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: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons