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Bedford prison: Specialist riot unit sent to quell six-hour disturbance at ‘dungeon’ jail

Prison watchdog warned government last year about 'very high' violence and drug use at jail

Emma Snaith
Sunday 17 February 2019 16:34 GMT
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Police outside HMP Bedford, where a specialist riot unit quashed six hours of unrest
Police outside HMP Bedford, where a specialist riot unit quashed six hours of unrest (Twitter/ Drewscapegoat)

A specialist riot unit was sent to quash a six-hour disturbance at prison which has been condemned as "dirty and vermin infested".

The Ministry of Justice’s Tornado team was deployed at HMP Bedford after the unrest was reported at around 2.30pm on Saturday.

The disturbance was contained to one wing and no staff or inmates were hurt before it was resolved by 9pm, the prison service said.

HMP Bedford was put into special measures in May after concerns over living conditions and violence. Five prisoners have killed themselves at the jail in the past two years

Following an unannounced visit to the facility in August, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons issued an urgent warning to the government about the jail's "path of seemingly inexorable decline”.

Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, warned of “very high” violence and inexperienced staff struggling to maintain control at HMP Bedford

“The violence was largely fuelled by drugs, and the prisoners – many of them living in fear – were confined for unacceptable lengths of time in cells that were all too often infested with vermin, dirty and unfit to be occupied,” he said.

Inspectors said they saw prisoners smoking openly and unchallenged in the jail, where the smell of cannabis and other burning substances pervaded some wings.

Another report from the prison’s independent monitoring board published in October compared the prison to a “dungeon”.

The report also said that violence had “steadily increased” at the prison over the last 12 months with an “increased viciousness of individual attacks on officers”.

It added that the prison's mental health service was "inadequate in terms of its resources and coverage”.

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In 2016, a riot at the prison involving 230 prisoners caused £1m worth of damage to two wings.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Staff at HMP Bedford successfully resolved an incident in one wing of the prison.

“We do not tolerate violence in our prisons and, where incidents like this occur, will always push for the strongest possible punishment for those involved."

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