HMP Ashfield was performing well after its change of role, but needed to improve the education it provided for prisoners, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison near Bristol.
HMP Ashfield was originally a facility for young people. Its role changed in 2013 and the prison now holds approximately 400 adult male prisoners, all convicted of sex offences. Most prisoners were serving long sentences with over half doing in excess of ten years or an indeterminate sentence. The process of transition had been managed well. The prison was calm and managers and staff were properly focused on the challenges of their new function, although the provision of work and education still had to be fully addressed. In most other respects, the outcomes inspectors observed were very good.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
· Ashfield was safe, violent incidents and self-harm were low, but those in crisis were properly cared for;
· security was proportionate;
· prisoners lived in clean and decent conditions;
· relationships between staff and prisoners were excellent;
· prisoners were unlocked for long periods and there was sufficient activity for most;
· resettlement services were developing and already provided reasonable outcomes for prisoners; and
· sentence and risk management plans were reasonable, as was public protection work.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
· there was some disparity between the number of white prisoners who successfully recategorised to D and the small numbers of black prisoners who were successful;
· most of the education, in particular English and maths, was too low level and the quality of teaching varied;
· some teachers were not appropriately qualified and some classes were led by unsupervised peer supporters; and
· the prison needed to do more to address the risks presented by the significant number of prisoners who were disengaged because they were in denial of their sexual offending.
Nick Hardwick said:
“Overall this is a very good report for a prison that has undergone a radical change of direction. Priorities going forward are to ensure work, training and education is fully fit for purpose, and that the prison has a more sophisticated and better coordinated approach to addressing the risks posed by a sex offender population. This seemed to us well within the competence of a prison that is well led and run by a capable and caring staff team.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:
“Ashfield is a well-managed prison which has adapted well to its current role holding sex offenders.
“As the Chief Inspector has found, it is a safe and decent prison, where staff are protecting the public effectively from the risks presented by this type of offender.
“We will continue to support the prison to improve the quality of education and training opportunities, which will further underpin the rehabilitation of the prisoners held there.”
A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons