A “CRAMPED” Victorian prison has been taken out of special measures following concerns over inmates’ self-harm, rats, and bird droppings.

Inspectors had previously found standards at Lewes Prison in Brighton Road were “disturbing” after five prisoners took their own lives between 2016 and 2019.

They had found “very real weaknesses” in healthcare provision, while education schemes on offer had been rated as “inadequate” by Ofsted.

The prison was put into special measures for two years, as inspectors said "a great deal of urgent work was needed to improve safety”.

But now, HM Inspectorate of Prisons said the troubled jail has improved.

HM Chief Inspector Peter Clarke said: “We found a prison with a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

“The prison had been taken out of special measures and had discarded the associated bureaucracy and ineffective action plan.

“The governor and her senior managers understood our concerns and recommendations, and had formulated a more realistic and focused plan for improvement.”

Staff and prisoners were asked about what caused violence in the prison, and a revised safety plan was created.

Despite this there were more attacks on officers.

But inspectors were pleased that managers had more oversight on the use of force than at the time of the inspection.

They said prison managers had “assertively challenged prisoners’ antisocial behaviour” but said prison officer’s approaches were still not always consistent.

The number of prisoners testing positive in random drug tests fell, and better efforts were made to cut off the supply routes into prison.

Meanwhile the number of incidents of prisoners self-harming dropped by a third.

The rat problem was tackled by using feral cats to catch them. Meanwhile the overall quality of teaching, learning and assessment had improved, the inspectorate said.

Mr Clarke said: “This was a promising review. The governor and her senior managers were taking the prison in the right direction.

“They were realistic about the scale of the challenges they faced and understood that further progress would require sustained effort and vigour.

“Their challenge now is to build on the progress they have made since the inspection and to translate this work into positive outcomes for prisoners.

“Nevertheless, they should be congratulated on what they have achieved so far.”