A damning report has laid bare conditions at riot-hit Ford Open Prison.
The inspection of the prison shows it was failing in its resettlement role and its security was undermined by poor staff-prisoner relationships.
Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, said in his report issued today that Ford was an exception among the usual successes of open prisons.
“Ford’s resettlement and offender management are critical weaknesses for a prison that should be focused squarely on preparing prisoners for a return to the community.
“The practical resettlement needs of individual prisoners should shape the entire approach of this establishment, something that we have now had to repeat at too many inspections.
“There have been some recent improvements but this time there must be sustained progress supported at every level,” he said.
The inspection took place a month before a January 1 riot caused £3m damage and raised significant public concern about the category D prison of some 500 inmates.
Inspectors were seriously concerned by the fact more than 40 per cent of prisoners said it was easy to get illegal drugs. Staff shortages meant many random drug tests were missed.
Alcohol breath testing was basic and finds of booze were common, though they had declined since previous inspections.
The inspectors were also worried by the poor links between prisoners and staff, inmates’ lack in the complaints system and the absence of outside work for the one in three black and minority ethnic prisoners.
The poor views of long and short-stay prisoners about their resettlement and a lack of staff in the offender management unit added to the inspectors’ unease.
But the inspectors were pleased the prison was safe for most prisoners and care for vulnerable prisoners was good. Security had also been improved by security staff. Absconds, although high, had dropped. The use of force was low and heath care good while work, training and education had improved.
Michael Spurr, the chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said: “We have put additional support in place to strengthen the management of the prison and we will use the recommendations in the report to improve the performance of the establishment.
“I am pleased by the good work done by the prison on safety, suicide and self harm, healthcare and improved security – with fewer absconds – has been acknowledged.”