HMP Peterborough (Male): Many strengths but serious problems with drugs and violence

Peterborough men’s prison has much good practice to share with the wider service but was found by inspectors to have become less safe over the last three years because of the ravages of drugs and violence.

The jail, holding 800 prisoners and run by Sodexo, is on the same site as a female prison and the two establishments share a management team. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said there was much to commend in the men’s jail when inspectors visited in July 2018.

“However, the simple fact was that while Peterborough was a safe prison in 2015 (the previous inspection), our judgement on this occasion was that safety had declined to such an extent that we had no choice other than to reduce our assessment in this area by two levels, to ‘not sufficiently good’.” That is the second lowest assessment in HMI Prisons’ “healthy prison tests.”

“In common with many other prisons, Peterborough has suffered the ravages of the epidemic of drugs – especially new psychoactive substances (NPS) – that have flowed into them in recent years and the debt, bullying and violence they cause,” Mr Clarke said.

Over 50% of prisoners told inspectors it was easy to get hold of illicit drugs, and more than one in five had acquired a drug habit since entering the jail. “As a result, levels of violence had doubled since the last inspection. Unsurprisingly, 55% of prisoners had felt unsafe since coming into the prison and 20% felt unsafe at the time of the inspection.”

Inspectors noted, however, a determined attempt by the jail to get to grips with the drugs and violence. Encouragingly, in the three months leading up to the inspection, there had been a reduction in levels of violence.

Aside from the violence, and the need to strengthen the governance and clinical oversight of health care, most of the functions that a prison must perform were being delivered well. Dedicated staff, many new and inexperienced, worked hard in very difficult circumstances.

It was refreshing, Mr Clarke said, to see a local prison where time out of cell was good for most prisoners and where there were activity places for 80% of the population. In rehabilitation and release planning, the prison was judged to be ‘good’, the highest assessment.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“HMP Peterborough still had much work to do to reduce the violence that had flowed from the influx of drugs into the establishment. Nevertheless, at the time of this inspection the signs were promising that further progress could be made. It is essential that the prison is restored to being a safe place, so that all the good work that was being delivered in so many areas is not put in jeopardy.”

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

“HMP Peterborough continues to provide a positive regime with good levels of purposeful activity and an effective resettlement scheme to reduce reoffending. As with other prisons across the estate, Peterborough has faced a rise in the illicit supply of drugs and a population more prone to violence – tackling this is a priority and progress is being made. The prison’s Director will use the report’s recommendations to support further improvement.”

A copy of the full report, published on 27 November 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

HMP BIRMINGHAM: BANG TO WRITES

“The first priority of any prison should be to keep those who are held or work there safe, in this regard HMP Birmingham had completely failed.”

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Two weeks ago when the Gate at Birmingham Prison banged shut behind Peter Clarke, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, he must have thought as he walked away to write his Report: ‘how on earth could it have got to this?’

How indeed?

Behind him he left a prison he’d found in “an appalling state” with high violence, widespread bullying, squalid living conditions and poor control by fearful staff, who suffered an arson attack on their supposedly secure car park during the inspection.

Birmingham is only the second jail ever to be assessed by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) as poor, its lowest assessment, across all key aspects of prison life.

How did we get here?

Until a year or so ago the problem with our prison system had just two basic roots – and to a large extent it still does.

The first is a public who demand ever longer sentences and harsher prison conditions, despite a wealth of evidence that neither reduces crime and serves only to land them with a £15bn a year bill for reoffending.

The second has been the failure of politicians on all sides to rise to the challenge, to stand up to the public and argue for what they know the evidence shows is in everyone’s best interest: reducing reoffending is brought about through engagement, decency, respect, humane conditions and support – all things far too many of our prisons cannot deliver.

Politicians need to educate the public that treating prisoners humanely is not being soft on crime – humane treatment of prisoners has nothing to do with punishment, and everything to do with investing prisoners (whatever they’ve done) with the rights of a human being – and that is always a test that we must pass, not them.

Eighteen months (and three Justice Secretary’s) ago, Liz Truss sought to bring common sense to the law and order debate with a change of direction, the White Paper she published on Prison Reform would have gone a long way towards making real progress, but it was not to be.

Theresa May then went for her infamous walk and the White Paper, much like her parliamentary majority, was tossed in the trash.

But while all that makes for fine theory, it is the dreadful translation of that recipe for chaos into practice that has brought the prison system to its knees.

The minefield that is our prison system today goes back to 2013 when Tory Justice Secretary Chris Grayling  slashed front line prison officer numbers by 7000 (and cut budgets by over £900m) when he introduced VEDS – Voluntary Early Departure Scheme; in effect – redundancy.

And this at a time when prisoner numbers were rapidly increasing too.

When I first learnt of the scale of the frontline cuts Grayling was going to make I fully expected the Prison Officers Association (POA) to mount large scale protests across the prison estate to fight them – but not a bit of it.

There was not even a whimper from the POA – and the reason?

The VEDS package (coupled with the promise by Grayling to end prison privatisation) was so generous that it ‘bought off’ any objection to the staff cuts from the POA – indeed not only were the POA complicit in the staff cuts, but the evidence shows their own bid to run the prison actually involved 150 LESS staff than the winning G4S bid offered – something the POA seem today to have quietly forgotten.

And VEDS really was generous too – Grayling blew more than £50million in just one year sacking staff at Britain’s overcrowded jails; in 2013 the Prison Service spent £56.5million on severance payments – ten times the amount spent in 2012.

Its not rocket science – you can’t run a modern, safe, humane, reforming prison system with a handful of staff and on tuppence ha’penny.

And, its got nothing to do with Birmingham being a private prison – that’s a red herring.

The moral argument is no one should earn a profit from imprisonment – well tell that to the 25,000 prison officers when they collect their ‘profit’ each month.

I’m a pragmatist – I don’t care whose name is over the prison gate, I’m more concerned with what happens to real people who live and work on the other side of it.

The truth is there are good and bad public and private prisons – and don’t forget until we had private prisons in 1992 our prison system was in an even worse state than it is today.

With private prisons came integral sanitation – instead of a bucket prisoners were required to urinate and defecate in and ‘slop out’ – also with private prisons came access to telephones, reduction in mail censorship, evening family visits, drug and alcohol detox, offending behaviour courses and until 1992 time out of cell was 11 hours a week – with the opening of the first private prison that became 11 hours a day.

We have had private prisons for almost 30 years and generally they have worked quite well – the difference now is that the government austerity spending cuts have driven down private sector contracts to such low levels that they are simply unsustainable – we see that with Birmingham (not to mention Liverpool, Nottingham and Exeter) and we saw it too with Prison Service facilities management company Carillion.

There is one thing however about the privatised Birmingham prison that is different to other failing public sector jails – public prisons don’t have a wicket keeper.

When private prisons were introduced Parliament insisted that behind every private prison Governor must sit a ‘Controller’, an experienced public sector prison governor, there to monitor how the contract to run the prison was being delivered – and where they believe the Governor was at risk of losing control, to ‘step in’ and take over.

There were four, full-time, Controllers at HMP Birmingham, Peter Clarke suggested they were all ‘asleep at the wheel’ and that’s impossible to disagree with given that none of them appeared to notice that security, order, safety and control at the prison had been lost.

What is the solution?

Recent speeches by Justice Secretary David Gauke, and his Prisons Minister Rory Stewart, show they have clearly recognised the dire state the prison system is in, and there has been a raft of welcome policy initiatives to address identified problems.

We have seen a commitment to end rough sleeping, a package to steer the vulnerable away from custody, a drive to address the problems at the ten most challenging prisons, and a £9m ‘blitz’ on drugs in prison too.

These are welcome and useful – but they are also piecemeal, disjointed and there is no overall clarity of ‘mission’ that pulls them all together – you won’t reduce reoffending by sticking plasters over prison problems and ignoring the much bigger picture.

What we need now is a Public Inquiry, not just into the debacle that is Birmingham, but the prison system as a whole – defining not only how we get out of this mess but drafting the course of prisons and probation development well into the 2030’s.

We need to clearly define the ‘mission’ of our prison system.

What, exactly, do we as a society want our prison system to deliver in terms of punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation, reducing reoffending and victim care?

Once we have the mission clear, then we just need to pay for its delivery.

At present we are on our EIGHTH Justice Secretary since 2010, and the Prison Service itself in that time has been reorganised four times too – from Prison Service to Correctional Services, to NOMS and now to HMPPS.

Our Prison Service is disorientated by changes of organisation, leadership and the disarray caused by abrupt policy and funding changes that inevitably flow from a change at the top.

It has to stop.

Birmingham prison needs to be the point where a halt is called, where emotion is taken out of the law and order debate, and the future of our prison and probation services are handed over to an impartial public inquiry where evidence and not rhetoric shows what works best for everyone.

Chief prisons inspector demands urgent government action to tackle appalling violence and squalor at HMP Birmingham

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has called on the Justice Secretary to launch an urgent and independent enquiry to understand how the privately run HMP Birmingham, one of Britain’s biggest jails, has “slipped into crisis” in only 18 months.

Inspectors found the prison in “an appalling state” with high violence, widespread bullying, squalid living conditions and poor control by fearful staff, who suffered an arson attack on their supposedly secure car park during the inspection. It is only the second jail ever to be assessed by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) as poor, its lowest assessment, across all key aspects of prison life.

Peter Clarke told David Gauke that the prison had suffered a “dramatic deterioration” since the last inspection in early 2017, when inspectors found it was still shocked after disturbances at the end of 2016 but was showing a determination to improve. Just 18 months later it was assessed as poor in HMIP’s four ‘healthy prison tests’ – safety, respect, purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning.

HMP Birmingham is managed by the private contractor G4S, in a contract with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). Mr Clarke said he believed no long-term progress could be achieved until the reasons for such a swift and dramatic decline in Birmingham were fully understood. However, he stressed, an enquiry into what had gone wrong with the contract management and delivery must not be allowed to stand in the way of the “urgent and pressing need to address the squalor, violence, prevalence of drugs and looming lack of control that currently afflict HMP Birmingham.”

Mr Clarke has invoked the Urgent Notification protocol, signed in November 2017 and designed to enable the Chief Inspector to put the Secretary of State publicly on notice that urgent action is needed to address significant concerns at a jail. The protocol has only been used twice before, at HMP Exeter and HMP Nottingham. Mr Clarke today published the letter he sent on 16 August to Mr Gauke, with a briefing note drawn closely from the debrief for the Director of the prison at the end of the inspection. The letter and note depict some of the most disturbing evidence that inspectors, who visited Birmingham between 30 July and 9 August 2018, have seen in any prison:

  • Over the last year, Birmingham was the most violent local prison in England and Wales. Those perpetrating the violence “could do so with near impunity.”
  • Inspectors saw many prisoners under the influence of drugs and blatant drug use went largely unchallenged.
  • Control across the prison was tenuous, with staff often not knowing where their prisoners were and “a general lack of order on some wings.”
  • Many staff were inexperienced, lacking confidence and skills, and were poorly led. Many, also, were fearful. During the inspection, criminals launched an arson attack on the supposedly secure staff car park.
  • Communal areas were filthy, with cockroaches, vermin, blood and vomit left uncleaned. Staff and managers appeared to have become inured to these conditions, some of the worst inspectors had seen. In older wings, virtually every window was damaged and many were missing.
  • Education, work and training were ‘inadequate’ and measures to protect the public from high-risk men – while in prison and on release – were very poor.

Concluding his letter, Mr Clarke wrote:

“I was astounded that HMP Birmingham had been allowed to deteriorate so dramatically over the 18 months since the previous inspection. A factor in my decision to invoke the Urgent Notification protocol is that at present I can have no confidence in the ability of the prison to make improvements. There has clearly been an abject failure of contract management and delivery…The inertia that seems to have gripped both those monitoring the contract and delivering it on the ground has led to one of Britain’s leading jails slipping into a state of crisis.”

