Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has announced that the number of prisoners at HMP Chelmsford, described as one of the UK’s most violent local jails, will be reduced by almost 10%.
He was responding to an urgent warning issued by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor last month over failings at the prison.
Under the urgent notification protocol, the Secretary of State had 28 days to respond with a plan outlining what action will be taken to resolve urgent and severe issues.
In his response, Mr Raab said HMP Chelmsford’s population will be reduced by 55 places to 695.
He also announced an additional £1.2 million investment for new windows, generators and showers as well as general maintenance, security and health and safety.
Other improvement measures taken include deploying a new team of experienced frontline staff to raise standards among new officers, the Ministry of Justice said.
It added that it is launching regular reviews of mental health support on offer in the prison.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Mr Raab said: “We’re giving intensive support to Chelmsford prison to raise standards, support staff and protect vulnerable prisoners.
“We are providing more experienced staff, specialist training and refurbished facilities.
“We have a detailed action plan to help drive down violence, rehabilitate offenders, and reduce re-offending.”
Performance at Chelmsford had been assessed as deteriorating in a series of inspections since 2014, with inspectors finding “chronic and apparently intractable failings”.
Mr Taylor said HMP Chelmsford had “sadly failed in its responsibility to keep prisoners safe”.
It was found to be one of the country’s most violent local prisons, and there had also been eight self-inflicted deaths since 2018.
There were a further four non-natural deaths in three years and self-harm had continued to rise for the fourth successive inspection.
Many prisoners were locked in their cell for almost 23 hours a day.
This reflected Covid-19 restrictions, but even in 2018 many prisoners had been locked in their cell for 22 hours a day.