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Liverpool prison horror ‘symptomatic’ of a failing system, say MPs

A SCATHING report describing conditions at HMP Liverpool as the worst inspectors have yet encountered is symptomatic of wider failings across the prison estate, a Commons committee warned today.

MPs on the justice committee said national, regional and local management had failed in their oversight of the prison after inspectors condemned its "squalid" conditions — and added that the situation is not unique.

Last month the jail was the subject of one of the most critical inspection reports for years.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons found drugs were readily available, communal areas were in a "decrepit" state and there was a significant problem with cockroaches and rats.

Violence of all kinds had increased, four inmates had taken their own lives since the previous inspection, and two more suspected suicides occurred shortly after the latest visit in September.

In the wake of the findings, the Commons justice committee took the unprecedented step of convening a special evidence session about an individual inspection.

In its report, the committee said: "We are concerned about several issues highlighted by the inspection of HMP Liverpool.

"We take the view that these problems are symptomatic of wider failings across the prison estate which the government should take extremely seriously."

Prison Officers' Association (POA) acting national chair Mark Fairhurst insisted that it is the "symptomatic" failings of outsourcers like Amey and bankrupted firm Carillion, both responsible for prison maintenance, that are behind the problem.

He told the Star: "We need to remove their contracts and bring the prison service back into the public sector.

"Staff are currently bearing the brunt of maintenance failings when they report broken windows that are left unfixed.

"This was never an issue before prison maintenance was outsourced in 2015."

The justice committee called for the inspectorate to be given additional resources to follow up on its recommendations, and hold jails to account when they are not achieved.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: "It is crucial that the progress in implementing HMIP recommendations is transparent and independently verifiable.

"The abject failure of too many prisons to take inspection reports seriously must stop."

The Ministry of Justice said it welcomed the committee's report and would carefully consider its recommendations.

"Ministers have been absolutely clear that conditions at HMP Liverpool were unacceptable and we will not stand for them," a spokesman said.

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