Sep 17 2013
A prison officer was caught denying an inmate his full meals during a "concerning" surprise inspection of a cockroach-infested jail.
Staff at HMP Bristol, a mostly Victorian-era prison which can hold more than 600 inmates, displayed "delinquent" behaviour such as using "derogatory and abusive" language, a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) said.
The category-B jail, run by Governor Andrea Albutt, was full of "dirty" cells with damaged or missing furniture, offensive graffiti and an "infestation of cockroaches", the report said. At the last inspection in 2010, inspectors noted improvements and described a well-led prison with a "clear sense of direction" but found this progress had not been sustained.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said: "A sense of drift had returned to the prison. Some useful work was being done to help manage offending risk and to reintegrate prisoners at the conclusion of their sentences. But the experience of prisoners was poor. The priorities we identified included improving the environment, improving staff culture and ensuring prisoners have something useful to do that will equip them for the future."
Inspectors witnessed the "arbitrary punishment" of a prisoner outside of formal disciplinary arrangements, in which a prison officer stopped a prisoner from having his full meals. The prison took action to discipline the staff concerned once notified, the report added.
Staff engagement with prisoners was too often dismissive, the report said. Fewer prisoners than at similar prisons said staff treated them with respect - and this was even worse for black and minority ethnic and foreign national prisoners, the inspection found.
Inmates could not get enough clean clothes or clothes that fitted, adequate bedding or cleaning materials, the inspection found, while significant numbers of prisoners reported it was easy to get drugs in the prison or they had developed a problem while there.
However, inspectors found the security procedures were broadly proportionate and the prison was largely meeting its resettlement challenges.
Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said it was pleasing to see good work was taking place in resettlement and offender management and that the needs of prisoners were largely being met. He added: "Decisive action has already been taken to build on this work and address concerns raised in the report, particularly in the areas of training and purposeful activity. The prison and its staff will receive the support necessary to help raise performance and deliver a safe and constructive environment for the prisoners it holds."
Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon said: "This report is a serious wake-up call for Bristol prison struggling to deal with very poor conditions and the drag anchor of unprofessional behaviour and the unacceptable attitudes of some staff."