Lewes prison 'leaving inmates at rising risk of violence'

Lewes Prison
Image caption Toilets in shared areas of the prison, including the kitchen were described as "filthy"

Prisoners are at a growing risk of violence, self harm and drug abuse at a jail, a watchdog has found.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) also said some prisoners at HMP Lewes in East Sussex were being kept in isolation without authorisation.

The board reported staff shortages had "significantly impacted the care provided to prisoners".

However, staff were praised for treating prisoners with "humanity, kindness and great patience".

HMP Lewes, which can house up to 692 men, was put into special measures in January 2017 following a number of disturbances.

The IMB said it was "concerned about the safety of prisoners" and had seen a large increase in both prison-on-prisoner violence and self harm between February 2018 and January 2019 in the period covered by its annual report.

The watchdog reported: "The misuse of drugs and other illicit substances affects the stability of the prison and the safety of prisoners. Availability and usage of drugs in the prison remains high.

"Men suffering from 'spice attacks' are frequently recorded by the prison."

Kitchen toilets 'filthy'

The IMB said there had been no working X-ray machine in the jail's post room since April 2018 and none at all in the prison since May 2018. Between March and November in the same year there were no sniffer dogs to help deter the bringing of drugs into the prison.

"Cell doors in many wings are too narrow for wheelchairs to pass through," inspectors reported.

"The wheelchair-using population on the vulnerable prisoner wing have no access to the general exercise area."

Accommodation was described as "often not decent", with toilets in shared areas such as kitchens "frequently filthy".

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the prison had now received an X-ray machine to "strengthen security and stem the flow of drugs entering the establishment".

He said a member of staff had been recruited "to lead on violence reduction".

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