Bedford Prison: Inmate killed cell rats during inspection
A prisoner was found to be catching and killing rats in his cell during an inspection at an infested jail, a report has revealed.
Inspectors said HMP Bedford had continued to suffer an "inexorable decline" in standards, despite two years of efforts to improve it.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: "The collapse in standards is as sad as it is inexcusable."
The prisons minister said "significant progress" had since been made.
In September, Mr Clarke triggered an "urgent notification" warning to the government about the jail after the unannounced inspection was carried out earlier that month and in August.
The official findings of the HM Inspectorate of Prisons report revealed that only one comparable jail, Birmingham, had higher overall rates of violence.
Segregation unit conditions were described as "appalling", with inspectors noting that one inmate "caught and killed a number of rats" while they were there.
Pest control work had failed to eradicate the "significant rat infestation", and a notice on one of the doors said: "Please ensure doors remain shut to prevent rats entering the wing!"
Inspectors said the use of force by staff, including baton use, was "exceptionally high", while self-harm had also increased.
The category B jail was given an improvement plan in 2016 - the same year a major riot broke out.
It was placed in special measures in May 2018 due to its insufficient progress, before Mr Clarke issued the urgent notification.
However, he said there were still no "credible plans" to deal with Bedford's "dangerous shortcomings".
Mr Clarke said: "This inspection found the prison has continued on a seemingly inexorable decline that is evident through the results of the four inspections carried out since 2009."
Prisons minister Rory Stewart said he took the findings "very seriously" and had visited HMP Bedford last week to follow-up on recommendations.
"There has been significant progress... to make it safer and more decent. But we have more to do," he said.
"Increased security is in place to help reduce drug use, and violence in turn, and inexperienced staff are now being better supported."
He added a new "highly-experienced" governor, PJ Butler, had been appointed to help ensure the "turnaround".