HMP Bedford: Safe, well run, but more rehabiliation needed


HMP Bedford was a fairly safe and well run prison but it needed to do more to rehabilitate prisoners, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the local jail.

HMP Bedford is a small prison dating from the 19th century. At its last inspection in 2009, inspectors described a well run prison that tried to mitigate the risks it managed and was achieving some reasonable outcomes . This inspection has made similar judgements, although there had been some deterioration in the provision of work, education and training and resettlement services.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most prisoners in Bedford said they felt safe;
  • most violent incidents were relatively minor and the prison collected useful data to support its strategies to reduce violence;
  • the management of those at risk of self-harm was generally good;
  • the strategy to restrict the supply of illicit drugs was reasonably effective;
  • relationships between staff and prisoners were a real strength;
  • much had been done to ensure the prison was reasonably clean, although some cells were damp and many were doubled up;
  • although the amount of time out of cell varied greatly among prisoners, the daily routine seemed to be delivered consistently;
  • overall the quality of learning and skills opportunities provided was good, but much work on offer was low skill and mundane; and
  • health care services were good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the prison was very overcrowded;
  • young adults were significantly over-represented in violent incidents and more needed to be done to understand and address this;
  • accountability for the use of force, of which there were a significant number of incidents, also required improvement;
  • there had tragically been four self-inflicted deaths since 2009 but inspectors were assured lessons had been learned from these incidents and that investigation action plans were being followed up;
  • accountability for the use of segregation and the routine in the segregation unit needed to be better, although staff worked well with the prisoners held there;
  • there was sufficient purposeful activity for only half the population, although the prison had sought to maximise the limited space available for providing activity places;
  • resettlement services and offender management were not well coordinated; and
  • public protection arrangements were very weak and required urgent attention.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Despite its problems Bedford is a fundamentally well run prison that importantly is both safe and respectful. The prison is confronted with many risks and operates in a less than ideal environment, but continues to use its available resources well. There is evidence of some improvements in learning and skills provision and the confidence with which staff relate to prisoners underpins much of its good work. Bedford’s main priority must be a clearer focus on its resettlement function and greater competence in the management of risk of harm reduction, sentence planning and structure to ensure effective public protection.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector acknowledges Bedford is performing well and provides a safe and respectful environment for the prisoners it holds. The Governor and his staff should be commended for their hard work in achieving this. They will now use the report to continue to make improvements.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: