HM Prison Bedford
Bedford Prison (new block)
|Security class||Adult Male/Category B|
|Population||506 (as of August 2008)|
|Managed by||HM Prison Services|
|Website||Bedford at justice.gov.uk|
The prison has been on its current site since 1801 and was designed by the architect John Wing (1756-1826), who also designed the Bedford town bridge, the Infirmary and the House of Industry. The previous site was on the corner of the High Street and Silver Street, then known as Gaol Lane. The location is marked with a plaque in the pavement due to its connection with John Bunyan, being the probable place where he wrote The Pilgrim's Progress. Wing's original building included "...a turnkey's lodge, cells for debtors, felons and house of correction prisoners, hot and cold baths and an oven to purify infected clothing. The silence system was enforced with great severity, wooden partitions being placed between any two prisoners at work on the treadmill. Separate exercise was allowed in the yards, and meals were taken in the cells." The prison has been twice expanded, in 1849 and 1990.
In December 2009, the prison's own Independent Monitoring Board issued a report citing concerns over the high amount of prisoners serving life sentences being held at Bedford. The report praised mental healthcare provision and highlighted staff morale, prisoner's property and the visits booking line of the prison. However, the report praised levels of respect between staff and inmates at the jail, along with the prison's food provision and hygiene standards.
In June 2010, Donna Stanton, aged 27, a female prison officer from Bedford was convicted after it emerged that she had a sexual relationship with an inmate from the gaol. The prison officer had also smuggled a mobile phone, food, tobacco and newspapers into the prison for the inmate while he served his sentence. She was jailed for two years.
In September 2012, it was revealed that Bedford Prison had the highest suicide rate of any prison in England and Wales during 2011/12. Four inmates committed suicide at the prison during this period, out of a population of 465 inmates.
The prison today
Bedford is a local prison holding Category B male prisoners who have been remanded from Luton Crown Court and all magistrates' courts in Bedfordshire. The term 'local' means that the prison holds people on remand to the local courts, as well as sentenced prisoners.
There is a split regime operating within the prison, offering work and education on a part-time basis. There is a resettlement unit within the prison, a daily library provision, and gymnasium available. The prison hosts a healthcare centre with 12 beds and 24-hour health care coverage, while those prisoners who may be at risk from suicide or self-harm are provided a prisoner listener scheme.
The Ormiston Children and Families Trust runs the Visitors Centre, which features wheelchair access, a children's play area with supervised play activity and baby changing facilities. Two Quiet Gardens, affiliated to The Quiet Garden Trust, have been established inside the prison for quiet contemplation and prayer for both prisoners and staff.
Bedford Prison is overcrowded, inspection revealed 495 prisoners while the certified capacity is just 322.
On Sunday 6 November 2016, there was a riot in Bedford prison with 200 prisoners protesting lockdowns due to staff shortages. Prisoners claim accessing drugs is easier than accessing clothing or bedding in the prison. The numbers claiming they developed a drug problem while in the prison rose from 4% to 14%. The Prison Officers Association has been warning for some time about the risk of violence in British prisons. Her Majesty's Prison inspection in May 2016 found poor physical conditions and stated, “Arrangements for managing violent and bullying behaviour and supporting victims were weak.” The riot caused £1 million damage. The Howard League for Penal Reform stated officers refused to unlock prisoners when it was considered too risky. Andrew Neilson of the campaign said:
Of course that means prisoners are spending more and more time banged up in their cells. Personally I think that is partially why we've seen this incident happen, because if you are telling people they will spend 23 out of 24 hours of a day locked in basically a toilet, then you're breeding a lot of boredom and frustration.
Notable former inmates
- Ahmed Ali Awan - convicted of the racially motivated murder of Ross Parker.
- Sarah Dazley - poisoner, hanged in 1843.
- James Hanratty - eighth to last person in Britain to be executed for murder. Hanged Wednesday, 4 April 1962.
- Alfred Rouse - hanged Tuesday, 10 March 1931, for the Blazing car murder at Hardingstone which attracted sensational national interest. Rouse was tried at Northampton Assizes.
- Victoria County History. pt 25 (Bedfordshire ed.). p. 24.
- "Bedford Prison". Her Majesty's Prison Service. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- Knowles, Keeley (13 December 2009). "Report reveals the dark cloud hanging over prison workers". Bedfordshire on Sunday. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- "Sex act pregnant prison officer faces jail". BBC News. 9 June 2010. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- "Sex acts prison officer jailed for two years". BBC News. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- Local jail tops the league for inmates' suicide rates | Bedfordshire News, News Headlines in Bedford | Bedfordshire Newspaper Online | Bedfordshire on Sunday
- "Police dealing with 'unrest' at Category B prison HMP Bedford". BBC News. 6 November 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
- "Bedford Prison - Regime". Her Majesty's Prison Service. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- "Making a noise about peace and quiet". Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). 29 April 2008. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- Bedford riot: Dozens of inmates removed
- "HM Inspectorate of Prisons - Unannounced inspection of HMP Bedford" (PDF). 27 September 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
- Bedford prison disturbance 'resolved' BBC
- Bedford jail prisoners riot over lockdowns 'caused by staff shortages' The Guardian
- HMP Bedford riot: Prisoners caused £1m of damage, BBC learns BBC
- HMP Birmingham prison rioters will face 'full force of law', says Truss The Guardian Retrieved 17 December 2016.
- "COURT: 'Big man Awan stabbed Ross to prove his superiority'". Peterborough Telegraph.
- BBC - Beds Herts and Bucks - History - James Hanratty - The A6 Murder