but with a good cafe and play facilities. Visits booking was now working reasonably well.

Reducing risk, rehabilitation and progression

Strategic management of reducing reoffending remained weak. The reducing reoffending strategy was thoughtful but aspirational and based on a limited needs analysis. The reducing reoffending committee rarely met and did not drive improvement. There was no action plan to monitor progress.

A lack of staff and experience undermined the work of the offender management unit (OMU). The CRC remained under-resourced and the two were not well integrated.

Those prisoners supervised by on-site probation officers (amounting to about 60% of sentenced prisoners), including all high-risk men, were well managed, and had regular, meaningful contact.

Uniformed offender supervisors were constantly cross-deployed which meant that about 40% of the OMU’s caseload, of low- and medium-risk prisoners, had little or no ongoing contact.

About 40% of all eligible prisoners did not have an up to date OASys assessment and many others had already transferred without an assessment to inform their move.

Basic, but critical, administrative tasks such as sentence calculation were not promptly completed, which frustrated prisoners and affected outcomes in areas like release planning.

HDC processes were not effectively managed. Some prisoners who should have been considered for HDC were not.

There was insufficient oversight to ensure the appropriate and prompt transfer and progression of sentenced prisoners.

Public protection

There was a regular interdepartmental risk management team (IRMT) meeting with an appropriate scope, but attendance from other departments was weak and high-risk prisoners were considered too close to release to allow time for remedial action.

There was good information exchange between community offender managers and on-site probation officers in most high-risk cases we looked at.

Mail and telephone monitoring arrangements were generally well managed and reviewed in a timely manner.

Interventions

The introduction of the Reactiv8 programme (a sports-based approach to improve thinking skills) was very positive and suitably focused on a young and short-term population.

In our survey, significantly more prisoners than at other local prisons reported they needed help around finance, benefit and debt. Support from the CRC overall was too limited, but prisoners could now open bank accounts, which was an improvement.

There was high demand for help with accommodation. Despite the best efforts of the CRC, a third of prisoners with an identified accommodation need were released homeless. Remand prisoners who made up half of the population were not helped to find accommodation at all.

Release planning

Demand for resettlement services was very high, with about 90 prisoners released each month. Many prisoners stayed for a very short time – about 60% of the population had been at Bedford for three months or less.

CRC provision remained too limited. While initial resettlement plans were completed on time and appropriately identified need, too many prisoners did not have their plan reviewed prior to release to ensure that referrals and actions were completed.

The pre-release board, which was potentially extremely useful, was poorly attended and was not given sufficient priority by the prison.

 

Download our app for the latest news on prisons.

Related articles:

13/9/2018 Urgent Notification HMP Bedford

16/8/2018: Urgent Notification HMP Birmingham

30/5/2018: Urgent Notification HMP Exeter

17/1/2018: Urgent Notification HMP Nottingham

All Urgent Notifications, Responses & Action Plans

HMP Bedford Latest IMB Report (June 2017)

HMP Bedford: Ministerial Response (13 November 2017)

HMYOI Deerbolt – Positive findings on safety and respect but deterioration in activity and release work

HMYOI Deerbolt – a young offender institution (YOI) and category C adult training prison in County Durham – was found by inspectors to be ‘reasonably good’ in terms of safety and respectful treatment for the 400 young men held there

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said this performance in two of HMI Prisons’ healthy prison tests was a “creditable performance overall” when set against the broader context of prison performance across the country in recent times. Safety and respect had also been assessed as reasonably good in the previous inspection in 2014.

Inspectors were concerned that violence had risen in the prison – in which three-quarters of the young men were under 21 – since 2014, but violence was lower than in similar jails. Mr Clarke said the jail needed to pay more attention to the governance of use of force by staff. A total of 16% of prisoners reported that they had acquired a drug habit in Deerbolt and this, Mr Clarke said, underlined the importance for the jail of understanding and addressing the issue of drugs.

The assessment of purposeful activity had declined from reasonably good in 2014 to not sufficiently good in April 2018. It was disappointing, Mr Clarke said, to find that some 35% of men were locked in their cells during the working day, “which was simply not good enough for a training prison.”

