HM Prison Bedford

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HMP Bedford
Bedford Prison (new block)
Location Bedford, Bedfordshire
Security class Adult Male/Category B
Capacity 500
Population 900+ (as of January 2019)
Opened 1801
Managed by HM Prison Services
Governor Helen Clayton-Hoar
Website Bedford at

HMP Bedford is a Category B men's prison, located in the Harpur area of Bedford, Bedfordshire, England. The prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.


The prison has been on its current site since 1801 and was designed by the architect John Wing (1756-1826), who also designed the Bedford town bridge, the Infirmary and the House of Industry. The previous site was on the corner of the High Street and Silver Street, then known as Gaol Lane. The location is marked with a plaque in the pavement due to its connection with John Bunyan, being the probable place where he wrote The Pilgrim's Progress. Wing's original building included "...a turnkey's lodge, cells for debtors, felons and house of correction prisoners, hot and cold baths and an oven to purify infected clothing. The silence system was enforced with great severity, wooden partitions being placed between any two prisoners at work on the treadmill. Separate exercise was allowed in the yards, and meals were taken in the cells."[1] The prison has been twice expanded, in 1849 and 1990.[2]

In December 2009, the prison's own Independent Monitoring Board issued a report citing concerns over the high number of prisoners serving life sentences being held at Bedford. The report praised mental healthcare provision and highlighted staff morale, prisoner's property and the visits booking line of the prison. It also praised levels of respect between staff and inmates at the jail, along with the prison's food provision and hygiene standards.[3]

In June 2010, Donna Stanton, aged 27, a female prison officer from Bedford was convicted after it emerged that she had a sexual relationship with an inmate from the gaol. The prison officer had also smuggled a mobile phone, food, tobacco and newspapers into the prison for the inmate while he served his sentence.[4] She was jailed for two years.[5]

In September 2012, it was revealed that Bedford Prison had the highest suicide rate of any prison in England and Wales during 2011/12. Four inmates committed suicide at the prison during this period, out of a population of 465 inmates.[6]

In November 2016 riot police and emergency services were called to a prisoner riot at the facility.[7]

The prison today

Bedford is a local prison holding Category B male prisoners who have been remanded from Luton Crown Court and all magistrates' courts in Bedfordshire. The term 'local' means that the prison holds people on remand to the local courts, as well as sentenced prisoners.

There is a split regime operating within the prison, offering work and education on a part-time basis. There is a resettlement unit within the prison, a daily library provision, and gymnasium available. The prison hosts a healthcare centre with 12 beds and 24-hour health care coverage, while those prisoners who may be at risk from suicide or self-harm are provided a prisoner listener scheme.[8]

The Ormiston Children and Families Trust runs the Visitors Centre, which features wheelchair access, a children's play area with supervised play activity and baby changing facilities. Two Quiet Gardens, affiliated to The Quiet Garden Trust, have been established inside the prison for quiet contemplation and prayer for both prisoners and staff.[9]

Michael Berry, 24, was the eighth prisoner to kill himself since 2017. Berry told staff he found it hard to ignore voices in his head telling him to kill himself but despite this no GP saw him and anti psychotic medication was not prescribed for Berry. The Prison and Probation Ombudsman said that, "significant issues remain" in mental health service provision at Bedford Prison.[10]

Bedford Prison is overcrowded, inspection revealed 495 prisoners while the certified capacity is just 322.[11]


On Sunday 6 November 2016, there was a riot in Bedford prison with 200 prisoners protesting against lockdowns due to staff shortages. Prisoners claim accessing drugs is easier than accessing clothing or bedding in the prison.[12] Basics like soap and toilet paper were not consistently supplied. The Independent Monitoring Board at Bedford denies that prisoners were treated humainly before the riot.[13] The numbers claiming they developed a drug problem while in the prison rose from 4% to 14%. The Prison Officers Association has been warning for some time about the risk of violence in British prisons.[14] Her Majesty's Prison inspection in May 2016 found poor physical conditions and stated, “Arrangements for managing violent and bullying behaviour and supporting victims were weak.”[15] The riot caused £1 million damage.[16] The Howard League for Penal Reform stated officers refused to unlock prisoners when it was considered too risky. Andrew Neilson of the campaign said:

Of course that means prisoners are spending more and more time banged up in their cells. Personally I think that is partially why we've seen this incident happen, because if you are telling people they will spend 23 out of 24 hours of a day locked in basically a toilet, then you're breeding a lot of boredom and frustration.[11]

This is one of four serious incident within under two months, Riots also happened at Birmingham Prison, Lewes Prison[17] and Swaleside Prison.

