Results from the 10 Prisons Project Ad Hoc Statistics Published

The Government have today published ad hoc results of the 10 Prisons Project.

In August 2018 Ministers announced a ’10 Prisons Project’ to develop a new model of excellence.

The project had the aims of reducing violence in 10 of our challenging prisons by reducing the supply of drugs, raising standards of decency, and increasing leadership capability.

The prisons chosen were: Hull, Humber, Leeds, Lindholme, Moorland, Wealstun, Nottingham, Ranby, Isis and Wormwood Scrubs.

Its purpose was to:

  • A new approach to improve standards and security will be piloted in 10 of the most challenging prisons
  • The focus will be on reducing violence through radically increasing security against drugs and challenging all abusive behaviour
  • There will be additional investment in leadership and dedicated resources to tackle drugs, security and building issues
  • Good practice will be spread across the prison estate – ultimately reducing reoffending and future of victims of crime

Today the Government have announced the results of the 10 Prisons Project ad hoc statistics

Key Findings

  • • The rate of assaults per 1,000 prisoners in ten prisons dropped by 16%, from 42.9 in June/August 2018 to 36.1 in April/June 2019
  • • The percentage of positive results from random mandatory drug tests (RDMT) dropped between August 2018 and March 2019.

Assaults: June/August 2018 to April/June 2019

The number of assaults in the ten prisons dropped by 17%, from an average of 399 in June/August 2018 to 331 in April/June 2019.

Nationally, the number of assaults decreased by 8% across the same time period.

The rate of assaults per 1,000 prisoners in the ten prisons dropped by 16%, from 42.9 in June/August 2018 to 36.1 in April/June 2019.

Nationally, the rate of assaults per 1,000 prisoners decreased by 8% across the same time period.

Click image to enlarge. Monthly 3-month rolling rate of total assaults for 10 prisons, 3 months ending August 2018 to 3 months ending June 2019

Read The Report – pdf document

Download 10 Projects Spreadsheet Tables – Excel document

HMP Pentonville – Poor safety and weaknesses across all areas but management starting to get a grip on problems

HMP Pentonville, one of the country’s oldest and busiest prisons, was found by inspectors to be failing to meet the “undoubtedly great challenges” it faces, with safety assessed as particularly poor.

However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, stopped short of invoking the rarely-used Urgent Notification (UN) protocol, which is designed to bring prisons with significant failings directly and publicly to the attention of the Secretary of State.

Mr Clarke considered, but rejected, a UN at Pentonville at the inspection in April 2019 because, he said, the relatively new governor and his senior team, with active support from the (Prison) Group Director, appeared finally to be getting to grips with longstanding problems.

“We found no denial of the gravity of the prison’s situation, and there was a clear recognition of the scale of the work to be done.”

The problems were clear and serious. Built in 1842, and largely unchanged structurally since, Pentonville holds up to 1,310 adult men. It epitomises the challenges confronting ageing, inner-city prisons with transient populations, many with heightened levels of need and risk.

Mr Clarke said that “the general failure to meet the undoubtedly great challenges faced by this prison and those held in it is reflected in our healthy prison assessments.” Safety was poor, and respect, purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning were all not sufficiently good.

Violence had increased markedly, by more than 50% since 2017, driven by gang affiliations, drugs, debt and a high proportion of relatively more volatile younger prisoners who were given no targeted support. A third of prisoners said they felt unsafe.

Use of force by staff had increased significantly, yet oversight and accountability were lacking. There was good attention to gang issues and staff corruption but drugs remained hugely problematic, with a random drug test positive rate of around 29%. There were weaknesses in the physical security of the prison and ineffective use of technology to detect illicit items coming in.

There had been four self-inflicted deaths since 2017. Recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following investigations had been implemented well in relation to health care but less so by the rest of the prison. Case management support (ACCT) for those in crisis was poor. Living conditions for many prisoners were still poor, with many cells overcrowded or badly equipped.

Only 57% of the prisoners surveyed said staff treated them with respect, much lower than at comparable prisons. Inspectors received several reports suggesting a poor attitude among some staff, and there was evidence of some deep-rooted cultural problems that obstructed positive work with prisoners. Many staff were inexperienced, though they were being given reasonable mentoring and leadership.

Daily routines were more reliable but nearly a third of prisoners were locked in cell during the working day. Inspectors were concerned that 95% of prisoners under the age of 22 said they usually spent less than two hours per day out of their cells during the week. There were enough part-time activity and education places for all prisoners, but despite some recent improvement attendance remained poor. The overall strategic approach to rehabilitation work remained weak.

Mr Clarke said that inspectors in 2017 had raised similar concerns to those in 2019 but noted, then, early signs of improvement. This, though, was “evidently a false dawn.”

He gave “very serious consideration” to invoking an Urgent Notification but, he added, “managers and many staff at all levels throughout the prison told us they were committed to the changes that were underway and expressed confidence in the leadership of the establishment.” HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) had ensured a recent influx of new staff.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“We left the prison with no illusions about the scale of the task ahead and with ongoing concerns about decency and safety for prisoners. The depressing cycle of promise and further decline cannot be allowed to continue. Managers appeared to be working together to bring about the changes that were needed. Indeed, many told us that within 12 months the prison would be vastly improved. We will test the reality of this claim through an independent review of progress (IRP), which will be followed in due course by a full unannounced inspection.”

Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Director General for Prisons, said:

“We are under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge at HMP Pentonville, but I share the inspectors’ confidence in this management team and fully expect to see real improvements. A new drugs strategy has been introduced at the prison to combine more cell searches with better addiction treatment, while a scanner to intercept illicit items in mail has been deployed. We are investing an extra £100m to boost security and safety across the estate to stop drugs, weapons and mobile phones getting in so we can protect staff, cut violence, and rehabilitate offenders.”

 Notable features from this inspection

  • Nearly 900 new receptions over the previous six months
  • 23% of prisoners are on remand
  • Nearly 10% of prisoners are under 21
  • 21% of prisoners are foreign nationals
  • 57% of prisoners are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
  • 600 prisoners released into the community in the last six months.
  • 25% of prisoners were receiving psychosocial support for substance misuse at the time of inspection.
  • 213 prisoners released on home detention curfew in the previous six months

Read the Report

HMP Elmley – Weaknesses across all areas but plans and staffing in place to make progress

HMP Elmley, a large men’s prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, was found to have become less safe over the last four years and was assessed by inspectors as not sufficiently good across all aspects of prison life.

However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said Elmley was “not without hope” as the Governor and management clearly understood the weaknesses and had credible plans to address them.

At the time of the inspection in April and May 2019, Elmley held over 1,100 prisoners, with significant numbers of foreign nationals and sex offenders. The prison was last inspected in 2015.

It was pleasing, Mr Clarke said, to see some improvements to the reception and induction of new prisoners. Violence was lower than in similar prisons, though a quarter of prisoners still said they felt unsafe. The prison was urged to conduct more thorough investigations into the factors driving violence.

Nearly half of prisoners said it was easy to obtain illicit drugs in the prison and 22% tested positive during random mandatory drug tests, but there was no comprehensive drug supply reduction strategy. However, care for those in crisis or at risk of self-harm was reasonably good.

Inspectors saw too many examples of lowlevel poor behaviour, such as open vaping on wings, prisoners being inappropriately dressed, the use of bad language and play-fighting, going unchallenged. “Inexperienced staff needed to be given the confidence to challenge such poor behaviour, and this required them to be supported and mentored by their more experienced colleagues,” Mr Clarke said. “However, we saw young, inexperienced staff being left alone on landings while groups of their colleagues congregated in wing offices.”

Living conditions were variable across the prison, and overall standards of cleanliness were not good enough. No fewer than 180 prisoners were allocated to working on the wings, but many were not fully or meaningfully employed or supervised.

The strategic management of rehabilitation and release planning needed more attention. Although there was some good work being carried out – including the management of multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) for high-risk cases – significant improvement was needed in many other areas.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“While it was disappointing to find that the prison had not managed to improve since the last inspection, and that on this occasion all our judgements were ‘not sufficiently good’, the picture was not without hope. The prison had a number of credible plans to address the weaknesses, and those weaknesses were clearly acknowledged.

“There was also a full staff complement, so in terms of both plans and people, the prerequisites to make progress were in place. I was invited to regard Elmley as an establishment that was going through a transitional phase.

“There could be little doubt that this was a genuinely held aspiration, and I was given the clear impression that the senior team were fully aware of the amount of hard work and focused leadership that would be required to turn the aspiration into reality.”

Notable features from this inspection

The prison held 636 category C and 40 category D prisoners.

22% tested positive for drugs

There were 189 foreign national prisoners.

181 prisoners were sex offenders.

The prison had a full complement of uniformed staff.

Ministers urged to tackle prisons ‘Crisis’ as number of staff falls

Calls have been made to end the “crisis” in prisons amid claims they are “more dangerous than ever” after figures showed the number of staff in post has dropped.

Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice revealed the number of staff in prisons has fallen in the last few months.

As of June 30, there were 49,334 full-time staff in post in prisons and probation services.

This was down by 548 (just over 1%) since the end of March but was more than 3% higher than a year ago.

Some 33,926 staff were working in prisons, 9,750 in probation and 1,759 working in youth custody.

The number of full-time prison officers has fallen by 309 (1.4%) since March to 22,321. But overall the number of officers working is over 700 higher (3.3%) than a year ago, according to the figures.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said cuts had caused a “crisis” in prisons and claimed they were “more dangerous than ever”, adding: “It is shocking, given the record levels of violence in prisons, that the number of officers is falling yet again.

“There are already too few staff to safely manage things as they are, never mind any planned expansion.

“These cuts must be reversed and the Government needs to urgently set out a plan to tackle this exodus of experienced officers.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Our hard-working officers play a crucial role in keeping prisons safe and transforming offenders’ lives, and ultimately make sure the public is protected.

“We have over 700 new officers in post compared to this time last year and are working hard to retain staff and keep levels stable.

“We gave officers the biggest pay increase in a decade last year and have provided additional training and support to all staff, offering services including 24/7 counselling, trauma support and occupational health assessments.”

Read the Workforce Statistics

HMP Isle Of Wight – Still Respectful But Less Safe, With Weaknesses In Release And Rehabilitation Work

HMP Isle of Wight – holding nearly 1,000 men convicted of sexual offences – was found to be a respectful prison but one where safety had deteriorated and rehabilitation and release planning was not sufficiently good: Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook, writes these findings have ‘shocked’ staff at the prison and are disputed by prisoners too.

Notable features from this inspection:

HMP Isle of Wight consists of two distinct sites, HMP Albany and HMP Parkhurst;

Cellular accommodation on wings 11 to 15 at the Albany site uses a night sanitation system requiring prisoners to be unlocked one at a time during the night to use the toilet;

40% of prisoners held are over 50 years of age;

83% of the population are high risk; 90% of prisoners are serving sentences of more than 10 years; in our survey, only 8% of prisoners said it was easy for family and friends to visit them, and only 7% said they received a visit each week.

Most of the prisoners held at the time of the inspection in April and May 2019 were serving long sentences for serious offences. Forty per cent of the population were over 50 years old and a significant proportion were elderly and sometimes frail. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the prison continued to house a very small remand population from local courts on the island, although it was ill-suited to this role.

Since the last inspection of Isle of Wight in 2015 the assessment of respect had slipped from good, the highest grading, to reasonably good, and safety fell from reasonably good to not sufficiently good. Purposeful activity remained at reasonably good and rehabilitation and release planning remained not sufficiently good.

Despite the deterioration in safety and respect, Mr Clarke said, much positive work continued at the prison. “Relationships between staff and prisoners remained good, underpinning prisoners’ experience of everyday life.” Most prisoners said they had a member of staff they could turn to if they had a problem and living conditions were also reasonably good.

Most prisoners could get 10 hours out of their cell each weekday and gym and library provision were good. Teaching and learning were also good and achievement rates were very high on most courses, though inspectors found a large number of prisoners underemployed in a significant number of wing roles.

More concerningly, Mr Clarke said, “we found prisoners had very poor perceptions of safety. In our survey, more than half said they had felt unsafe during their time at HMP Isle of Wight and nearly a quarter felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. While violence was still not widespread, it had risen significantly since the previous inspection and the response of managers was not good enough, leading to inconsistent challenge of perpetrators and little support for victims.”

