HMYOI Deerbolt – Positive findings on safety and respect but deterioration in activity and release work

HMYOI Deerbolt – a young offender institution (YOI) and category C adult training prison in County Durham – was found by inspectors to be ‘reasonably good’ in terms of safety and respectful treatment for the 400 young men held there

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said this performance in two of HMI Prisons’ healthy prison tests was a “creditable performance overall” when set against the broader context of prison performance across the country in recent times. Safety and respect had also been assessed as reasonably good in the previous inspection in 2014.

Inspectors were concerned that violence had risen in the prison – in which three-quarters of the young men were under 21 – since 2014, but violence was lower than in similar jails. Mr Clarke said the jail needed to pay more attention to the governance of use of force by staff. A total of 16% of prisoners reported that they had acquired a drug habit in Deerbolt and this, Mr Clarke said, underlined the importance for the jail of understanding and addressing the issue of drugs.

The assessment of purposeful activity had declined from reasonably good in 2014 to not sufficiently good in April 2018. It was disappointing, Mr Clarke said, to find that some 35% of men were locked in their cells during the working day, “which was simply not good enough for a training prison.”

“In addition to this, some 33% told us that they were out of their cells for less than two hours per day which, given the age of the population, was unsatisfactory.” Work to prepare prisoners for release had also declined to ‘not sufficiently good.’

Overall, however, Mr Clarke said:

“There was much that was very positive about HMYOI Deerbolt…The issues that have been identified where some improvement is needed, particularly in those areas where there has been a decline since the last inspection, are actually amenable to management intervention. Much can be done within the establishment, but some matters will require support from regional or national management, and I hope very much that this will be forthcoming.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, said:

“As the Chief Inspector makes clear, there is much that is positive about the work being done with young men at Deerbolt. Safety and respect have been prioritised as they are fundamental building blocks for successful rehabilitation but we accept more needs to be done to improve activity levels and release planning. Prisons across the estate will benefit from the £30m investment we are making to improve safety and maintenance, which will include more and better tools to tackle the spread of drugs. Work is already in hand to respond to the recommendations in this report and the Governor will receive support to improve the performance of the prison over the next 12 months.”