HMP LOWDHAM GRANGE – A Violent Training Prison with ‘Very Poor’ Work Opportunities

HMP Lowdham Grange, a training prison in Nottinghamshire operated by Serco and holding many men serving very long sentences, had become more violent since it was last inspected three years ago and there had been a “quite marked deterioration in the provision of education, skills and work.”

This area of ‘purposeful activity’ was assessed as poor, the lowest assessment.

The report noted that “the number of violent incidents was high and some were serious.” Much of the violence related to the trade in illicit drugs in the prison.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the prison had an encouraging new violence reduction strategy with a prisoners’ ‘violence hotline’, which was commended as good practice. However, Mr Clarke added: “While much of what we saw was good and seemed to us a good foundation for progress, it was too early to say if the approach was working. Levels of violence remained high.

“In keeping with the amount of violence evident, use of force had doubled and the use of segregation was also high. Oversight and accountability for the use of force and segregation required significant improvement.” However, the use of technology to scan mail as a potential source of drugs was “a useful initiative” and the availability of drugs had reduced in recent months.

The amount of self-harm in the prison had increased significantly and, since 2015, two prisoners had taken their own lives.

Most prisoners had “quite good” time out of cell but outcomes in education, skills and work had deteriorated. Mr Clarke said: “The range of provision was diminished and quality assurance arrangements were lacking. Teaching, learning and assessment outcomes were poor and too few completed their courses.”

On a more positive note, the prison environment was reasonable, although internal areas could have been cleaner. Access to services was generally very good and included a well-used internal advice line. Outcomes for minority groups were reasonable but some negative perceptions among these groups required further exploration. Health services were good but delays in access to some important elements of health care were excessive. Prisoners could wait up to 64 days for a routine GP appointment. Mr Clarke added that, in view of the risk posed by many of the 920 men held at Lowdham Grange, “it was reassuring that work to support risk reduction and rehabilitation was reasonably good.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“Our findings at Lowdham Grange were adequate if inconsistent. There had been some progress but there was very much the sense that the prison was doing just enough. For example, the prison’s level of attention to our 2015 recommendations was very disappointing and a missed opportunity. We did see some innovative practice, and recent improvements needed to be embedded. There was much more to do, however, to enhance the prison’s very poor training offer.”

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

“Lowdham Grange holds a challenging long-term prisoner population. Outcomes from this inspection confirm that they manage risk, public protection and rehabilitation requirements reasonably well but need to do more on safety and in providing quality education and training for prisoners. Serco are committed to improving performance at the prison and we will closely monitor their response to the recommendations in this report.”

On Purposeful Activity the Chief Inspector found:

Time out of cell and access to association and exercise were good for most prisoners. On average, 27% of prisoners were locked up during the working day. The library service was adequate but did not promote literacy effectively. Recreational gym provision was reasonably good but indoor facilities and equipment were very poor and the floor in the weights room was damaged and hazardous. Monitoring of library and gym use was weak and it was difficult to determine who used them and whether access was equitable.

Leaders and managers had not achieved any of our previous recommendations.

Most strengths highlighted at the previous inspection had deteriorated into weaknesses.

Leaders and managers did not have sufficient oversight of the quality of education, skills and work, including the quality of teaching, learning and assessment. Quality assurance and improvement processes were not effective. The self-assessment report was not evaluative enough and demonstrated that leaders did not have an accurate understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the provision. The number and range of education courses had reduced since the last inspection. NVQ qualifications in industries had been withdrawn, and there was now no externally recognised accreditation in the workplace. The curriculum did not reflect the needs of the population accurately. Staff shortages and regular cross  deployment of education staff led to cancelled classes. Staff performance management and development were minimal and did not address identified weaknesses. The number of purposeful activity places did not meet the needs of the whole population. Allocation to education activities was arbitrary. Prisoners were allocated to education courses while applying for work opportunities. The pay rates afforded a significant disincentive to prisoners to engage with education and vocational training. Prisoners sometimes did not arrive on time to their lessons because of a staged movement to activities.

Since the previous inspection, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment had declined significantly. Trainers and teachers did not have high enough expectations of what prisoners could achieve and did not make enough use of prisoners’ starting points to plan their individual learning and training. Induction into education was not sufficiently detailed or  robust. Prisoners’ individual learning plans were weak. Targets were often generic and did not help prisoners to achieve qualifications or develop new skills. Trainers did not routinely develop prisoners’ English and mathematics in vocational training and prison work. Prisoners with additional learning support needs were not supported effectively enough. Trainers and teachers did not routinely feed back clearly to prisoners on how they could improve their knowledge, skills and understanding. There was no virtual campus12. Teaching, learning and assessment in the sports academy were good and prisoners made reasonable progress.

