HIGH levels of illegal drugs, violence and bullying were just a handful of the catalogue of failings at Swindon’s nearest prison.

An inspection report into HMP Erlestoke, near Devizes, found inmates were kept in cramped conditions on arrival and about a quarter of prisoners were on drugs.

HM chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers said in her report: “We were dismayed to find that managers had failed to remedy persistent problems with the provision of clean sheets and clothing.

“Matters were so bad that, during the inspection, there were no clean sheets at all in the prison which meant that prisoners were re-issued with their own dirty bedding. This was unacceptable,”.

“Our concerns about deteriorating levels of safety were compounded by evidence of high levels of illegal drug use across the prison, with around a quarter of prisoners testing positive or refusing to be tested.

“Violence reduction and anti-bullying arrangements were weak and needed to be reinforced to meet the new challenges facing the prison.

“Provision for prisoners’ first days in custody was poor. Reception was cramped and poorly located and new arrivals were placed on Wren unit which was not only shabby, but also held prisoners who had been ‘regressed’ from elsewhere in the prison for poor behaviour, particularly for failing drug tests.

“This exposed the potentially vulnerable to the predatory, and many prisoners reported feeling unsafe in their first days.”

Prison governor Andy Rogers said many of the failings in the report, compiled after inspectors planned visits during April and May, had already be rectified.

“The inspection report is a snapshot of what the prison was like at the time,” said Mr Rogers.

“The level of drugs is now much lower, at just eight per cent and the last time we tested we didn’t have anybody give a positive test.

“We are being very robust in searching which has had a significant impact on supply and demand.

“It is encouraging that people are taking responsibility for themselves. We want to be a drug-free prison.

“These results relate to five months ago and things are very different now and the director general has recognised this is not representative of where we are now.”

The inspectors were not entirely critical of the category C jail, which houses 460 inmates.

The report also praised HMP Erlestoke for the amount of training, work and education available.

“Out aim is to be the best prison in the country,” said Mr Rogers.

“Prisoners coming in don’t go the Wren unit any more.

“The prisoners get clean clothing and bedding weekly and we have enough stocks to make sure there are spares. “