Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers has found serious failings in self-harm and suicide prevention procedures at Chelmsford Prison following the suicides of three inmates.
Her inspection report said there were “worrying deficits” in mental healthcare and the regime for in-patients, especially those who were suicidal.
The report published yesterday also raised concerns over “poor relationships” between staff and prisoners, particularly on the young adult wings.
It also found that only about 40% of prisoners said they felt safe at the time of the inspection last July, while reception and induction arrangements for vulnerable prisoners were “inadequate.”
Young adults, who make up a quarter of the prison’s population, were likely to leave prison as unskilled as when they entered it, the inspection found.
Owers said: “This is, in many ways, a disappointing report. Previous inspections had shown considerable improvement at Chelmsford, both in performance and culture. This inspection, however, showed that this had been unable to withstand the combination of population pressure, increased numbers, and staff shortages and turnover.”
Phil Wheatley, director general of the Prison Service, said managers and staff at the prison were “working hard” to improve the areas identified by the inspection.
Geoff Dobson, deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Given the three recent suicides at Chelmsford, it is troubling to hear of inadequate arrangements for vulnerable prisoners and serious deficiencies in self harm and suicide prevention arrangements. We hope these have been addressed since last summer’s inspection.
“But as the report suggests, the problems facing Chelmsford and local prisons like it are the symptoms of an overcrowded system. With more and more prisoners, prison staff are being asked to cope with less and less resources.”