Prison inspectors have produced a damning report into the safety standards at HM Prison Lincoln - published just days after it was saved from the axe.
Inspectors from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) arrived unannounced at HMP Lincoln in August and say they found serious failings at the category B jail, in the report released today.
The report's authors said staff morale was poor and prisoners' welfare was being placed at risk at the Victorian jail, but did acknowledge speculation over the prison's future meant some of its problems were outside its direct control.
Among the report's findings was the fact the jail was holding 50% more prisoners than it was certified to hold and, in one shocking case, it was discovered a foreign national prisoner had been incarcerated for NINE YEARS after the date his sentence should have ended.
Prisoners also told inspectors it was easy to get drugs and alcohol in the jail and there was clear evidence of inmates developing a drug addiction, while the instance of fighting and assaults was also high.
The standard of care for prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm was mixed and too many of those at risk of suicide were being held in segregation with little to do.
A newly-built academy at the jail aimed at getting prisoners working was found to be almost empty, and when asked why this was the case prison staff were unable to say.
The report was published following a decision by the Ministry of Justice on November 29 to keep the prison running, after a public outcry that up to 500 jobs would be lost with its closure.
There had been plans to turn it into an immigration detention centre.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said it was "a very concerning" report.
He added: "HMP Lincoln has some strengths it can build on. However, this was undermined by a serious lack of professionalism in many areas that compromised safety and the smooth running of the prison.
"Some of this required further investigation and action by the Prison Service nationally."
He said inspectors would make a follow-up visit to the prison "shortly" and set out where and how improvements could be made.
The Howard League for Penal Reform's Director of Campaigns, Andrew Neilson, said: "If you want an example of the terrible consequences of overcrowding in our prison system, you need look no further than Lincoln. The damning inspectorate report is among the worst we have seen.
"This cramped and dirty prison holds 50 per cent more people than it's meant to, with 20 per cent fewer staff in post than there were three years ago. Its shocking levels of violence and bullying are a symptom of this.
"Half of prisoners at Lincoln are unemployed and will spend no more than three hours a day outside of their cell, while, despite new facilities, education and training is minimal. Inspectors even found a foreign national prisoner, who had been held nine years beyond the end of his sentence.
"Lincoln's future has been hanging in the balance and this report does little to suggest the prison should remain open. As Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons said in October, the government faces a clear choice: increase prison budgets or cut the prison population."