Many Isle of Wight prisoners were held a long way from home and families experienced significant travel times and expense visiting the prison. It was therefore disappointing that support for prisoners to maintain contact with the outside world was limited to letters, phone calls and some fairly basic visits facilities.

The long-term, high-risk sex offender population presented significant challenges in rehabilitation and release planning, Mr Clarke said. “We found a very similar picture to the previous inspection. Fundamentally, some good work was undermined by a lack of up-to-date assessments of risk and need, high offender supervisor caseloads and a lack of contact between offender supervisors and prisoners.

“This meant the one-to-one motivational work needed with the large number of prisoners who were maintaining their innocence could not take place.” Around half the men at the prison maintained their innocence.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“HMP Isle of Wight is a respectful place where good relationships between frontline staff and prisoners result in many positive outcomes. However, there needs to be a better operational grip on safety. Managers need to address the weaknesses in offender management to ensure the prison fulfils its purpose of reducing the risks these long-term prisoners pose, both within the prison and, importantly, when they are eventually released.”

Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Director General of Prisons, said:

“The high-quality education and training at HMP Isle of Wight are vital for helping offenders lead a productive, law abiding life on release, but we recognise that more work is needed to make the prison safer. The Governor and his  staff are working hard to bring down levels of violence and self-harm, and the excellent relationships between prisoners and staff will be important in doing this. Every prisoner now has a dedicated officer giving them personal support and, combined with working closer with probation and local authorities, we expect to see an improvement in arrangements to prepare prisoners for release.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:

The lack of safety at HMP Isle of Wight is contrary to the feedback that I get the from the two prisons on the Island.

HMP Isle of Wight has had a considerable influx from the YOI estate despite which HMP IoW is reported by residents and staff to be a safe prison.

The prison only does local release for remands and their sentenced population go onto the mainland, it is not resettlement prison, probation at the prison is overloaded and residents report it is often impossible to make appointments – despite which every resident has a dedicated Key Worker – even remands.

Over the last 18 months HMP IoW has taken numbers from the YOI estate and  some that have been re-catted from dispersal, the result is high testosterone levels, but the clear view of residents and staff is that it is a largely safe prison.

HMP IoW is a Level Three prison, out-performing many others.

As one IoW staff member told me: “I was shocked to read this report .. the thing about the inspection teams are they have to find fault in order to justify their existence.

“The reality is while HMPPS pays the wages that it does it is unlikely to retain the staff and so the experience that it needs, until that happens, HMPPS is going to keep slipping and Boris can forget about an additional 10,000 spaces, we do not have staff to run it now, never mind with 10,000 more.”

Facts

HMP Isle of Wight is a training prison holding around 1,000 prisoners, almost all of whom have been convicted of sexual offences. It opened in April 2009 with the merger of three prisons: HMP Albany, HMP Parkhurst and HMP Camp Hill. Albany was constructed in the 1960s and occupies the site of a former military barracks. Parkhurst was originally a military hospital and became a prison in 1863.

Camp Hill was built in 1912 using prisoner labour from Parkhurst, but closed in April 2013.

This unannounced inspection took place between 15 April and 2 May 2019.

Home Office refused leave to appeal in prisoner abuse inquiry

The Home Office has failed in a bid to challenge a High Court ruling over the terms of an investigation into alleged abuse at a scandal-hit immigration detention centre.

Two former detainees at Brook House immigration removal centre, identified only as MA and BB, successfully argued that a full independent investigation into “systemic and institutional failures” was needed “to ensure fact-finding, accountability and lesson-learning”.

Their case followed a BBC Panorama programme, broadcast in September 2017, which featured undercover footage showing alleged assaults, humiliation and verbal abuse of detainees by officers at the G4S-run centre near Gatwick Airport.

The footage appears to show one detention custody officer holding MA down while whispering in his ear: “Don’t move you f***ing piece of shit. I’m going to put you to f***ing sleep.”

BB, who alleges that officers used excessive force on him after he threatened to kill himself, later claimed: “The abuse shown on Panorama wasn’t even half of what really went on.”

Fourteen members of G4S staff were dismissed or resigned following the broadcast, and the Home Office asked the prisons and probation ombudsman (PPO) to carry out an investigation.

In June, the High Court found that there was “a real risk amounting to an overwhelming probability that former G4S staff will not attend voluntarily to give evidence”, and ruled that “the PPO must have a power to compel witness attendance”.

Mrs Justice May held that “the egregious nature of the breaches”, which she said were “repeated events, in front of others, where the perpetrators were managers and trainers, as well as ordinary officers”, required the PPO to have such powers.

The judge also ruled that MA and BB were entitled to publicly-funded lawyers, saying: “When dignity and humanity has been stripped, one purpose of an effective investigation must be to restore what has been taken away through identifying and confronting those responsible, so far as it is possible.

“How is that to be done in any meaningful way here unless MA and BB, non-lawyers where English is not their first language, are enabled through representation to meet their (alleged) abusers on equal terms?”

On Thursday, MA and BB’s legal teams announced that the Court of Appeal had rejected the Home Office’s application to challenge Mrs Justice May’s ruling.

After considering the application without an oral hearing, Lord Justice Bean ruled: “I do not consider that there is any realistic prospect of success in the proposed appeal.”

The judge said it was “difficult to see how a satisfactory investigation could be carried out in the present case without the alleged perpetrators of the abuse being required to give evidence”.

He added: “The special investigation should be permitted to proceed without further delay.”

Following the High Court’s ruling in June, BB’s solicitor Joanna Thomson said in a statement: “The victims at Brook House suffered dreadful inhuman and degrading treatment.

“They have also suffered the injustice of the Government’s failure to hold an effective inquiry.

“This important judgment should now lead to an investigation that will uncover the truth so that there are no further abuse scandals in the UK’s immigration removal centres.”

MA’s solicitor, Lewis Kett of Duncan Lewis, said the June ruling “ensures that those officers can be held to account for their actions and that the PPO will be better equipped to get to the heart of why this happened and how to ensure it is never repeated”.

Last month, a National Audit Office investigation found G4S has made £14.3 million in profit from Brook House between 2012 and 2018.

Following the revelation, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee, accused the Home Office of a “shockingly cavalier approach” to sensitive contracts.

Ms Cooper said the NAO’s findings raised “serious questions” about the Home Office’s handling of sensitive contracts and claimed its monitoring should have picked up problems sooner.

She said: “For G4S to be making up to 20% gross profits on the Brook House contract at the same time as such awful abuse by staff against detainees was taking place is extremely troubling.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We have noted the judgment and are considering next steps.”

Resettlement Work In YOIs – In Most Cases Letting Down The Children They Release, Say Chief Inspectors

Young offender institutions (YOIs) are largely failing to prepare children they release to live safe, law-abiding and productive lives in the community, according to a new report by two criminal justice inspectorates.

In too many case, those released do not have suitable accommodation lined up in time for the necessary support services to be put in place. Most have no training, education or employment arranged and mental health support is often lacking.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Probation, in a joint thematic inspection on resettlement work, principally in YOIs, also found inadequate planning to protect others, including families and younger children, from the risk posed by those released.

Every year, hundreds of children are released into the community from the five YOIs in England and Wales – many of them with very profound needs for support and follow-up care. Some pose a serious risk of harm to others.

The report noted: “With the exception of the casework team in HMYOI Wetherby,  none of the YOI-based agencies or departments we inspected were sufficiently focused on resettlement.”

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Justin Russell, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said: “We saw some examples of excellent resettlement work which offered children the best opportunities to change their lives and successfully reintegrate into their communities.” A common feature of the good examples was a ‘team around the child’ approach in which professionals worked together across agency boundaries.

“More often, though, we found that, while children were in custody, there was not enough productive resettlement work; this had detrimental consequences for them when they were released.

“The most damaging outcome was a lack of suitable accommodation identified in time for other services to be in place.” Ten days before release, almost 14% of children released in the first three months of 2019 did not know where they would be living after leaving the YOI. Most did not have education, training or employment arranged.

The inspection looked in detail at 50 cases of children released. “We judged that 38 out of 50… did not have these services in place at an appropriate time before their release. Mental health support was also, too often, not in place.”

Inspectors found that staff in YOIs – in casework, education and health care – were committed and enthusiastic, and interested in the welfare of the children. There was some imaginative resettlement work in all of the YOIs.

However, the report noted: “With the exception of the casework team in Wetherby, none of the YOI-based agencies or departments we inspected were sufficiently focused on resettlement.” Inspectors were concerned by a range of systemic weaknesses:

  • YOIs tended to concentrate on delivering services while the child was in custody that met their immediate needs and risks. Not enough thought was given to their future.
  • YOIs did not consider sufficiently often the risk to others that the child might pose on release.
  • None of the children who spoke to inspectors felt that the work that they had done in the YOI had helped them towards doing better on release.
  • Good work in mental health support during custody was often negated by a lack of attention to continuing support on release.
  • The children who reached 18 years old while serving a custodial sentence and were transferred to adult offending services faced additional difficulties with the loss of their rights to children’s services and the different expectations placed on them, often with little preparation or understanding.
  • Resettlement planning and interventions were mostly resource-led and formulaic. Children were ‘fitted in’ to what was available within the YOI, with little attention paid to their individual needs.

Mr Clarke said: “YOIs have not fully grasped the essential function of resettlement. They frequently neither enabled nor required their casework and other teams to deliver it. In addition, they have not ensured that resettlement work is understood, respected and prioritised across the whole YOI.”

Mr Russell said: “We found children and young people are being let down and are not being supported to succeed on release. Good mental health support in custody needs to continue in the community. Education and training should lead to purposeful activity and help individuals to fulfil their potential. Children and young people should have safe and secure accommodation on release. It is disappointing to see that four years after we last looked at this issue, so many of the same issues remain.”

NOTES:

The joint thematic report, published on 8 August, can be found at https://prisons.org.uk/YouthresettlementTR082019.pdf

There are five YOIs, holding children under the age of 18, in England and Wales – Feltham A in London, Cookham Wood in Kent, Werrington, near Stoke-on-Trent, Wetherby and Keppel in North Yorkshire, and Parc in Wales.

This inspection looked at the experience of 50 of these children who were released between October 2018 and April 2019 from all five YOIs. As well as examining the case files, our inspectors interviewed the case managers and children themselves wherever possible. They also used data collected on 115 children released in the first three months of 2019 and drew on a survey of over 600 children in custody undertaken by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

This interim report focuses on the outcomes for children immediately on release, and the operational work carried out to prepare them for release. It is largely, but not exclusively, about work carried out by staff working within YOIs.

A joint thematic inspection led by HMI Probation in 2015 found that:

  • Outcomes for children leaving custody were poor. The worst examples were the lack of suitable accommodation being considered early enough and the failure to organise appropriate, realistic education, training and employment provision or constructive activities at the point of release.
  • Resettlement work often started too late, and work in the community was not proactive enough during the custodial stage.

Exit Ahead: Cognitive Thinking & Changing Course

By Mark Leech

Who knows where the journey ends once we tell that first lie – and the second that inevitably follows once the first has been discovered?

Thirty-four year old Fiona Onasanya had been the Member of Parliament for Peterborough for just seven weeks when in July 2017, no doubt distracted, her thoughts elsewhere, the MP and practising solicitor failed to notice the speedometer on her car slip past 40 in the 30 limit – and she missed the road-side speed camera too, until it flashed and caught her car in its trap.

Three weeks later when the section 172 road traffic forms arrived in the post, requiring her to disclose the name of the driver, a clearly marked ‘Exit’ presented itself – all she had to do was take it.

Had she done so, by admitting she was driving, not paying attention, doing 41mph in a 30 limit, there the matter should have ended; slapped wrist, three points, minor fine perhaps and a few finger-wagging tweets on social media from those who would have insisted that an MP should have known better – and they’d be right too; its 30 for a reason after all.

But she didn’t.

Instead, when she signed the forms insisting a friend was driving, not her, and popped those forms in the post, she flew straight past the ‘Exit’ and continued her journey to disaster – but there was another Exit ahead – would she take that perhaps?

No.

A month later, when interviewed under caution by police, instead of taking the Exit by claiming confusion: “I’m so sorry, I’ve now checked my diary, I had the dates wrong, it was me driving after all, ha ha ha, I’m a new MP, life has been so chaotic, I am so so sorry …blah blah blah” – as a solicitor she knew how to mitigate.

But again she ignored the Exit.

There were other Exits too on the road ahead: her first court appearance; then entering of a plea; followed by committal proceedings, and right the way up to the start of her trial, her path was littered with Exit signs – admittedly taking any of these would have presented increasingly greater difficulties in explaining away why previous Exit signs had been missed, but defiant to the end she ignored them all, went to trial – and lost.

The friend she claimed had been driving wasn’t even in the UK on the date the speeding camera caught the car in its double flash, a fact not even she could explain away.

Blindness to exits, or her obstinate refusal to take them, resulted in a three month prison sentence, the loss of her Parliamentary seat and its £79,468 a year salary, her reputation was trashed and finally, today, she was struck off the Solicitors Roll – and all for what?

11 mph.

In group therapy at Grendon prison I learnt to recognise these dangers, it was part of what was called cognitive thinking, a process of learning to recognise dangerous situations, come up with options, and then take one of them.

Recognising Exits is crucial.

During my time in prison I met numerous people serving life sentences for murder, and mostly because they failed to recognise Exits.

Exits that had usually presented themselves many times on the day they took someone’s life.

Exits presenting numerous opportunities that day to turn off, change course, resist peer pressure, seek help, turn left, not right.

Exits that, had they been taken, would have saved a life, spared their future and avoided the devastation the families of those murdered have to go through all because the Exits were ignored.

It’s never too late to take the exit – but you have to recognise they exist to do so.

Which is why prisons like Grendon, and all Therapeutic Communities in prisons, are so vital.

They equip people with exit recognition skills and the ability, no matter what the pressure to continue on a course destined to end in disaster, to take the Exit before it’s too late.

Mark Leech is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, he tweets under the name @prisonsorguk

Teenagers attack staff ‘for honour’ in Feltham A youth prison

Reported in The Times today 6th August 2019.

Inmates are attacking officers as a “mark of honour” at a young offender institution plagued by gang allegiances and rivalries.

Staff at Feltham A in west London are also being assaulted by teenagers when they try to stop them attacking each other. Separating gangs has dominated prison life to such an extent that any work and education routines have collapsed, causing more resentment and violence, according to Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons.

He has demanded that the justice secretary produce an action plan for improvement after inspectors found a “collapse” in safety and care.

One prison officer said that the “perfect cocktail” of inexperienced staff, gang rivalries and a hard core of violent teenagers aged 15 to 18 was behind the rising unrest. “There is a huge issue with gangs, members of postcode gangs in London, who are in the jail. They have an ethos of loyalty to the gang and they want to attack members of other gangs in the units. We have had situations where they are actually fighting staff to get to each other. It is a degree of honour for them to get at the other person,” the officer said.

The officer said that inmates were also attacking staff to prove themselves to their peers at the institution which holds just over 100 offenders aged 15 to 18, many of whom have been convicted of violent crimes including murder.

“They attack staff. There is an honour in attacking staff. They get an elevated position in their own peer group if they attack staff. They go to the top of the pile,” he said.

Staff have suffered serious injuries including broken jaws and damaged eye sockets. In April, 13 prison officers needed hospital treatment after they were attacked by inmates. Figures show that assaults rose from 230 to 325 in the six months to June, including a rise of attacks on staff from 62 to 152.

The prison has adopted a “keep apart” policy where inmates from rival groups are kept separate. This involves officers escorting them to education and healthcare appointments as well as ensuring that they are not in the same classes or at the gym together. As a result many are unable to get education or training and remain in their cells for long periods.

“They spend longer in their cells because we have to keep them apart and they get isolated and frustrated. Their coping skills are not good so they use violence as a way of getting attention”, the officer said.

The difficulties facing the prison have been compounded by the loss of experienced officers as a result of budget cuts. They are now being replaced by new staff with limited skills in how to cope with troubled and disruptive teenagers.

“Some recruits are not much older than the prisoners. They are young and have very limited experience to draw upon when dealing with young men who have complex needs and are violent,” the officer said.

Ministers stopped sending teenagers to Feltham A after Mr Clarke’s demand for urgent action to deal with what he described as an “extraordinary” decline in safety and care.

A prison service spokeswoman said: “The governor, who is still relatively new in post, is working hard to drive improvement in an establishment which has one of the highest and most concentrated proportions of violent offenders in the country. She and her team are incredibly dedicated to turning Feltham A around and we will respond with a formal action plan.”

HMP Channings Wood: improvement and greater consistency across many aspects of prison life

HMP Channings Wood, a men’s prison in Devon, was found in an independent review of progress (IRP) to have successfully addressed many of the inconsistencies and weaknesses evident in a full inspection in 2018.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that at the inspection in September 2018, “we assessed outcomes for prisoners as not sufficiently good across all four of our healthy prison tests – the same assessment as at the previous inspection in 2016.

“We found that inconsistency of outcomes was a recurrent theme. This was best exemplified in varying standards being accepted across the different accommodation blocks, and in partial or uncoordinated implementation of initiatives designed to improve outcomes [for prisoners].” In 2018, Mr Clarke had concluded “that the enthusiasm and openness of managers at Channings Wood needed to be supplemented with active, visible leadership, ensuring that improvement was achieved and sustained.”

A largely positive IRP visit in July 2019 found that the prison and its leaders “had taken their cue very positively from our findings and recommendations, and within nine months had moved ahead in the great majority of the areas where we had identified weaknesses.

“In particular, our call for much greater coordination and consistency of standards had been heeded.” Reasonable or good progress had been made in carrying out 11 of the 13 key recommendations in 2018.

On two recommendations, inspectors judged there had been insufficient progress. However, Mr Clarke said that one of those – relating to the resourcing and timing of mandatory drugs tests of prisoners – had to be set against the prison’s overall improved effectiveness in tackling the supply of illegal drugs into the prison.

There was also insufficient progress in dealing with the poor physical condition of some of the living units but improvement in this area depended to a large extent on budgetary issues, “where other priorities had proved pressing on security grounds.”

Among positive IRP findings, the level of violence against staff had decreased, and in other areas of safety the figures relating to violence did not show any increasing trends. There were also some signs that use of new psychoactive substances, and of drugs in general, were on the decrease. Vulnerable prisoners said that they were now safer on their induction unit.

Inspectors found that leadership and governance in health and social care had improved, a more satisfactory complaints system had been established and there had been some recent improvements in equality work. Ofsted inspectors found some improvements in education, skills and work.

Work to reduce reoffending had already become more consistent, with layers of assurance added to ensure that public protection responsibilities were carried out thoroughly, especially for high-risk prisoners approaching release, Mr Clarke added.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“At this IRP, we found strong leadership beginning to bear fruit in real improvements to almost all of the areas which we followed up from our recent inspection. There was a clear sense of coordination and of direction; this was attested to not just by managers, but also by staff, and by some prisoners as well. Most staff whom we met or observed, including many in their first year of service, were engaged, appreciative of the new management approaches and well-motivated in their work.”

 Facts

HMP Channings Wood is a training and resettlement prison near Newton Abbot in Devon, holding up to 724 adult men.

Independent Reviews of Progress (IRPs) are a new type of prison visit, which began in April 2019. They were developed because Ministers wanted an independent assessment of how far prisons had implemented HMI Prisons’ recommendations following particularly concerning prison inspections. IRPs are not inspections and do not result in new judgements against our healthy prison tests. Rather they judge progress being made against the key recommendations made at the previous inspection. The visits are announced and happen eight to 12 months after the original inspection. They last 2.5 days and involve a comparatively small team. Reports are published within 25 working days of the end of the visit. We conduct 15 to 20 IRPs each year. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons selects sites for IRPs based on previous healthy prison test assessments and a range of other factors. For more on IRPs please see – https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/about-hmi-prisons/independent-reviews-of-progress-irps/

This IRP visit took place between 1 and 3 July 2019.

At this IRP visit, we followed up 13 of the 60 recommendations made at our most recent inspection and made judgements about the degree of progress achieved to date. We judged that there was good progress in six recommendations, reasonable progress in five recommendations and insufficient progress in two recommendations. We found no recommendations where there had been no meaningful progress.