In a recent undercover investigation by The Times, journalist Paul Morgan-Bentley went undercover as a temporary worker at HMP Bedford, exposing significant security flaws and concerning practices within the prison.

Morgan-Bentley, hired in February through an agency as a prison contractor escort, operating under the title of an operational support grade escort (OSG), revealed alarming oversights in the vetting process. Shockingly, the agency failed to conduct basic checks, neglecting even a simple Google search of his name which would have revealed his true identity.

Once inside the prison, Morgan-Bentley found himself able to freely interact with prisoners without undergoing necessary security measures. Astonishingly, on multiple occasions, security scanners at the front entrance were left unattended, permitting unauthorised access for Morgan-Bentley and others without any form of scrutiny. Even when manned, staff admitted to lacking training in scanner operation, allowing Morgan-Bentley to bypass security checks repeatedly, potentially compromising the safety of the prison environment.

In response to the investigation, the Justice Secretary has launched an inquiry into the vetting procedures for contractors, expressing urgent concerns over the adequacy of existing protocols. The Ministry of Justice has pledged to review the training of staff responsible for operating security scanners to ensure competence and adherence to standards.

This exposé underscores the broader crisis facing prisons nationwide, where recruitment and retention struggles persist amidst growing inmate populations, contributing to the systemic issues regarding prisoner safety, education and rehabilitation.

Echoing the flaws concerned within prison practice and failings in duty of care, Farleys recently represented the family of Dylan Woodhead in an Article 2 jury inquest into his death at HMP Hindley.

Whilst detained at Hindley on the morning of 8th January 2021, the Operational Support Grade (OSG) deliberately did not undertake the mandated welfare check, nor did they carry out their ‘pegging’ checks overnight. The OSG further completed documentation that the welfare and pegging checks had been done. These failings were accepted by the Ministry of Justice.

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