BOSSES at a prison in Redditch have been told it 'could not be considered safe' in an inspection report. 

HMP Hewell, in Tardebigge, was visited by inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMI Prisons) in August.

According to the report from the scrutiny visit, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, found that almost a third of prisoners felt unsafe. The report highlights that "in part, these perceptions reflected the lack of consistent attention to social distancing, but violence remained comparatively high, particularly against staff."

Inspectors also found prisoners with Covid-19 symptoms who were isolating, could not have a shower regularly and sometimes had to wait for up to two weeks to do so.

Some prisoners with impaired mobility had not had time in the fresh air for weeks and experienced difficulty in accessing showers regularly, according to the report.

Concerns were also raised about the prison's Covid-19 restrictions at the time. Mr Clarke said: “There had been little progress in ensuring that prisoners had sufficient time out of cell or purposeful activity.

"This contributed to prisoners’ frustration and potentially to a deterioration in mental and emotional well-being."

“Prison leaders at both local and national level should take note of the fact that 70 per cent of the prisoners we surveyed at Hewell reported problems with their mental health.

"One hour out of cell each day was simply not enough.”

The report highlighted that no prisoners had tested positive for the virus since April and, though social distancing remained a “continuing challenge,” inspectors assessed that overall the prison had managed the initial stages of the crisis well.

Mr Clarke added: “While we are acutely aware of the need to ease restrictions in a safe and measured way, we felt that progress had been too slow and the restrictions in place were no longer proportionate.

"The governor was realistic about the significant challenges that lay ahead. He described an optimistic vision for Hewell of delivering a more person-centred, purposeful and rehabilitative regime within the constraints of running a busy local prison The initial stages of the Covid-19 crisis had been managed well, and the challenge now will be to secure, as quickly as possible, a recovery plan that will enable the prison to fulfil its role safely and decently.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “We are pleased that inspectors recognised HMP Hewell’s efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus, and there have been no positive tests since April.

“We are now starting to ease restrictions in line with public health advice, and a new visiting hall is helping maintain social distancing.”