HMP LONG LARTIN, A Fundamentally Capable High-Security Prison says Chief Inspector

HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire, which holds some of the country’s most dangerous and serious offenders in its population of 510 men, was found by inspectors in January 2018 to be a stable and well-controlled prison.

The high-security jail, in which a quarter of the men are classed as category A prisoners, the highest classification, had suffered “several extremely serious incidents”, including two murders, since the previous inspection in 2014.

Despite the clear risk posed by the prison population, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, inspectors found a “well-controlled environment where most prisoners reported to us that they felt safe.”

Overall levels of violence had not risen, with assaults on prisoners falling since the last inspection, though an increase in assaults against staff was concerning. Overall, though, Mr Clarke said, “strategies and initiatives to combat violence were, in our view, comprehensive and robust.”

Since 2014 at least three prisoners had taken their own lives but there had been good progress in implementing recommendations following investigations into those deaths by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO). Support for those at risk of self-harm was generally good.

The management of security was the prison’s main priority and stringent perimeter security undoubtedly contributed to a less significant problem with illicit drugs than inspectors usually see. There was good work to tackle staff corruption. Inspectors also commended the way the prison dealt with the risk of extremism among prisoners.

The general environment at the prison near Evesham was reasonably clean, Mr Clarke said, although the quality of accommodation varied greatly. About half the population was held in ageing house blocks that used the night sanitation system, an arrangement that allowed prisoners access to toilet facilities by the remote electronic unlocking of cells. “Our report details the indignities imposed on prisoners by this arrangement, a system we have criticised repeatedly in the past.”

The promotion of equality and diversity had deteriorated but work to support those with mental health needs was responsive and effective. Time out of cell was reasonable for those who worked, but inspectors found about a third of prisoners locked up during the working day. Public protection work was good and resettlement arrangements for the tiny number of men who were released were effective.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“Long Lartin, despite the challenges, remains a fundamentally capable prison. Its response to some of the very serious operational challenges it has had to deal with has been robust and measured and, in that sense, the establishment had not been knocked off course. Key challenges it had still to deal with concerned the legacy of some very poor accommodation and the need to routinely provide sufficient supervisory staff to sustain the daily routine. Key strengths remained a good staff culture which supported respectful engagement with prisoners and a competent management team with a good grip on the issues.”

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

 “I’m pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the excellent work done with long-sentenced, high-risk prisoners at Long Lartin. The Governor and her team have worked hard to provide a positive regime and more staff are now being recruited to further expand activity levels. Prisoners at Long Lartin all have single cells. We will review the operation of the electronic unlock system to minimise delays as far as possible, but we have no immediate plans to replace it given other funding priorities across the service.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said it was a ‘fairly positive’ report.

Mr Leech said: “This is a difficult population to manage but largely staff, according to this fairly positive report, have achieved the best they can with the resources they have to work with – but the redeployment of Oasys staff for 45% of their time is a worrying development.

“The Night Sanitation system was degrading and often unusable over 30 years when I was locked up there – today it is simply unacceptable that it is still in operation.”

A copy of the full report, published on 22 May 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

 

Prisons Inspectorate’s Thematic Review on Close Supervision Centres published

Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit
Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit

Although clear progress had been made in clarifying the aims and processes of the system for managing the most dangerous prisoners in the country said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, in a Thematic Review report published today (25/8/2015) on Close Supervision Centres in English high security prisons, prison commentators also made clear there were a number of serious concerns.

The Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system holds about 60 of the most dangerous men in the prison system. Many of these are men who have been imprisoned for very serious offences which have done great harm, have usually committed subsequent very serious further offences in prison and whose dangerous and disruptive behaviour is too difficult to manage in ordinary prison location. They are held in small units or individual designated cells throughout the high security prison estate. These men are likely to be held for many years in the most restrictive conditions with limited stimuli and human contact.

The system is run by a central team as part of the Prison Service’s high security directorate, although day to day management is the responsibility of the individual prisons in which the units or cells are located. A further 14 men who do not quite meet the threshold for the CSC system are held under the ‘Managing Challenging Behaviour Strategy (MCBS) in similar but slightly less restrictive conditions. This is extreme custody and its management raises complex operational challenges and profound ethical issues. The aim of the system was to remove the most dangerous prisoners from ordinary location, manage them in small units and use individual or group work to reduce their risks so they could return to normal or other suitable location.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • leadership of the system as whole was clear, principled and courageous;
  • decisions to select prisoners the CSC system were based on a clear set of published criteria and a robust risk assessment;
  • some good support was provided to staff;
  • staff understood the men in their care well, enabling them to manage problematic behaviour effectively and promote change;
  • despite the significant risks the men posed, the majority of prisoners and staff felt safe;
  • most security restrictions and behavioural management work appeared measured and proportionate; and
  • staff-prisoner relationships were reassuring good, and psychological and psychiatric services were strong.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • there was no independent scrutiny or external involvement in decision-making, which was particularly important given the highly restrictive nature of the units, restrictions on access to legal aid and the difficulties prisoners had in being deselected;
  • delivery of some important processes varied and a minority of managers and staff did not understand the ethos of the system or embrace their role within it;
  • the use of designated cells in segregation units had often led to prisoners being held there for many months or even years, with poor regimes and little emphasis on progression, which was contrary to the prison rule 46 under which they were held;
  • the centrally managed MCBS units also needed improved governance;
  • more needed to be done to offset the real potential for psychological deterioration by the more imaginative provision of in and out of cell activities;
  • daily living conditions in the small units were cramped;
  • there was a very high proportion of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim men held, although management had commissioned research to look at the reasons for this; and
  • more work needed to be done on progression and reintegration, which was critical to ensuring the system was not used as a long-term containment option for dangerous men.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Leadership of the system as a whole was clear, principled and courageous. We do not underestimate the risk the men held in the CSC system pose or the complexity of working with them. The overall humanity and care provided to men whom it would have been easy to consign to the margins of the prison system was impressive. The system had a clear set of aims, was basically well run and founded on sound security and psychological principles and sought to contain men safely and decently. There were, however, a number of important issues that needed to be addressed.

