A PRISON has been slammed for its poor hygiene and "overcrowded" living conditions amid the pandemic.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons visited HMP Ford near Arundel during March and April, and said it was "unacceptable" that access to laundry facilities and soap was so poor - particularly during Covd-19.

The category D open prison held 418 prisoners at the time of the inspection, having reduced numbers following the closure of some old billet accommodation.

A report published this week said low standards had been "accepted" and revealed prisoners had been forced to clean their underwear in the same buckets used for dishes and utensils.

The Argus: A shower room at the prisonA shower room at the prison

Pictures show dirt and damage to communal sinks, shower cubicles and kitchen facilities, as well as fixtures and fittings in disrepair.

Prisoners could only access laundry facilities once every four weeks, with many having to wait as long as six - which led to several washing their underwear in buckets in communal toilet blocks.

The same buckets were used to wash cutlery, where small kitchen areas in some units did not have sinks.

The report said the prison had the potential for coronavirus to spread rapidly due to "poor hygiene and cohorting practices".

It said: "Nearly all living accommodation was in poor condition.

"In the wooden billet accommodation (B wing), prisoners had to share cramped rooms with no privacy and poor facilities.

The Argus: Sinks were found to be damaged and dirtySinks were found to be damaged and dirty

"The extensive investment in replacing the wooden billets did not extend to replacing the brick-built accommodation (A wing).

"Although it provided single rooms and most prisoners preferred to reside there, many fixtures and fittings were damaged, communal showers and kitchens were particularly poor, and standards of hygiene and cleanliness were not sufficient, particularly during a pandemic.

"Many shared toilets did not have soap and, unlike many other prisons we have visited, hand sanitiser was not routinely available."

Instead of recruiting paid prisoner cleaners, the report said prisoners were encouraged to maintain cleanliness themselves.

Each accommodation unit was issued with a cleaning pack every fortnight, but prisoners said these did not last long enough.

The report describes a "complete lack of oversight, supervision and quality assurance of the cleanliness of units".

The Argus:

It states: "Standards were not set high enough and, as a result, cleanliness and hygiene were poor.

"Although we were told residential officers conducted accommodation checks, clearly little had been done to address the problem and these low standards were accepted."

The inspection also revealed that some prisoners were reluctant to complain because of "the threat of a return to closed conditions".

Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said HMP Ford had been operating on a restricted regime for most of the last year due to the pandemic.

Due to a national ban on temporary release, "prisoners who had expected to be working in the community and rebuilding family ties on resettlement licence instead found themselves, literally, confined to barracks".

The Argus: A 'cramped' communal telephone at the prisonA 'cramped' communal telephone at the prison

Mr Taylor said: "Ford had one of the highest rates of return to closed conditions in the open estate, which supported the view of many prisoners who said the threat of recategorisation was used unfairly to control their behaviour and sometimes deterred them from speaking out about issues affecting them.

"All of this was contributing to a culture that felt far from rehabilitative.

"While we acknowledge the inherent limitations of the old and worn accommodation, this did not excuse the poor cleanliness and shabby conditions we found.

"It was clear there had been little oversight of standards in the residential accommodation.

"We saw prisoners cleaning their underwear and dishes in buckets in shared toilet areas, which we would not expect to see in a modern prison service, let alone in an open prison that should be promoting and supporting independent living skills.

"This was a disappointing visit and we urge leaders at national and local levels to address the concerns we have highlighted with urgency."

A Prison Service spokesman said: “The report recognises staff efforts to create a safe environment and continue vital family support during this challenging time, but we know there is work to do and are improving older buildings and creating new accommodation.”