Category Archives: HM Prisons Inspectorate

HMP COLDINGLEY – Disrespectful, decrepit, large drug use, serious violence and buildings unfit for purpose




Coldingley is a category C training and resettlement prison in Surrey holding just over 500 adult male prisoners. Nearly all the men held were serving long sentences, up to and including life. The prison aimed to provide opportunities for these men to develop their work-based and educational skills, and had a well-founded reputation for delivering a full regime.

Most men moved on from Coldingley to other category C prisons or the open prison estate, but a small number were released directly into the community, hence the need for a resettlement function at the prison. Coldingley is part of the reform prison group, which also includes High Down, Ford and Lewes, although it was too early at this inspection to see much that was tangibly different resulting from these arrangements.

At the last inspection in April 2013, we found that the prison was safe and delivering reasonably good outcomes in activities and resettlement. We did, however, have significant worries about aspects of respect. However, more men than at the last inspection told us they felt unsafe, and although overall the number was similar to comparator prisons, we considered that this reflected an increase in the use of illegal drugs at the prison and associated debt problems. It was surely not coincidental that in our survey over half of men reported that it was easy to get drugs at the prison. The need for a comprehensive drug strategy, addressing both supply and use, should be a priority for Coldingley.

A small number of men were self-isolating on the wings because they did not feel safe, and most men in the segregation unit were there for similar reasons. While levels of violence overall were not high, some incidents had been serious, including a homicide, and we were concerned that prison managers had been slow to respond to some of the challenges. It was positive that there had been no selfinflicted deaths at the prison since our last inspection, and that levels of self-harm were low. While some elements of the assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management processes for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm needed attention, care for vulnerable men was generally good.

Respect remained a really mixed picture; prisoners were positive in our survey about a range of issues related to decency, relationships with staff were reasonably strong, and health care provision was good. In contrast, the living environment in the older residential units remained extremely poor. Night sanitation arrangements were fundamentally disrespectful and the fabric of these wings was generally in a decrepit state, partly because of many years of underinvestment by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) (now HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)). There was a general lack of cleanliness, particularly in recess areas and stairwells. The neglect and levels of cleanliness on A to D wings were simply unacceptable. We indicated to prison leaders our view that these issues demanded immediate attention.

The prison had just started a process of decanting prisoners to other establishments to facilitate a limited refurbishment of these wings, but we did not think the plans sufficient to ensure they were substantially improved within reasonable timeframes. Aside from the physical condition of parts of the prison, we found that work around equality and diversity was underdeveloped and in need of close attention from senior management. In particular there was a need to analyse and understand negative perceptions on the part of black, Asian and minority ethnic prisoners.

Time out of cell was better than we usually see, and exceeded our expectations, which in a closed prison is rare. Ofsted rated learning and skills provision as good overall. All men could be purposefully engaged and outcomes were generally good, although there were some issues around attendance, the flow and accreditation of some work and achievements in English and maths. Nevertheless, outcomes were generally strong.

Similarly, in resettlement, the quality of work was generally good – particularly for higher risk men – and through-the-gate resettlement work was generally sound. While some aspects needed attention, and coordination could have been better, it was notable how positive and hopeful many of the men were about the opportunities at Coldingley for them to progress. There was a good range of offending behaviour courses, as well as generally good contact with offender supervisors, and a high number of men were being moved to open prisons each month.

Overall, Coldingley was performing at its best when providing a progressive, reliable and rehabilitative regime which focused on providing men who had already served many years of long sentences with some excellent opportunities to make progress through the system. While the prison remained generally safe, we considered that its leaders needed to ensure the challenges being faced around illegal drug use and associated debt were better managed.

Our biggest criticism of Coldingley related to the environment on the older wings, which remained very poor. It was simply not possible to judge that the conditions on those units were acceptable for a 21st-century prison. Nevertheless, Coldingley was a prison that offered prisoners hope and the reality of progression, which is a significant achievement that we do not underestimate.


A copy of the full report, published on 5 July, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HMP/YOI Feltham – Violence Must Be Tackled

HMP/YOI Feltham was not safe enough, violence had risen and boys and young men spent too long locked in their cells, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. There were, however, many examples of good work by staff, he added. Today he published two reports of unannounced inspections of the West London young offender institution.… Continue Reading

HMP Birmingham – Availability of Drugs Still Affecting Safety

The stability of HMP Birmingham was being adversely affected by the high volume of illicit drugs available, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Prison managers and staff were clearly committed to moving on and making progress after the disturbance last year, he added. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the… Continue Reading

HMP Lincoln – poor response to deaths in custody investigations, high levels of violence and self harm

HMP Lincoln was struggling to hold prisoners safely and in decent conditions, but staff were working to address these challenges, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local jail. HMP Lincoln is a Victorian prison holding over 600 remand and sentenced adult and young… Continue Reading

Brixton Prison ‘Is Not Safe’ – the second report of unsafe London prisons in two days

HMP Brixton was not safe, and the work, training and education it provided for prisoners needed to improve, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local London jail – it is the second report of unsafe London prisons in two days HMP Brixton is… Continue Reading

HMP Pentonville – Some Progress But Levels of Violence Too High

HMP Pentonville had made some progress but was still not safe enough, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an announced inspection of the local London jail. HMP Pentonville, an overcrowded Victorian prison serving courts in North London, holds over 1,200 adult and young adult men. The population is… Continue Reading

HMP Garth: Increase in violence at ‘unsafe’ jail, report says

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons published a report on HMP Garth in which he said…. HMP Garth near Leyland in Lancashire is a category B training prison holding over 800 adult male prisoners. Built nearly 30 years ago, Garth is a relatively modern institution but holds some very challenging and serious offenders. Nearly every prisoner… Continue Reading

Morton Hall IRC – Well Run But Some Concerns & Challenges

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HMP Featherstone: Serious Decline

Standards have declined at HMP Featherstone, and the decline in safety was particularly concerning, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison near Wolverhampton. HMP Featherstone holds around 650 men and was last inspected in 2013. At that time, inspectors reported generally positively… Continue Reading

HMP Wymott – A reasonably safe prison doing good rehabilitation work

HMP Wymott remained reasonably safe and was doing good work to rehabilitate prisoners and to reduce the risk of reoffending, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison in Lancashire. HMP Wymott holds over 1,100 prisoners, approximately half of whom have been convicted… Continue Reading