A PRISON near Buckinghamshire has been described as the 'worst' inspectors have ever seen in a scathing report.

This Victorian jail, holding around 400 prisoners, is in urgent need of emergency measures, according to a recent watchdog report.

Last year, a request for these measures was put forward by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor, while the Prison Service promises it's taking urgent action to enhance safety.

The jail, with a history that includes riots in 2016, faces a range of issues comparable to wider problems in prisons across England and Wales.

The unannounced inspection in November flagged significant worries over violence, living conditions, and high rates of self-harm.

Consequently, an urgent request for improvement was sent to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk by the Chief Inspector.

Regarding the report, Mr Taylor said: "Some of the accommodation in Bedford was the worst I have seen.

"The smell of mould in one cell was overpowering, with the walls damp to the touch, while the underground segregation unit, which held acutely mentally unwell men, was a disgrace."

Bucks Free Press:

He argued that to genuinely protect the public, prisons have to support offenders to move away from wrongdoing.

However, confining individuals in squalid conditions, with minimal access to education, fresh air, training, or work, won't yield such outcomes, as evidenced by the violence and self-harm levels at Bedford.

Apparently, the prison also suffers from infestations of rats and cockroaches, whilst damaged furniture and graffiti-covered cells are common sights.

Bucks Free Press: A cockroach game on the wall. Pic by y HM Chief Inspector of PrisonsA cockroach game on the wall. Pic by y HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (Image: y HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

As per the watchdog report, violence levels at HMP Bedford are "very high" compared to other comparable jails and assaults on staff rank highest nationwide.

Governor Ali Barker, at the helm since January 2023, is said to have a "reasonable understanding of the many challenges" but according to the report, she was not visible enough where the prison conditions had worsened since the inspection the previous year.

A Prison Service spokesperson responded to the findings of the report; stating that the condition of HMP Bedford is "unacceptable".

The spokesperson said: "The findings of this inspection are unacceptable which is why we're taking urgent action to address the concerns raised.

"Penning people in squalor for 23 hours a day with no meaningful access to education, training or work, or to fresh air or exercise is not going to achieve that, as the levels of violence and self-harm at Bedford attest."

Among planned measures are deploying additional frontline officers to help reduce violence, improving living conditions through refurbishment, and enhancing access to education for detainees.

The Ministry of Justice has been approached for comment.