Inside Media13 was well resourced and staffed by very experienced professionals who developed prisoners’ skills successfully. Trainers and teachers built good working relationships with prisoners.

In employability and information and communication technology lessons, prisoners developed successfully the skills and behaviour needed for future employment, such as effective communication and word processing skills, and the importance of good personal presentation and hygiene.

Trainers did not record prisoners’ progress, learning and skills development in workshops. Prisoners were often motivated by financial reward rather than personal and academic development. Prisoners in industries did not develop new skills that were likely to benefit them in the future. The number of prisoners attending education lessons was not consistently high. Attendance was good in vocational training and industries. Prisoners who attended education and training improved their confidence. Prisoners behaved well and showed respect for each other and for staff. Some prisoners in a minority of education and vocational training classes were proud of what they had achieved. The standard of their work was high. In some sessions, teachers developed prisoners’ skills for employment effectively.

Too many prisoners who started education programmes did not complete them. In 2017, only 65% of prisoners who started a course achieved it. Data recording, monitoring and management, particularly of progress, skills development and achievement, were weak.

Leaders did not monitor achievement gaps between different groups of prisoners. Most prisoners could not make informed decisions about the next steps in their education, employment or training because of a lack of information about the curriculum. Progression through levels in the same subject was poor. Staffing issues in some subject areas affected prisoners’ progress, achievement and learning experiences.

Read the report here

Additional: Photo Booth installed.

A jail has installed a photo booth so inmates can take pictures with family members.

Prisoners at privately-run HMP Lowdham Grange can use the facility to capture group shots with relatives during visits.

The move was praised in an inspection report on the Nottinghamshire prison.

It said: “There was a photo booth for prisoners and their families to take a group photograph, which was another good innovation.”

The prison’s operator Serco said the photo booth was introduced in March last year as part of efforts to help families and children have a more positive experience of visiting their fathers.

Used more than 2,200 times, it has been “extremely popular”, the firm added.

Following the trial at Lowdham Grange, Serco expects to introduce photo booths at its other prisons.

Ministers have highlighted the importance of enabling prisoners to keep up relationships with loved ones when behind bars.

Last month, the Government announced plans that will allow thousands more inmates in England and Wales to make phone calls from their cells.

The report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons also disclosed that Lowdham Grange introduced a “violence hotline” in an effort to improve safety.

Inmates can use the service to report concerns about violent or anti-social behaviour.

HMIP described the measure as an example of “good practice”.

It said: “Prisoners could call to report concerns about violence and the safer custody team responded quickly.

“The team also worked with health care to offer support to prisoners who had been using illicit substances.”

The inspection, which took place in August, found the number of violent incidents was high for a category B training prison, with 64 assaults on staff and 83 on prisoners in the last six months.

There had been 30 serious incidents involving weapons, some of which had resulted in puncture wounds and hospitalisation.

Most violence related to the trade of illicit drugs, the inspectorate said.

HMIP noted that the use of technology to scan mail for drugs was a “very useful” initiative but it said the practice of destroying all correspondence that indicated positive, including photographs and stamps, was “excessive”.

opened in 1998, Lowdham Grange holds up to 920 adult men.

Mark Hanson, Serco contract director at Lowdham Grange, said: “We are pleased that this report highlights a number of areas of progress, good practice and innovation in the prison, particularly our new violence reduction programme.

“However, we know we have much more to do to address all the recommendations in the report and embed the improvements that we been making in recent months and we are working on these as a matter of urgency.”

HMP Lowdham Grange – Many strengths but safety has deteriorated

lowdhamHMP Lowdham Grange was doing some good work with the long-term prisoners it held, but it needed to improve safety, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison near Nottingham.

