Prison wall of silence, as HMP Bedford goes into special measures

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Bedford Prison has been placed in special measures - but the town’s MP, mayor and councillors were all left in the dark.

The Category B prison, which is based in Bedford town centre, was put into special measures on May 23.

Louise Jackson

Louise Jackson

But there was no announcement, with local leaders only learning about the move when contacted by the Times & Citizen.

Cllr Louise King, who represents Harpur Ward where the prison is based, said: “People who live around the prison are affected every day by what is going on in there. They deserve to know what is happening. but they have been left in the dark.

“My constituents are constantly being distrubed by unrest, which is no surprise with the inmates banged up in their cells 23 hours a day.

“I’m outraged that the Ministry of Justice haven’t let any of us know - councillors, the mayor, or the MP of Bedford and Kempston Mohammad Yasin.

“And I am more than disappointed that the prison governor has been unable to tell us about this.”

She added: “If Bedford Prison and the Ministry of Justice don’t tell us what is going on then your first response is that it must be something very bad indeed and they do not want us to know about it.”

The news follows a troubled period for the prison. Earlier this month the Times & Citizen reported that there were 230 assaults recorded at HMP Bedford in 2017, including 85 on prison staff and 22 assaults were defined as serious, a category which includes sexual assaults and those where victims required hospital in-patient treatment.

Also this month it was revealed that a prison officer at Bedford underwent emergency surgery after an inmate punched him and stamped on his head.

The Ministry of Justice said they are working with the governor to “assess the issues at HMP Bedford”.

It is understood that no additional resources will be made available.

There is no set period for a prison to be in special measures, government bosses expected to monitor progress until “sufficient, sustainable improvement has been made”.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “HMP Bedford is in special measures which simply means HM Prisons and Probation Service has determined it needs additional, specialist support to improve performance.”

More follows.