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22 Jan 2019

Howard League responds to Bedford prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Bedford prison, published today (Tuesday 22 January).

Inspectors visited the prison in August and September last year and found that it had suffered an “inexorable decline” in treatment and conditions.

The findings prompted Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, to invoke the ‘Urgent Notification’ protocol, which requires the Secretary of State for Justice to publish an improvement action plan for the prison.

Figures on the Howard League website show that, at the end of last month, the prison could accommodate only 266 men but was being asked to look after 353.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Shocking conditions in the former jail in Bedford were what prompted the great reformer John Howard to dedicate his life to improving prisons.

“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, under-resourced, rat-infested jail is being forced to look after more men than it is designed to hold.

“Courts must be held to account for the decisions they make, because the continued imposition of short sentences and the overuse of remand are causing problems that spill out of prisons. Exactly as John Howard found all those years ago, prisons like Bedford infect local communities.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  1. A copy of the Bedford inspection report will be available from Tuesday 22 January on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.


Rob Preece
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