Liverpool jail findings 'symptomatic of wider failings across prison estate'

A scathing report describing conditions at a jail as the worst inspectors have encountered is symptomatic of wider failings across the prison estate, a Commons committee has warned.

MPs said the situation at HMP Liverpool is not unique after an assessment condemned the "squalid" state of the establishment.

Last month the jail was the subject of one of the most critical inspection reports for years.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons found drugs were readily available, communal areas were in a "decrepit" state and there was a significant problem with cockroaches and rats.

Violence of all kinds had increased, four inmates had taken their own lives since the previous inspection, and two more suspected suicides occurred shortly after the latest visit in September.

In the wake of the findings, the Commons Justice Committee took the unprecedented step of convening a special evidence session about an individual inspection.

In its own report, published on Friday, the committee says: "We are concerned about several issues highlighted by the inspection of HMP Liverpool.

"We take the view that these problems are symptomatic of wider failings across the prison estate which the Government should take extremely seriously."

The committee argues that national, regional and local management failed in their oversight of HMP Liverpool.

It also calls for the inspectorate to be given additional resources to follow up on its recommendations, and hold jails to account when they are not achieved.

Conservative MP Bob Neill, who chairs the committee, said: "The situation at HMP Liverpool is not unique and is symptomatic of shortcomings evident across the prison estate which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

"It is clear that HMIP require additional resources so they can make sure that their recommendations are properly acted upon."

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke welcomed the committee's recommendations regarding scrutiny of the uptake of improvement measures outlined in inspection reports.

He said: "It is crucial that the progress in implementing HMIP recommendations is transparent and independently verifiable. The abject failure of too many prisons to take inspection reports seriously must stop."

The Ministry of Justice said it welcomed the committee's report and would carefully consider its recommendations.

"Ministers have been absolutely clear that conditions at HMP Liverpool were unacceptable and we will not stand for them, " a spokesman said.

"There are around 200 fewer prisoners at HMP Liverpool compared with the inspection period, a new governor has been appointed, and the backlog of maintenance tasks is being addressed.

"But we want to be held accountable when failings persist, which is why ministers introduced the urgent notification process - demanding the Secretary of State introduce tough measures to improve failing prisons.

"We welcome the committee's report, and will carefully consider each recommendation."