Notes

  1. Mr Clarke’s Urgent Notification letter to Mr Gauke, and the accompanying note, can be found here.
  2. On 30 November 2017, Mr Clarke and David Lidington, then Justice Secretary, signed the Urgent Notification protocol – an extension of the existing working protocol between HMI Prisons and the Ministry of Justice. Mr Clarke said at the time: “The Secretary of State has accepted that he and his successors will be held publicly accountable for delivering an urgent, robust and effective response when HMI Prisons assesses that treatment or conditions in a jail raise such significant concerns that urgent action is required. The protocol requires the Secretary of State to respond to an Urgent Notification letter from HM Chief Inspector of Prisons within 28 days. The Chief Inspector’s notification and the Secretary of State’s response will both be published.
  3. The most recent two-week inspection of HMP Birmingham began on 30 July 2018 and ended on 9 August. The inspection was unannounced.
  4. The debriefing note accompanying the Urgent Notification letter to the Secretary of State is drawn from the initial HMI Prisons findings shared with the Director of HMP Birmingham. As is the case with all HMI Prisons inspections, these early findings are indicative and may be changed at the discretion of the Chief Inspector, after due consideration or following the emergence of new evidence (all HMI Prisons evidence and conclusions are subject to a rigorous fact-checking process). However, it was the view of the Chief Inspector that the initial findings at HMP Birmingham were clear and concerning enough to warrant his decision to invoke the Urgent Notification protocol.
  5. A full report on HMP Birmingham will be published in due course, around 18 weeks after the end of the inspection.

Ministry of Justice Take Over Control of HMP Birmingham

Staff at one of Britain’s largest prisons were found asleep or locked in offices during an inspection that uncovered “appalling” squalor and violence, a watchdog has said, as it emerged the Government is taking over the privately-run jail.

In a scathing critique, Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke warned HMP Birmingham has “slipped into crisis” following a “dramatic deterioration” in the last 18 months.

The Ministry of Justice has now assumed control of the establishment from G4S for at least six months.

G4S welcomed the move, saying the prison, which it has managed since October 2011, faces “exceptional challenges”.

The highly unusual intervention came as Mr Clarke warned that levels of violence were the highest for any local jail in the country, with some inmates saying they felt unsafe even behind locked cell doors – while perpetrators could act with “near impunity”.

His assessment found blatant use of illegal substances went largely unchallenged amid a “looming lack of control”. At one point, staff were said to have shrugged when inspectors pointed out that drugs were being smoked.

It also emerged that the chairman of the prison’s Independent Monitoring Board had raised concerns in May that prisoners, rather than staff, appeared to be controlling many of the wings.

After an unannounced inspection of the prison concluded earlier this month, Mr Clarke triggered the “urgent notification” scheme to alert the Government to his findings.

In a letter to Justice Secretary David Gauke, the chief inspector said staff were ineffective in maintaining even basic standards.

“It was often difficult to find officers, although we did find some asleep during prisoner lock-up periods,” he wrote. “On more than one occasion we found groups of staff who had locked themselves in their own offices.

“We were told this was to prevent them, when busy, from being distracted by prisoners – an explanation that was neither plausible nor acceptable.”

Mr Clarke noted that many staff felt fearful and unsafe after a number of incidents, including an arson attack that destroyed nine vehicles in a car park.

HMP Birmingham – the scene of a major riot in 2016 – was rated “poor” in all four healthy prison tests.

Mr Clarke said he was “astounded” by the deterioration at the prison since it was last inspected in February 2017.

“There has clearly been an abject failure of contract management and delivery,” he concluded.

His assessment detailed how:

– Violence had increased, including serious assaults that left prisoners and staff requiring hospital treatment

– Communal areas in most wings were “filthy”, there were widespread problems with cockroaches and vermin, and blood and vomit was left uncleaned

– The smell of cannabis and other burning substances pervaded many areas, with Mr Clarke saying he felt “physically affected” by drugs in the atmosphere

– While some staff were clearly competent, relationships with inmates had deteriorated and there was a “general lack of order” on some wings

– In one bullying case a man had a poster with the message “Say No to BO” stuck on his door and was “hosed down” by other prisoners who put a fire hose through his observation panel.

In the wake of Mr Clarke’s findings, the MoJ confirmed it had taken over the running of HMP Birmingham for an initial six-month period at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

Announcing the decision, Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said: “What we have seen at Birmingham is unacceptable and it has become clear that drastic action is required to bring about the improvements we require.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “This shocking situation underlines the dangerous consequences of the ever greater privatisation of our justice system.

“HMP Birmingham was the first publicly-run prison to be transferred to the private sector. This should be a nail in the coffin for the flawed idea of prison privatisation. The Government must scrap its recently announced plans to build yet more private prisons.”

Jerry Petherick, managing director of G4S Custody & Detention Services, said: “HMP Birmingham is an inner-city remand prison which faces exceptional challenges including increasingly high levels of prisoner violence towards staff and fellow prisoners.

