Government steps in to run prison branded ‘unsafe’ by inspectors

A prison branded unsafe by inspectors has been brought under Government control.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it had taken over the running of HMP Lowdham Grange in Nottinghamshire on Monday and brought in a new governor to “improve safety and security at the prison”.

It comes after warnings about conditions at the category-B Sodexo-run jail (pictured), which holds around 800 men, were made by the prisons watchdog earlier this year.

“Experienced” prison officers and other staff will also be brought in to “bolster” staffing levels and extra managers while an immediate review of conditions will be carried out, the MoJ added.

The move is for an “initial interim period” which may be extended and will “minimise disruption to staff”, the department said.

It comes after inspectors found the prison in a “state of turmoil” in May after the handover from its former private contractor Serco.

“The fallout from this was affecting almost every aspect of prison life, with significant staff shortages and rising levels of self-harm, violence and disruptive behaviour,” according to the findings published in August.

At the time chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor said the jail was “struggling” and the watchdog’s report concluded the prison was “not safe enough”.

The MoJ said despite work since the report, “conditions have further deteriorated, and senior prison leaders have now concluded that stepping in is necessary to make the improvements needed.”

The changes also come after an inquest in January concluded 35-year-old Christopher Smith, a prisoner held at Lowdham Grange, died in May 2019 after “multiple failings in the care and treatment provided by prison and healthcare staff” and that his death was “contributed to by neglect”.

The finding prompted the coroner to issue a report to prevent future deaths to Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Prisons minister Edward Argar said: “Given the very specific issues at HMP Lowdham Grange, it is right that we have swiftly taken the action necessary to deliver the required improvements, and by stepping in we are able to provide the additional support needed.

“The majority of our privately-run prisons, including others run by Sodexo, perform well, but where circumstances make it necessary, just as with all prisons, we will always take the decisive steps necessary to ensure they meet the standards we expect.”

A Sodexo spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work closely with the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS (His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service) at this time, and our primary focus remains on ensuring minimal disruption and maintaining a safe and secure environment for everyone who lives and works at the prison.”

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