Bedford Prison Report Exposes ‘Filthy’ Conditions: A Damning Revelation


The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor, has criticized the conditions at a Victorian-era jail, HMP Bedford, calling them “some of the worst he has seen”. He detailed numerous issues in a critical report, describing the state of the prison as a “damning indictment of the state of prisons”.

In the previous year, Taylor had recommended that the category B prison be subjected to emergency measures. The Prison Service has responded by stating that “urgent action” is being taken to enhance safety. HMP Bedford, which can accommodate around 400 inmates, has a history of problems, including riots in 2016.

Taylor indicated that many of the issues at HMP Bedford are reflective of broader problems in prisons across England and Wales. He expressed serious concerns about violence, living conditions, and high rates of self-harm during an unannounced inspection in November, prompting him to write to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk for an urgent improvement notice.

In his full report published on Wednesday, Taylor stated that the “neglected” jail requires “sustained support” to improve. He described the living conditions as appalling, with overpowering mould smell in cells, damp walls, and a disgraceful underground segregation unit for mentally ill inmates.

Taylor emphasized that prisons must support inmates to move on from offending. He criticized the practice of confining people in squalor for 23 hours a day without meaningful access to education, training, work, fresh air or exercise. He pointed out that the high levels of violence and self-harm at Bedford are evidence that this approach is not working.

The report also highlighted cells covered in graffiti with broken furniture and infestations of rats and cockroaches. It noted that violence levels were “very high” compared to similar prisons, with the highest rate of assaults against staff in any adult male prison in England and Wales.

The report criticized Governor Ali Barker for not being visible enough around the prison wings where conditions had worsened since the last inspection in 2022. In response to the report, a Prison Service spokesperson said that they would take urgent action to address the concerns raised, including deploying extra frontline officers, improving living conditions through refurbishment, and providing better access to education for offenders.

The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment.

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