Following the riot

In May 2018 inspectors found the prison was making insufficient progress and Bedford Prison was put into special measures. In September 2018 Peter Clarke activated the urgent notification protocol because inspectors had found high levels of violence and inexperienced staff having difficulty maintaining control. Clarke wrote, “The clear view of the inspectorate is that immediate and decisive intervention is needed at HMP Bedford to avert further decline and an even more dangerous lack of control than is currently the case. It is of great concern that for seven years the prison has been on a path of seemingly inexorable decline. Repeated inspection findings clearly show that this has been the case. For much of that time there was a marked inconsistency in the leadership of the prison, with frequent changes of governor.”[18] Prisoners were effectively in control choosing when to comply with authority, and regularly breaking rules. There was a smell of drugs in all wings, 3 in 5 prisoners admitted developing a drug habit since getting into the prison, there was a rat and cockroach infestation. There were 116 assaults on staff during the 6 months to September 2018. Living conditions were bad and overcrowded and there was insufficient purposeful activity for prisoners.[19]

Notable former inmates


  1. ^ Victoria County History. pt 25 (Bedfordshire ed.). p. 24. Archived from the original on 2012-02-07.
  2. ^ "Bedford Prison". Her Majesty's Prison Service. Archived from the original on 20 March 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  3. ^ Knowles, Keeley (13 December 2009). "Report reveals the dark cloud hanging over prison workers". Bedfordshire on Sunday. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  4. ^ "Sex act pregnant prison officer faces jail". BBC News. 9 June 2010. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Sex acts prison officer jailed for two years". BBC News. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  6. ^ Local jail tops the league for inmates' suicide rates | Bedfordshire News, News Headlines in Bedford | Bedfordshire Newspaper Online | Bedfordshire on Sunday
  7. ^ "Police dealing with 'unrest' at Category B prison HMP Bedford". BBC News. 6 November 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  8. ^ "Bedford Prison - Regime". Her Majesty's Prison Service. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  9. ^ "Making a noise about peace and quiet". Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). 29 April 2008. Archived from the original on 11 April 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  10. ^ HMP Bedford inmate took his own life after two days in jail BBC
  11. ^ a b Bedford riot: Dozens of inmates removed
  12. ^ "HM Inspectorate of Prisons - Unannounced inspection of HMP Bedford" (PDF). 27 September 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  13. ^ Disgraceful conditions at Bedford prison fuelled riot, watchdog finds The Guardian
  14. ^ Bedford prison disturbance 'resolved' BBC
  15. ^ Bedford jail prisoners riot over lockdowns 'caused by staff shortages' The Guardian
  16. ^ HMP Bedford riot: Prisoners caused £1m of damage, BBC learns BBC
  17. ^ HMP Birmingham prison rioters will face 'full force of law', says Truss The Guardian Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  18. ^ Prisons inspector takes emergency action over HMP Bedford The Guardian
  19. ^ HMP Bedford inmates 'effectively control' jail BBC
  20. ^ "COURT: 'Big man Awan stabbed Ross to prove his superiority'". Peterborough Telegraph.
  21. ^ BBC - Beds Herts and Bucks - History - James Hanratty - The A6 Murder

External links

  • Ministry of Justice pages on HMP Bedford
  • HMP Bedford - HM Inspectorate of Prisons Reports

Coordinates: 52°08′22″N 0°28′12″W / 52.1395°N 0.4701°W / 52.1395; -0.4701

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