“In addition to this, some 33% told us that they were out of their cells for less than two hours per day which, given the age of the population, was unsatisfactory.” Work to prepare prisoners for release had also declined to ‘not sufficiently good.’

Overall, however, Mr Clarke said:

“There was much that was very positive about HMYOI Deerbolt…The issues that have been identified where some improvement is needed, particularly in those areas where there has been a decline since the last inspection, are actually amenable to management intervention. Much can be done within the establishment, but some matters will require support from regional or national management, and I hope very much that this will be forthcoming.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, said:

“As the Chief Inspector makes clear, there is much that is positive about the work being done with young men at Deerbolt. Safety and respect have been prioritised as they are fundamental building blocks for successful rehabilitation but we accept more needs to be done to improve activity levels and release planning. Prisons across the estate will benefit from the £30m investment we are making to improve safety and maintenance, which will include more and better tools to tackle the spread of drugs. Work is already in hand to respond to the recommendations in this report and the Governor will receive support to improve the performance of the prison over the next 12 months.”

READ THE REPORT

Pentonville Prison: “A decrepit Victorian vermin-infested crumbing jail – Charles Dickens wrote books about prisons like this.”

One of Britain’s oldest jails is overcrowded, crumbling and porous to drugs, weapons and mobile phones, a watchdog report has warned.

Monitors at HMP Pentonville found old windows had not been replaced, vermin was rife and prisoners went weeks without exercise in the fresh air.

The assessment comes days after a scathing critique of another large Victorian prison, HMP Birmingham.

Pentonville’s Monitoring Board said the north London prison, which hit the headlines two years ago when two prisoners staged an audacious escape, remains “porous”.

Windows flagged up in 2016 are still insecure and compromise the safety of staff and inmates, according to the MB’s annual report for 2017-18.

It found that, despite a recommendation, not a single external window grille had been replaced.

There had been an increase in gang-related incidents during gatherings for prayer. On one occasion, a fight erupted and ministers had to run for cover.

The board said Pentonville has many energetic and committed staff but there were too few officers for most of the year.

Wings were shut down for three or four half-days a week, activities and association time were restricted and some prisoners went weeks without exercise in the fresh air.

The report said: “Pentonville is in the ‘Top 10′ of prisons most in need of investment.

“Twelve hundred men live in a building certified to hold nine hundred. Vermin is rife.

“Persistent overcrowding and the crumbling physical environment are incompatible with maintaining prisoners’ humanity and dignity.”

opened in 1842, Pentonvillle is one of the country’s busiest prisons, with about 33,000 movements a year through its reception.

At the end of last month, the state-run jail was holding 1,215 men.

Safety and conditions behind bars in England and Wales have been under the spotlight since chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke warned HMP Birmingham had fallen into a state of crisis.

In a report published on Monday, Mr Clarke detailed “appalling” squalor and violence at the privately-managed prison, which the Government has now taken over.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “We are investing £16m across the estate to bring prisons back up to acceptable standards, and work is underway to fix Pentonville’s old windows and grilles with around 30 per cent already replaced.

“The prison is seeing a reduction in drug use thanks to new netting, as well as regular sniffer dog and staff-led searches.

“In addition, 35 new prison officers have been recruited and we are working with charities to better identify and rehabilitate known gang members at Pentonville.

“The problems in our prisons will not be fixed overnight. But reducing crowding is a central aim of our modernisation plans – precisely why we have committed to delivering up to 10,000 new prison places across the country.”

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said the Ministry of Justice needed ‘root and branch’ reform.

Mr Leech said: “I find it astonishing that the Ministry of Justice has to chutzpah to operate prisons like this, and still look the public in the eye.

“If the 18th century prison reformer John Howard could walk around Pentonville today he would recognise many of the things he condemned 176 years ago – Charles Dickens wrote books about prisons like this.

“As Oscar Wilde once remarked: ‘If this is how Her Majesty treats her prisoners, then she doesn’t deserve to have any.”

Read The Monitors Report Here