Lewes Prison should no longer be used due to concerns over its condition, a watchdog has said.

Inspectors who visited HMP Lewes earlier this year reported “squalid conditions” at the Victorian jail with some areas “unacceptably dirty”.

Concerns were raised over rates of violence, staffing levels, care for vulnerable prisoners, rates of self-harm and the time prisoners were spending locked in their cells.

Charlie Taylor, the chief inspector of prisons, has now said the prison “cannot provide decent accommodation or activities to reduce the risk of reoffending” and should ideally “no longer be used”.

He told The Argus: “Lewes is a prison about which we have raised concerns for some time.

“The cells, in which men spend up to 23 hours a day confined at uncomfortably close quarters with a cell mate, are cramped and in poor repair.

“There are high levels of violence and self-harm in the prison and at our last review of progress we left the prison worried about the wellbeing of the men held there.

“In an ideal world, prisons like Lewes, which cannot provide decent accommodation or activities to reduce the risk of reoffending for the number of men they are required to hold, would no longer be used.

“But with rising populations in prison, the reality is that there is nowhere else for them to go.”

READ MORE: Prison with 'squalid' conditions has become even worse - latest report

Mr Taylor said that 14 Victorian jails across England and Wales are too overcrowded and ill-equipped to be able to provide proper accommodation for inmates, including Leeds, Exeter and Wandsworth.

Speaking about the state of the country’s Victorian jails to The Guardian, he said: “They definitely haven’t got enough activity places when the population is double the number that the prison was originally built for.”

The Prison Service said a safety team is continuing to develop a better understanding of the causes of violence within Lewes and that a review of the prison’s processes will be completed to ensure plans are developed to ensure violent incidents are appropriately investigated. 

A spokeswoman for the Prison Service said: “Significant improvements have been made at HMP Lewes, including extra training for staff to better support the most vulnerable prisoners and a renewed effort to improve education and work opportunities so offenders get the skills they need to turn their backs on crime for good.

“The latest figures show that the majority of prisons are performing well and, where there are, we are providing intensive support for those jails to drive long-term improvements, recruit extra staff, and bolster security so we can better protect the public.”

The Prison Service plans to have another 8,000 prison places across England and Wales by May 2025.