'Worst prison conditions ever seen' exposed in damning inspection

Credit: PA

By Faye Clark, ITV News National and Investigations Producer

Violence, drugs, suicide and self harm, squalor and poor access to education have led to the "worst prison conditions ever seen", an inspection of jails in England and Wales has found.

The annual prisons inspectorate report found inmates housed in rat-infested conditions at HMP Liverpool, and issued an urgent notification over safety at HMP Nottingham after a series of self-inflicted deaths.

The inspector Peter Clarke also found many prisons had failed to act on previous recommendations to improve conditions.

The report issued an urgent notification over safety at HMP Nottingham Credit: PA

The notorious Wormwood Scrubs in London was also singled out for continuing appalling living conditions, violence and poor safety after repeated inspections.

The inspector completed 77 inspections in prisons, young offender institutions and immigration centres that house 80,000 men and women in detention in England and Wales.

The 2017-2018 report cited the ready availability of drugs in prison for prisoner violence and found a “shockingly high” number of prisoners had acquired a drug habit while being detained.

Only 16% of inmates got 10 hours of purposeful activity outside of their cells Credit: PA

Prisoners are also losing out on the opportunity to turn there lives around and reduce rates of reoffending, with a fifth remaining locked in cells for more than 22 hours a day.

This figure increased to 38% among young adults, aged 18-21, who left their cell for less than two hours a day.

Only 16% of inmates reached the target of 10 hours of purposeful activity outside of their cells, the report found.

Staff cuts and underinvestment were both cited for the poor conditions Credit: PA

Staff cuts and under-investment were both cited for the poor conditions in a report that concluded the disturbing conditions had no place in an advanced nation in 21st century.

Increasing the impact of inspections and holding governors to account is a central aim of the inspector after the report suggested previous recommendations had been ignored.

If prisons continue to fail to implement the improvements the deterioration, increased violence and self harm are only set to continue.

Prison Minister Rory Stewart Credit: PA

Responding to the report Justice Minister Rory Stewart said the government announced a £30 million investment in the estate to improve conditions

He said: “I am deeply grateful to the Inspector and we’ve listened carefully to his recommendations - that is why we are putting £16 million extra into cleanliness and decency and £7 million for in-cell telephony.

“We are also investing £14 million into tackling organised crime, and installing new technology like body scanners which will help to make our prisons drugs-free."

The government announced a £16 million investment into cleanliness and decency Credit: PA

Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, Michael Spurr, added: “Our new scrutiny and assurance unit is helping to ensure that good practice is shared among prisons and that recommendations from inspectors are acted upon.

“Many challenges remain in the coming year but the increased funding for front line operations and investment in the estate will help us to better tackle issues such as drugs and poor living conditions.

“We have a robust and coherent strategy to drive up standards and I’m confident that we will make significant progress over the next 12 months.”