“Management arrangements needed attention to ensure consistency and external involvement in decision-making was needed to provide transparency and rigor. The use of designated cells needed far greater control and there needed to be more clarity concerning the MCBS prisoners. Aspects of the environment needed to be improved, and men required greater opportunities to occupy their time purposefully. The reasons why a disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic and Muslim men were held needed to be better understood.

“Nevertheless, the CSC system provided a means of managing the most challenging men in the prison system in a way that minimised the risks to others and offered men the basic conditions to lead a decent and safe life. We support the continued commitment to resource and support it and commend many of the people who worked positively within the system, despite some of the obvious risks and challenges.”

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, and Converse the national newspaper for prisoners, welcomed the report but said there were still serious concerns that must be urgently addressed.

Mr Leech said: “There are five CSC Units located in Wakefield, Woodhill, Full Sutton, Manchester and Whitemoor prisons, with further designated CSC cells in Belmarsh, Frankland and Long Lartin prisons.

“While the CSC, and also the MCBS, systems are not ideal they are a vital way of managing a small number of very dangerous prisoners, often those who have killed other prisoners while in custody.

“The aim always must be the safe, humane and secure custody for CSC prisoners and staff, and it is vital those who manage the CSC system do not lose sight of the longer term aim of returning CSC inmates to normal location when sustained good behaviour and proven lowered risk warrants it.

“However there are real concerns over the high proportion of black, minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim men held in CSCs, the real lack of independent oversight in the decision-making process also needs addressing urgently because of the lack of legal aid to raise challenges, and the legality of holding such inmates in segregation units contrary to Rule 46 for extended period of time must be confronted without delay.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 25 August 2015 at: justiceinspectorate.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Terrorist Inmate Wins Go-ahead For Category A Review

Tanvir Hussain
Tanvir Hussain

One of three men serving life for a plot to blow up liquid bombs on flights from the UK to North America has won permission to challenge his designation as a “high escape risk” prisoner.

Tanvir Hussain was given the go-ahead by a High Court judge to apply for judicial review against Justice Secretary Chris Grayling on the grounds that there was unfairness in the risk assessment process.

His QC argued the fact that Hussain maintained contact with other prisoners jailed for terrorism offences did not necessarily mean he was high risk.

Currently held at Long Lartin Prison in Worcestershire, the high risk assessment has remained in place since his arrest in August 2006.

It involves significant intrusion into his daily life, including being woken at night due to hourly checks, the judge heard.

Hussain, from Leyton, east London, was ordered to serve a minimum 32 years in jail when sentenced in September 2009 for being involved in a conspiracy to murder by planning to destroy seven trans-Atlantic aircraft.

Hussain, then aged 28, was convicted at Woolwich Crown Court along with Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, and Assad Sarwar, 29, of conspiring to activate bombs disguised as drinks.

The plot was disrupted in August 2006 when the men were arrested. The discovery of the cell, which was based in London and High Wycombe, was described by counter-terrorism officials as an al-Qaida-inspired suicide mission.

It led to restrictions being imposed on the liquids that travellers can take in their hand luggage.

Trial judge Mr Justice Henriques said the aim of the plotters was a terrorist outrage to “stand alongside” the 9/11 attacks on the US.

The latest decision to continue treating Hussain as a high escape risk prisoner – the middle ranking risk for Category A prisoners – was taken in July this year.

High Court judge Mr Justice Ouseley said Hussain had played “a substantial part in a wicked conspiracy”.

But he went on to rule there were arguable grounds for allowing his judicial review application to go to a full hearing.

Hugh Southey QC said the key reason given for the July 22 decision was Hussain’s continued contacts with other terrorist prisoners.

That was viewed as indicating he was maintaining the ideologies which motivated his offending.

The QC submitted it was obvious that his association did not necessarily mean that he was a high escape risk, and it was the “nature of the association” that mattered.

Hussain had made representations saying all associations were entirely innocent. He had been told those representations would be considered.

But the July decision against him did not address those representations or provide adequate reasons, argued Mr Southey.

A high standard of procedural fairness was required when escape risk was assessed, including disclosure of the information taken into account by the decision maker.

He contended that full information on the case suggested that Hussain posed a low risk.

Mark Leech editor of the national prisons newspaper Converse (www.markleech.com) said a ‘high’ escape risk assessment was only one of three risk levels that were capable of being imposed under the Category A regime.

Mr Leech said: “Most Category A prisoners are ‘Standard Risk’ which means escape would pose a significant threat to the public or national security – but where they neither have the contacts nor the planning ability to carry it out.

“‘High Risk’ is imposed where it is felt that the person concerned has contacts with people, and therefore access to possible resources, by which an escape could become a possibility.

“Finally, ‘Exceptional risk’ is imposed where there is creditable evidence or intelligence that a Category A prisoner is actively planning an escape attempt – this hapened two years ago to cop killer David Bieber who was flown by helicopter during the night from one maximum security prison to another when evidence of an escape plot came to life.”