HMP Lowdham Grange holds longer-term category B prisoners from across the country. Many prisoners there have committed serious offences. Two-thirds are over the age of 30 and nearly all are serving sentences of more than four years. Over 40% of the population are serving indeterminate sentences, and more than 100 are serving life sentences. At its last inspection in 2011, inspectors commended the prison as impressively safe, decent and purposeful. This more recent inspection found that overall the prison continued to ensure some very positive outcomes for those held, but safety had deteriorated and the prison had yet to deal with the levels of violence.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the prison was clean, spacious and the grounds were well maintained;
  • some relationships between staff and prisoners were good, and equality was well promoted;
  • work to support prisoners with mental health needs was good;
  • prisoners had good access to time out of cell and the majority were engaged in work, training or education during the working day;
  • there was sufficient activity for all with a good range of work and training opportunities available;
  • teaching was good and achievement rates were generally high;
  • work to reduce the risk of reoffending was underpinned by a useful assessment of need and arrangements were well managed;
  • the offender management team were experienced and knowledgeable and worked well with this high-risk group of offenders;
  • there was a useful range of offending behaviour interventions and public protection work was robust; and
  • prisoners were effectively encouraged to progress through their sentence and the few who were discharged received good support.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • levels of violence between prisoners and towards staff were high and too much of it was serious;
  • nearly half of prisoners surveyed said they had felt unsafe at Lowdham and a quarter felt unsafe in the prison during the inspection;
  • the incentives and earned privileges scheme was applied rigidly and in a counterproductive manner that arguably discouraged positive behaviour;
  • the use of disciplinary procedures had nearly doubled since the last inspection and use of force was both high and higher than at comparable prisons;
  • the use of special accommodation and mechanical restraints on those in self-harm crisis was wrong and alternatives should be sought; and
  • levels of self-harm had risen and were higher than at comparable prisons, but good structures were in place to support and monitor those in crisis.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Lowdham Grange is an effective prison that is undoubtedly doing some meaningful work with long-term, high-risk offenders. The prison has many good features and the very positive approach to work and learning, as well as risk of harm reduction, is commendable. Prisoners are being helped to progress through their sentence. The lack of safety in the prison is at odds with the other strengths of the prison but the statistics speak for themselves. The prison has not been inactive in trying to deal with these problems but there is evidence to suggest that some of its responses have been reactive and unsophisticated. More work needs to be done at wing level to support the rehabilitation work of the prison and to encourage prisoners by incentivising them and continuing to support them as they are reconciled to the long sentences they face.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:

“There is good work going on at Lowdham Grange with challenging long term offenders – but as the Chief Inspector highlights and as Serco acknowledge, there is more to do to improve safety at the prison.

“I know that the Director and her team are working hard to improve safety across Lowdham Grange and we will closely monitor progress over the coming months.”

Notes to editors:    

 A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Muslim Accused Of Intimidating Prisoners To Convert To Islam

Jude Odigie

A Muslim jailed for his involvement in the killing of a woman at a christening party has been accused of bullying and intimidating jail inmates to convert to Islam, it was revealed today.

The accusations, which also include gang activity in prison and possessing a home-made weapon, came to light as the High Court in London rejected Jude Odigie’s challenge to his transfer from a private prison to a high security jail.

Odigie, 24, was a teenager when he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced at the Old Bailey in February 2007 to detention “for public protection” and ordered to serve a minimum period of seven years, three months, eight days.

He was part of a gang which invaded a christening party at a community centre in Peckham, south London, and stole mobile phones and handbags.

A shot was fired by another member of the gang and hit a woman, who was holding a baby, in the head. The baby was unharmed but the woman, Zainab Kalokoh, 33, died later in hospital.

Odigie was sentenced on the basis that he was involved in the “joint enterprise” attack on the christening party, although he did not personally fire the gun.

Odigie was held at various prisons until he was moved in June 2012 to Lowdham Grange, a Category B training prison for men operated by Serco Ltd in the East Midlands.

His cell was searched on October 12 2012 and a tin opener was found which came apart, with one handle sharpened to a point. A plastic handle was also found wrapped in bootlaces into which the sharpened point could fit to make a weapon, the High Court heard.

The following day, at a specially convened hearing at the prison, he said he had borrowed the tin opener quite innocently, and the plastic handle was something he used in the course of his weight training.

Odigie was told he was being segregated due to intelligence suggesting he was involved in bullying and intimidating other inmates and being in possession of a home-made weapon.

He was then moved to Full Sutton high security prison.

He launched a High Court challenge and asked deputy judge Philip Mott QC to quash the transfer decision and return him to Lowdham Grange on the basis the move was procedurally unfair and an abuse of power.

Julian Coningham, his solicitor advocate, argued at a one-day hearing in November that the prison authorities failed to follow proper procedures and did not wait for the result of an adjudication on the allegations against Odigie before the transfer took place.

Today, Judge Mott said Odigie’s application for judicial review “fails on all grounds”.

The judge said a gist of the accusations against him “does set out a consistent pattern of information pointing to pressure being put on other prisoners to convert to Islam, and the use of threats to those who do not comply”.

The cell search was “prompted by intelligence, and proved to be absolutely justified”.

The judge added: “The discovery of a home-made weapon in his cell appeared to substantiate this intelligence.”

He ruled: “In my judgement the undisputed facts and background were sufficient to justify action being taken without waiting for the result of the adjudication.

“The finding of the weapon was a serious matter. The background of perceived threats and bullying clearly had to be borne in mind also, but was not needed to justify taking action.

“In those circumstances, any difficulties in judging the reliability of the security information do not undermine the decision to act.”