THE blame for a growing number of damning assessments of Britain’s jails lies squarely at the door of the government, campaigners claimed yesterday.
Criticism came following the publication by HM Inspectorate of Prisons of an assessment of conditions at Ranby prison in Nottinghamshire.
Inspectors found that conditions in the category-C training prison were unsafe and expressed concern about high levels of violence and self-harm among inmates.
Two prisoners died through “self-inflicted deaths” at HMP Ranby last year and a further two have died in a similar way since the unannounced inspection in March.
Inspectors found that conditions in part of the prison, which holds more than 1,000 men, were dirty and that nearly half the population said they had felt unsafe having been victimised or intimidated.
There was evidence of an increasing number of incidences of self-harm and the availability of legal highs was also found to have increased.
“This report is troubling and we identified many problems within the prison,” said Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick.
“However, we were encouraged that the governor, who had been appointed relatively recently, recognised the extent of the challenge faced at Ranby.
“There was candour and honesty among managers about their situation and staff seemed to want to do a better job, but there was no doubt Ranby felt like a prison in crisis.”
The report recognised some positives since the prison’s last inspection in 2012, including a marked improvement in healthcare and a “good” range and quality of training for prisoners.
National Offender Management Service chief executive Michael Spurr said that improving the prison would be a challenge but that progress had already been made.
But Howard League for Penal Reform chief executive Frances Crook said: “It’s dangerous for prisoners and for staff, but that means it’s dangerous for the public too, as men spill out back into communities more likely to cause mayhem and harm.
“The responsibility for prison after prison becoming places seething with crime, violence and death rests with the government which has made this its policy.”