HMP Bristol: Drugs delivered to inmates by drone in 'one of England's most unsafe prisons'

HMP Bristol Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A damning report has described HMP Bristol as one of the most unsafe prisons in England and Wales.

An unannounced inspection earlier this month found levels of violence against both inmates and staff were higher than most other prisons in the country.

A report released on Friday 28 July says almost half of detainees said drugs were “readily available”, and there have been eight suspected suicides in the past 10 months at the prison.

A murder case is also ongoing after an inmate was found dead at the prison in June.

In an “urgent notification” letter to Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk, HM chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor said failings observed in a 2019 inspection persisted and it remained “one of the most unsafe prisons in the country”.

A prisons watchdog has condemned conditions at HMP Bristol Credit: Barry Batchelor/PA

The report said the prison was violent and riddled with drugs, some of which were delivered by drones to prisoners through cell windows, from which inmates had removed the glass under the noses of prison officers.

With serious staff shortages, inspectors said the prison was struggling to deliver any kind of regime and most men spent up to 22 hours a day locked in their cells.

Almost half of cells held two men, meaning they were very cramped. Some prisoners were held in single cells with no in-cell sanitation, sharing toilets in an appalling condition.

Despite the obvious effects of overcrowding, the capacity of the prison had actually been increased on several occasions since the last inspection.

'We cannot end up in a situation where men are simply warehoused in appalling conditions'

Mr Taylor said: “This was a very worrying inspection, but the challenges facing Bristol – short staffing, ageing facilities, overcrowding and unstable leadership with inadequate support from the centre – can be seen in other jails across England and Wales, albeit thankfully to a lesser extent.

“Our concern is that, with rising population pressures and increasingly stretched resources, more and more prisons are going to start to struggle.

“The situation in many prisons is concerning and we need to see resolute support from the centre over the coming months to every prison and governor if we’re to avoid seeing more prisons in the desperate state that Bristol is in.

“We cannot end up in a situation where men are simply warehoused in appalling conditions, with real risk of harm not only to them, but also to the public on their release if their rehabilitation is not being supported during their time in custody.”

Prisons Minister: 'The findings of this report are completely unacceptable'

The Government has responded to the report and said that urgent work is already underway to improve conditions in the prison.

The justice secretary now has 28 days to respond to the report and come up with a plan to tackle to urgent and severe issues.

HMP Bristol has been branded one of the most unsafe prisons in the country. Credit: PA

But, in a written statement, prisons minister Damian Hinds said: “The findings of this report are completely unacceptable and we are taking urgent action to turn the prison around and ensure the safety of staff and prisoners.

“We have already deployed extra staff to improve safety and work is underway to refurbish showers and cells, but we know much more work is needed to get the prison back to where it needs to be.

"We will shortly publish our action plan which will set out what measures we’re taking to resolve the most serious issues.”