HMP Lewes 'getting worse' despite special measures, inspectors find

Lewes Prison
Image caption The prison watchdog says standards at HMP Lewes are declining to the "lowest levels"

A prison's worsening performance since being placed in special measures has been described as "deeply troubling".

The decline at HMP Lewes in East Sussex was "difficult to understand", Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said.

He said an inspection in January found a "significant increase" in assaults on members of prison staff.

An X-ray machine used to detect drugs was out of service and a machine used to scan incoming post for drugs was not yet in operation, the watchdog found.

HM Prison and Probation Service can give a jail special measures status when it has been assessed to need additional specialist support to improve to an acceptable level.

HMP Lewes was put into special measures in January 2017 following a number of disturbances.

'Systemic failure'

Compared with the previous inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in January 2016, the prisons watchdog gave the jail lower ratings in three out of four categories - respect, purposeful activity, and rehabilitation and release planning.

Referring to the fourth category, safety, Mr Clarke said: "Although performance was not so poor as to drag the assessment to the lowest possible level, it was undoubtedly heading in that direction."

He said the "deeply troubling" findings at HMP Lewes were "indicative of systemic failure within the prison service".

Mr Clarke said: "This report brings into question the utility of 'special measures', if a prison can decline so badly when supposedly benefitting from them."

Phil Copple, the HM Prison and Probation Service's director general of prisons, said special measures had "successfully supported improvement at other prisons".

He said: "Although there has been progress in some areas, it has not been as swift or as comprehensive as we would have hoped."

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