Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedford Prison duty 'worse than Iraq' says ex-prison officer

HMP Bedford
Image caption HMP Bedford was described by a former prison officer as an "absolute disgrace"

Working at a jail which saw about 200 inmates riot was "worse than four tours of Iraq", a former prison officer said.

He said he "lost count" of the number of prisoner-on-prisoner attacks at HMP Bedford and that apart from a new wing it was a "complete disgrace".

Sixty inmates were removed and three arrested after Sunday's riot, the damage from which will cost £1m to fix.

The government said new measures would crack down on "unacceptable" violence.

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The former prison officer, who did not want to be named, worked at the Category B prison for a year until early 2016.

He had worked as a private security officer on tour in Iraq from 2007 to 2009.

He said drugs and staff shortages were contributing factors to the amount of violence at the jail, adding that he had stopped £30,000 worth of drugs coming into the prison while working there.

"The amount of attacks that happened prisoner-on-prisoner and prisoner-on-prison officer hit the roof because of drugs and not knowing how to deal with a person's mental state that those drugs give that person," he said.

Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption Three men were arrested after about 200 prisoners rioted on Sunday

He said violence rose at the weekend because there was "no civilian back up" and that blankets, clothing and toiletries were not available "80% to 90% of the time".

A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesman said 2,500 extra frontline prison officers, as announced by Justice Secretary Liz Truss, would help crack down on "the toxic cocktail of drugs, drones and mobile phones that are flooding our prisons".

An internal investigation has been launched after Sunday's riot which broke out at 17:00 GMT.

Sixty inmates were removed and three men, aged 39, 37 and 26, were arrested and questioned on suspicion of committing offences under the Prison Security Act 1992.

A recent report by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons said the prison was "substandard".

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