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‘Inexorable decline’ at drug and vermin-infested Bedford

SHOCKING conditions at an English prison have deteriorated even further with widespread squalor, violence, drug use and rat infestation.

In their report published today prison inspectors condemned Bedford as suffering “inexorable decline” in treatment and conditions despite two years of efforts by the prison service to improve it.

Chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke found no credible plans by the prison or the prison and probation service to address Bedford’s “dangerous shortcomings.”

Last year the inspectorate invoked an “urgent notification” protocol, requiring Justice Secretary David Gauke to respond publicly with an improvement action plan. But conditions at Bedford have worsened, says the report.

It lists a catalogue of shocking problems that include increasing use of force by staff, rat infestation, lack of order and control, increasing self-harm including five suicides in two years, drug-fuelled debt and violence and overcrowded cells.

Head of the Howard League for Penal Reform Frances Crook said it was shocking conditions at Bedford Prison that first prompted the formation of the league by John Howard 200 years ago.

She said: “More than 200 years have passed but the photographs in this scathing inspection report show that Bedford is beleaguered by many of the issues that plague our prison system today.

“At least six men have lost their lives through suicide in the last three years. There was a riot. Special measures have been in place for two years. And still this overburdened, underresourced, rat-infested jail is being forced to look after more men than it is designed to hold.”

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said: “I take the inspectorate’s findings very seriously. I visited Bedford Prison last week to follow up on the recommendations in the report.”

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