Lewes Prison out of special measures after safety concerns

Lewes Prison
Image caption A year ago cleanliness was "poor" with rats and bird droppings in outside areas

A prison where self-harm among inmates was "common", with five taking their own lives, has been taken out of special measures after three years.

HMP Lewes, in East Sussex, was put into special measures in January 2017 following a number of disturbances.

It was inspected two years later where outcomes for prisoners were found to be "declining rather than improving".

The chief inspector of prisons said it was now "a prison with a renewed sense of purpose and direction".

It follows an Independent Review of Progress (IRP) last month where inspectors found the prison had "made good or reasonably good progress" in two-thirds of the areas reviewed.

HMP Lewes is a medium-sized category B prison housing up to 692 men.

'Plan for improvement'

A year ago, inspectors said the number of assaults against staff was high, illicit drugs were "a big security problem", cleanliness was "generally poor and there were rats and large amounts of bird droppings in outside areas".

Self-harm was common and five prisoners killed themselves between inspections in 2016 and 2019, they found.

They also said there were "very real weaknesses in the leadership and management of health services".

In July, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) said it was "concerned about the safety of prisoners".

However, since then the governor and her senior managers had formulated "a more realistic and focused plan for improvement", chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said.

There had been a reduction in the number of prisoners testing positive in random drug tests, and a decline in self-harm incidents, though one prisoner had taken their own life since the IRP visit at the beginning of December.

Overall standards in cleanliness and hygiene had also improved, as had health governance structures.

Mr Clarke concluded the prison was heading "in the right direction".

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