Coronavirus outbreak at HMP Bedford leads to 24 hour lockdown and ‘mini riots’ by inmates

Bedford prison
HMP Bedford

A residents’ group, representing owners of properties adjacent to HMP Bedford, has said that a Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak at the prison has made their lives intolerable.

PJ Butler, governor of the prison, confirmed the outbreak in a message to an elected official at Bedford Borough Council, which was shared with Sean Nicklin and the Adelaide Square residents’ group.

The outbreak means that prisoners cannot be sanctioned or moved.

Inmates are currently confined to their cells 24 hours a day, with their meals delivered to their cell doors.

According to the partner of one HMP Bedford inmate, prisoners are not currently allowed to leave their cells to make phone calls to their families and medication is not being given.

“I have not spoken to my partner since Monday,” Leah told the Bedford Independent. “He has ADHD and has not had his medication for two weeks.

“Yes they are criminals, but they are also human beings.”

A statement from the Prison Service refuted the claim that prisoners were not receiving their medication.

A document from HM Prison and Probation Service, seen by the Bedford Independent, states that routine testing has been rolled out for all inmates following a prisoner testing positive for the virus.

The prisoner had to leave the hospital for an operation at Bedford Hospital. Before his operation he was given a Covid-19 test which was positive.

The document says that residents on one landing at the prison must isolate as a ‘household group’ for 14 days, although ‘they will be able to make telephone calls and use the shower.’

News of the covid-19 outbreak comes just two days after a report from the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), stating that Bedford Prison had been praised for ‘getting a grip on the coronavirus pandemic.’

“We have been working with the Borough Council, Bedford MP Mohammed Yasin, Bedfordshire Police, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Minister of Prisons, our local Councillors and the Governor of HMP Bedford to address the issues that a failing prison has upon the local residents,” Sean told the Bedford Independent.

Issues, ranging from the riotous behaviour of inmates to intruders invading Adelaide Square properties to throw illicit drugs and phones into the prison, have been endured by residents for many years.

“Recently the prison has been at its most disorderly with inmates locked away and allowed to scream obscenities to one another and people in the Square through vandalised cell windows from early in the morning until the middle of the night,” said Sean.

The latest developments at the prison has, says Sean, led to the convicts conducting mini riots in the confines of their own cells, with many cell windows smashed enabling prisoners to see into neighbouring residents’ homes.

“The references to Covid-19 [in the IMB report] are ridiculous in light of what we learned last night,” he said.

“They are kicking off in the prison already this afternoon (Friday). It generally reaches a crescendo around 10pm.

“I have no issue with living next to a prison, I’m just fed up living next to one that fails its inspection every year. We just hope that the new prison at Grendon (and the one soon to open in Wellingborough) means that they can finally shut the place down.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Our priority is to limit the spread of the virus and protect the lives of those who live and work in our prisons.

“We have taken precautionary measures at HMP Bedford following a number of positive cases, in line with public health guidance, and will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

Article updated at 14:49 on 14 December 2020 to include a statement from the Prison Service.