A prison branded unsafe by inspectors will be taken over permanently by the Government.

In December, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) intervened to take control of HMP Lowdham Grange in Nottinghamshire and brought in new governor Neil Thomas to “improve safety and security at the prison”.

It came after warnings about conditions at the category-B Sodexo-run jail – which holds up to 900 men – were made by the prisons watchdog earlier in the year.

The move was said to be for an “initial interim period” which could be extended.

On Wednesday, the MoJ confirmed the arrangement would become permanent – with a formal handover taking place in the summer – and that Sodexo would pay a settlement to cover the cost of the Government being required to step in.

Negotiations are ongoing, so the amount of money the company will pay is yet to be disclosed.

Prisons minister Edward Argar said: “Given the very specific issues at HMP Lowdham Grange, we took swift action to step in and improve conditions and safety by providing extra support.

“The majority of private prisons perform well, including others Sodexo runs, but it has become clear that taking over permanently is the best way to ensure that improvements continue.”

The MoJ previously said that experienced prison officers would be brought in to “bolster” staffing levels, as well as extra managers, while a review of conditions was carried out.

Inspectors found the prison in a “state of turmoil” in May last year after the handover from its former private contractor Serco.

At the time, chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor said the jail was “struggling” and the watchdog’s report concluded the prison was “not safe enough”.

The MoJ said that despite work since the report, “conditions have further deteriorated, and senior prison leaders have now concluded that stepping in is necessary to make the improvements needed”.

The changes also followed an inquest which concluded in January that 35-year-old Christopher Smith, a prisoner held at Lowdham Grange, died in May 2019 after “multiple failings in the care and treatment provided by prison and healthcare staff” and that his death was “contributed to by neglect”.

The coroner issued a report to prevent future deaths to Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

In February, another report from the watchdog found more than a thousand pints of “hooch” were seized at the prison but no inmates were disciplined.

Mr Taylor said he and his team were “shocked by quite how bad things had got” at Lowdham Grange.

Levels of violence, incidents of self-harm and use of drugs continued to dominate at the jail, according to the watchdog.

Inspectors reviewed the progress being made at the prison in the wake of its earlier findings.

The watchdog found more than 100 members of staff had resigned in between its visits, leaving the prison “desperately short-staffed” and five inmates had taken their own lives in 2023.

The prison had not made an “acceptable level of progress in a single one of the concerns” previously raised, according to the inspectors, which was “particularly worrying as these focused on safety and public protection”.

A Sodexo spokeswoman said: “Sodexo and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have agreed, in principle, terms to transfer the management and operation of HMP Lowdham Grange to HMPPS. Negotiations are ongoing with the associated costs for Sodexo anticipated within its fiscal 2024 guidance. It is anticipated that the transition will take effect in summer 2024.

“HMP Lowdham Grange is a prison facing a unique set of challenges. We have worked tirelessly and very closely with HMPPS since February 2023 to seek to improve stability and deliver the significant improvements expected.

“However, we believe, in these specific circumstances, that this move is in the best interests of all concerned.”