Devon

Exeter Prison 'significantly overcrowded'

Exeter Prison
Image caption HMP Exeter, which is a category B prison, was built in the 1850s

Exeter Prison is "significantly overcrowded" with the use of illicit drugs "higher than expected", an unannounced inspection has found.

However, the chief inspector of prisons also praised it as "well led", with competent and caring staff.

He said that the jail - which was built for 317 inmates, but houses more than 500 - was making progress.

Last year, the Prison Reform Trust said Exeter was the fifth most overcrowded jail in the UK, with 530 inmates.

The report, by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons, also highlighted that while prisoners at risk of self-harm were well cared for, improvement was needed, "particularly as there had been three self-inflicted deaths at the prison since its last inspection in 2009".

'Weaknesses and gaps'

It said the typical Victorian prison was "old and difficult to maintain", adding there was "limited space and significant overcrowding", both in terms of the availability of accommodation and access to amenities and services.

But Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, said that, despite these challenges, it was a "broadly good report".

He added: "Overall, and despite some weaknesses and gaps, Exeter is one of the better older local prisons we have seen recently.

"There are clear structural challenges for the prison, not least the poor environment and the lack of space, but the prison is well led, and is not overwhelmed by these challenges. There is meaningful work to tackle risks and a sense that progress is being made."

Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said: "Exeter is a safe local prison where staff are working well with offenders.

"There are challenges in running the Victorian prison, but I am pleased that the chief inspector has acknowledged the good work that is being done there, especially in resettlement, respect and safety."

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