A North East jail has been criticised for the amount of violence and drug taking among its inmates.
An inspection by officials discovered more than a third - 37% - of the 990 inmates in Durham Prison came out positive in drug tests. Prisoners at the Category B jail told inspectors it was “easy” to get hold of narcotics there.
The 200-year-old jail, where four prisoners have committed suicide in the last four years, was also criticised for its “weak” response in helping those threatening self-harm.
Inmates who took their own life included Angel Vadoua, 23, in May 2011, Daniel Johnson, 23, in January 2012 and Kirk Duboise, 22, in February 2013.
The report was drawn up HM Inspectorate of Prisons following an unannounced visit in December.
Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that Durham “could be a better prison than it currently is”.
He added: “Many services, notably those run by operational staff, were not good enough.”
* Violence and anti-social behaviour were higher than expected and monitoring needed to be better;
* Illicit drug usage was high and almost twice what would be expected in similar prisons;
* Since its last inspection in 2011, four prisoners had taken their own lives and work to support those in self-harm crisis was weak, although incidents of self-harm seemed to be falling;
* Problems associated with young adults required better understanding by the prison;
* Relationships between staff and prisoners were lacking and less than two-thirds of prisoners felt respected by staff.
Mr Hardwick added: “The prison has experienced some significant distractions in recent times but these should not be allowed to become excuses. Progress needs to be speeded up.”
However, it wasn’t all bad news for the jail. It was praised for having begun to tackle drug supply and use amongst inmates while prisoners said they felt safer there than before.
New health facilities, learning and skills activities and support for resettlement needs were all commended.
Mr Hardwick commented: “Durham produces some reasonable and, at times, very good outcomes for prisoners.
“It is unusual that in an old Victorian local prison it is the quality of work activity and learning that is one of the prison’s best features.”
Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said: “Durham has been implementing major changes in working arrangements and has improved its performance whilst significantly reducing cost to the taxpayer.
“There is more to do - but the Governor and his staff deserve credit for the progress made in challenging circumstances.”