Published: 06:01, 20 August 2019
A Sheppey jail has been told it is not good enough across 'all aspects of prison life' after inspectors published a damning report.
During an unannounced inspection of HMP Elmley in Eastchurch, on the Isle of Sheppey, in April and May officials raised concerns about the level of violence, with about 25% of prisoners saying they felt unsafe.
A report, published by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, said the quality of investigations into violent incidents was inaccurate and inmates were reluctant to share information about what had happened.
Nearly half of prisoners said it was easy to get drugs and 22% tested positive during a compulsory snap drug test.
Despite this, nothing comprehensive had been put in place to tackle the supply of drugs into the jail.
Living conditions were variable across the prison, the report said and overall standards of cleanliness were not good enough.
Bird droppings inside buildings were a major concern and staff and prisoners all felt there was a problem with getting hold of basic cleaning supplies.
Telephone and mail monitoring was not being carried out correctly.
Inspectors also found a third of prisoners were released as homeless with staff finding it difficult to get them into accommodation due to lack of spaces in supported housing and local authorities not helping.
As a result they called for "an urgent and co-ordinated review of accommodation available" to inmates after release.
Prisoners who did not speak English were not given an induction in a language they understood as interpreters were not used.
Ofsted, which is in charge of reviewing education services in the prison, concluded Elmley required improvement in all areas.
Commenting on the report, chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said: "While it was disappointing to find the prison had not managed to improve since the last inspection, and that on this occasion all our judgements were 'not sufficiently good', the picture was not without hope.
"The prison had a number of credible plans to address the weaknesses and those weaknesses were clearly acknowledged.
"There was also a full staff complement, so in terms of both plans and people the prerequisites to makes progress were in place.
"I was invited to regard Elmley as an establishment that was going through a transitional phase.
"There could be little doubt this was a genuinely held aspiration and I was given the clear impression the senior team were fully aware of the amount of hard work focused leadership that would be required to turn the aspiration into reality."
At the time of the inspection there were 1,100 prisoners with 189 foreign inmates and 181 sex offenders.
It was last inspected in 2015.
Director general for prisons Phil Copple said improvements would be made.
He added: "It is clear there is still work to be done at Elmley, particularly to prevent drugs getting in but I am pleased inspectors have confidence in the ability of the governor and his staff to drive improvements.
"An extra £100 million is being invested to improve security across the estate.
"A new head of drug strategy in Elmley will tackle drugs using sniffer dogs and search teams.
"Thorough investigations into violence will be conducted to learn lessons from every incident, boosting the experience of staff and making the prison safer."