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Chief Inspector of Prisons calls for urgent action at HMP Bristol

There are calls for action to be taken at HMP Bristol after an inspection found the prison, which is in special measures, is suffering from 'drift and decline'.

Today the Justice Secretary David Gauke has been urged to address problems at the facility by the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

In a letter Peter Clarke's said inspectors are concerned by high violence, squalid living conditions and poor training and education. 

An 'Urgent Notification Protocol' has also been invoked, which requires the Secretary of State to respond within 28 days.

Some of the inspectors' key findings include:

  • Nearly two-thirds of prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some point during their stay at the prison, with over a third feeling unsafe at the time of the inspection.
  • Recorded violence, much of it serious, had increased since the last inspection and was much higher than the average for local prisons.
  • The rate of self-harm had increased and remained higher than most other local prisons. Despite the fact there had been two self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, recommendations following investigations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman had not been implemented. Inspectors saw examples of very poor care for prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm.
  • A hotline for family and friends of prisoners in crisis, to call and report their concerns, had not been checked by staff for the two weeks before the inspection. 
  • Most accommodation remained bleak and grubby with too many overcrowded cells. 
  • There were sufficient activity places for all prisoners to engage in education, training or work for at least part of the day. However, only half of prisoners had been allocated to an activity and of these on average only about half attended. 

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said:

“The chronic and seemingly intractable failings at Bristol have now been evident for the best part of a decade.

“My understanding is that ‘Special Measures’ are intended to provide support for the Governor of a struggling prison.

“If that is the intention, they have clearly failed at HMP Bristol.

“The investment which has taken place has not yet led to any tangible improvement in outcomes.

“Some of the efforts to improve have – in reality – been a case of too little, too late: some we saw had only just been implemented, and some were introduced during the inspection itself.

“On the basis of this latest inspection, I can have no confidence that HMP Bristol will achieve coherent, meaningful or sustained improvement in the future.” 

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