Since a recent outbreak of COVID-19 at the HMP Bedford, a report has shown that HMP Bedford has said that 20% of its prisoners have tested positive in February alone, its second large-scale outbreak in three months for the prison.
Covid-19 restrictions at a prison have had a significant impact and the number of devices for inmates to contact relatives was wholly inadequate, a report said.
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) had said that HMP Bedford prisoners had a lack of contact with their relatives and having this coupled with confinement to their own cells have now led to an increase in mental health problems which have now caused a rise in the violence issues within the prison.
When interviewed over the issues at the HMP Bedford a Prison Service spokesman had said the restrictions were in place to help save lives.
Mr Taylor has said that the prison management was “committed to managing the spread of Covid-19” and will be isolating prisoners who tested positive to keep it under control.
Mr Taylor then added that dealing with Covid-19 has led to “poorer outcomes” in rehabilitation and “a lack of progress” in inmates having time out of their cells for activities and education. This has now caused an effect on the numbers of assaults between inmates and prison staff to rise as well.
The Violence rises
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in HMP Bedford, the number of assaults between prisoners and on the staff has reached the highest of similar prisons in the past year. Although the Prison has stated that there were “significant improvements” within the prison, the latest visit by inspectors found 30% of prisoners said that they currently felt “unsafe” and nearly half of the prisoners have said they had been bullied or victimised by staff. With the mix of COVID-19 outbreak, this has caused high tensions within the HMP Prison.
Charlie Taylor, the Chief Inspector of prisons had said that during February’s outbreak a large proportion of staff had been absent from work.
It also emerged that the jail had also experiences an outbreak in December, but when inspectors visited in March no prisoners had Covid-19.
Tensions rise for plans moving forward.
The Category B prison which currently holds a capacity of 377 male prisoners was placed under special measures back in May 2018 when the Chief Inspector of prisons found it to be “fundamentally unsafe”. The inspectors recommended that the prison should have clear and sustained reductions in the levels of violence and more consistent enforcement of rules by staff.
Mr Taylor has said in an interview that “While improvements were evident, the more systemic issues of high levels of violence and underdeveloped staff-prisoner relationships persisted.” Mr Taylor continued to say that “We also saw many examples of rule-breaking going unchallenged, which fed the perception that prisoners could behave badly without fear of repercussion.”
The Prison Service said it is investing £100m to “improve prison security.
A spokesman for the Prison Service said: “This report rightly recognises the significant improvements made at Bedford over the past year. They also added that a body scanner is now helping to catch more drugs and weapons which we know drives violence, and a new peer mentoring scheme is being launched to challenge poor behaviour.”