Lincoln Prison's failings 'among the worst'

Prisoners at an overcrowded city jail are too scared to leave their wings to go to work due to levels of violence in the facility, a report has found.

Inspectors found serious failings at category B Lincoln Prison during an unannounced visit in August.

Penal reformers say the levels of violence and drug abuse are among the worst ever at a UK jail.

The National Offender Management Service (Noms) said it was taking urgent action.

Among the report's findings was the fact the Victorian jail was holding 50% more prisoners than it was certified to handle.

'Safety compromised'

The HM Inspectorate of Prisons found the lack of support for foreign national prisoners "a matter of great concern".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionChief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said Lincoln Prison was ''not safe, overcrowded and dirty''

It was discovered that two foreign nationals, guilty of serious sexual offences, had been detained after the date their sentences ended - in one case for nine years.

However, a UK Border Agency spokesperson said an extended period of detention was necessary for the two individuals, described as "extremely dangerous".

"One of them had absconded before and the other had previously failed to comply with his bail conditions," the agency said.

"It would not be in the interests of the public to release them prior to their removal from the UK."

Prisoners also told inspectors it was easy to get drugs and alcohol and there was clear evidence of inmates developing addictions, while the instances of fighting and assaults was also high.

At the time of the inspection, there was speculation about the prison's future, which may have caused uncertainty and poor morale among staff, the report's authors said.

There was also praise for good relations between staff and prisoners, without which inspectors said more serious problems would have occurred.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said: "HMP Lincoln has some strengths it can build on: some good new facilities and resettlement services that were better than we often see elsewhere.

"However, this was undermined by a serious lack of professionalism in many areas that compromised safety and the smooth running of the prison."

'Cramped and dirty'

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns for the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "If you want an example of the terrible consequences of overcrowding in our prison system, you need look no further than Lincoln.

"The damning inspectorate report is among the worst we have seen.

"This cramped and dirty prison holds 50% more people than it's meant to, with 20% fewer staff in post than there were three years ago.

"Its shocking levels of violence and bullying are a symptom of this. This report does little to suggest the prison should remain open."

Michael Spurr, chief executive of Noms, said: "I acknowledge that the performance at Lincoln has declined.

"This is not acceptable and we have taken urgent action to address the chief inspector's concerns.

"The governor has been replaced and measures are being implemented at pace to improve safety, decency and regime provision across the prison."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites