PRISON INSPECTION REPORT: HMP / YOI LITTLEHEY. MALE CAT C / YOI
Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons REPORTS:
HMP/YOI Littlehey contains two adjacent but distinct sites: an adult category C training prison
opened in 1988 and a new young offender training establishment opened in 2010. It was clear
that the new young offender side had had a very difficult start, but by the time of this inspection
it was settling down and outcomes for prisoners across both sites were good or reasonably
good against all of our healthy prison tests.
Prisoners told us they felt safer than at the time of the previous inspection and this was backed
up by other evidence.
Escort, reception, first night and induction arrangements were generally sound (although, like
many others, the prison was affected by national problems with the new escort contract). Most
prisoners told us they felt safe during their first night in the prison.
Violence reduction measures were generally effective and the number of fights and assaults
on the young adult side compared favourably with similar establishments. Prisoners’
movement around the prison and association was well supervised by officers. The prison had
taken a new approach to addressing bullying behaviour based on the incentives and earned
privileges scheme, although this was not fully established on the adult site, and a new
programme was in place to help staff and young adults avoid aggressive confrontations. The
use of force had reduced by about a third over the previous six months. Fewer adults had been
placed in segregation than at the time of the previous inspection but the number of segregated
young adults was similar to the comparator.
Prisoners told us it was far less easy to get drugs in the prison than before and positive
random mandatory drug testing rates were low – although tests were missed because of staff
redeployment and record keeping needed improvement. Drug treatment services were
The quality of ACCT (suicide and self-harm prevention procedures) documentation was
variable but vulnerable prisoners told us they felt well cared for and we saw generally
supportive management of some young adults with challenging behaviour.
In the context of this improved and largely positive picture, some security measures –
particularly on the young adult site – now appeared too restrictive and required review.
Young adults were only allowed out of their cells for evening association and meals on
alternate weekdays. This was compounded by insufficient activity places for young adults. Too
many young adult Muslim prisoners were banned from attending religious services without
current intelligence to support the need to do so. Strip-searching was sometimes carried out
without sufficient justification. The security department blocked access for up to half of
otherwise eligible (enhanced) prisoners who applied to attend family day visits for reasons that
were sometimes unconnected to visits.
The prison has a delicate balance to strike between achieving a safe and secure environment
and one in which restrictions are proportionate and necessary. The balance will change over
time and now that the young adult side is more stable, some security restriction should be
Safety and security are not just a matter of locks, bars and rules. Safety at Littlehey is
underpinned by generally good staff-prisoner relationships. Most prisoners, and more than at
comparable prisons, told us that staff treated them with respect and that they had a member of
staff they could turn to if they had a problem. The prison made striking and imaginative use of
prisoners in peer support roles – as Listeners, helping to put new arrivals at ease in reception,
providing literacy support on the ‘Toe by Toe’ scheme, as diversity representatives, supporting
work with veterans and assisting with a range of resettlement activities. This peer support work
was generally more advanced on the adult and the young adult side but it reflected the
appropriate and positive expectations most staff had of the prisoners held.
The accommodation and grounds were mainly clean and in good condition but the prison had
a serious problem with vermin. Some cells designed for one held two prisoners and were
Equality was generally well supported. Muslim and black and minority ethnic prisoners were
less positive about relationships than the prison population as a whole but were still broadly
satisfied with the way they were treated. Support for prisoners with disabilities and older
prisoners was good. Provision for gay and bisexual prisoners was better than in most
establishments. However, the needs of foreign national prisoners were not adequately met.
Work on equality was hampered because equalities staff were frequently redeployed
elsewhere. There were signs that staffing levels were stretched elsewhere too. Health services
were good but too reliant on locum doctors. At times there was no medical cover at all. Mental
health services were excellent.
Staffing shortages impacted most seriously on offender management. Offender supervisors
had large caseloads and offender supervisor redeployments lengthened the backlog in the
reviews necessary to address prisoners’ offending behaviour. The large caseloads made it
impossible for offender supervisors to have the necessary regular contact with the prisoners
they supervised. Although public protection arrangements were generally sound, telephone
monitoring of some prisoners who posed a risk to the public was not carried out. However,
practical resettlement support was good.
HMP/YOI Littlehey is a training establishment. The prison had a strong commitment to learning
and skills. The quality and range of education, training and work was good and achievements
were high. Eighty prisoners were enrolled on Open University courses and new vocational
workshops had been established. The prison expected high levels of attendance and
absences were monitored and followed up.
Against this positive background it was therefore disappointing that there were simply too few
activity places available for young adults. There were no activity places for a quarter of the
young adult population and even with attendance of about 90%, it was not surprising that we
found a third of the young adults locked in their cells with nothing to do during the working part
of the day.
HMP/YOI Littlehey is now a very different prison from the one we last inspected in 2007. The
opening of the young adult side in effect created a new prison, and after a difficult start the
prison is now performing well. It is now a more stable and, in some areas, a very effective
establishment; that enables it to review how it strikes the balance between its central training
purpose and necessary security restrictions and ensure that progress continues.