“The well-being and safety of prisoners and prison staff is our key priority and we welcome the six month step-in and the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Justice to urgently address the issues faced at the prison.”

Built in 1849, HMP Birmingham is a category B facility for adult male inmates and had a population of 1,269 at the end of last month.

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said he welcomed the takeover.

Mr Leech said: “Take over has really been on the cards for over a year, the prison’s IMB Chairman warned the prison was on the verge of collapse months ago and no one took a blind bit of notice.

“This ignorance of IMB’s is what the new National Chairman of the IMB, Dame Anne Owers, was supposed to get a grip of, but since her appointment almost a year ago no one has heard a peep out of her – a shocking lack of visible leadership that should cause her to question her own position.”

Private Finance “Could Fund Four More Prisons” Says Minister

Private funding could be used to develop a further four prisons in the Government’s project to provide 10,000 new places for inmates, a justice minister has said.

Rory Stewart told MPs a range of funding arrangements is being explored, including private finance, but no decision has been taken.

His remarks came after he previously confirmed the funding plan for two of the six prisons to be developed under the project, costed at £1.3 billion last year.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon asked what the extra costs would be to the Ministry of Justice by using private finance initiative (PFI) to build new prisons and questioned if the maintenance work would be outsourced.

Asking an urgent question in the Commons, the Labour MP also said: “Will the minister allow any of the companies under a serious fraud investigation for overcharging the Ministry of Justice – that’s Serco and G4S – to bid to run the new prisons?”

Mr Stewart replied: “The first prison – Wellingborough – the construction will be funded by public capital.

“The second prison, which is Glen Parva, will be funded through private finance initiative.

“We’re exploring a range of other funding arrangements, including private finance, for the remaining four prisons but we’re yet to achieve a resolution on that.

“On the question of who we would like to bid, of course we will be looking for legal liable bidders.

“But I’d like to emphasise the key here is about getting quality and diversity into the estate.

“We don’t want, we believe, to be overly ideological about this – we believe in a mixed estate.”

Mr Stewart said there are currently some “excellent” public sector prisons, while also praising Serco’s work at HMP Thameside in London and G4S at HMP Altcourse, near Liverpool.

Tory former justice secretary Ken Clarke said the question of whether a prison is financed and operated privately or publicly was an “ideological irrelevance”, as he urged Mr Stewart to “get rid of the older, slum, overcrowded prisons” so new prisons can provide the “quality of security and rehabilitation that the public deserve”.

Mr Stewart said: “We have to be absolutely clear that people who ought to be in prison must be in prison and properly housed in prison and we must work to turn their lives around.”

MPs also raised concerns about the potential risks posed by some outsourcing companies.

Labour former minister Diana Johnson asked for reassurance that “if Capita come forward bidding for any of these contracts and score a risk of 10 out of 10, that they won’t be awarded the contract?”.

Mr Stewart said her general point was “difficult to disagree with”, adding: “From the Ministry of Justice, when assessing bids, we will very much be taking into account the financial viability of the company bidding.”

HMP Forest Bank – A well-led local prison

forestbankHMP Forest Bank continues to manage the challenges it faces well and had improved further, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. However, the needs of some marginalised groups of prisoners merited further attention, he added. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local prison in Greater Manchester.

Forest Bank holds just under 1,500 prisoners, a small number of whom are young adults aged between 18 and 21. It experienced a significant throughput of prisoners with over 100 new arrivals each week, many with complex personal needs. At its last inspection in 2012, inspectors reported positively on a well-run prison. This more recent inspection found that Forest Bank had continued to maintain some very good outcomes for prisoners and had introduced improvements, despite the challenges that it faced in common with other establishments.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • reception and induction arrangements were fit for purpose and reasonable;
  • initiatives were in place to address violence, although the prison’s own analysis indicated that over 40% of such incidents were linked to the growing problem of new psychoactive substances (NPS);
  • use of segregation had reduced and force was not used excessively;
  • the environment was bright and clean and relationships between staff and prisoners were respectful;
  • most prisoners received a good amount of time out of cell and there were sufficient activity places for most of the population to be employed at least part-time;
  • there was good leadership of learning and skills and some excellent partnerships had led to some very good work opportunities;
  • the quality of offender supervision was effective and public protection arrangements were sound; and
  • the resettlement strategy was good across a range of pathways, although more needed to be done to strengthen links with the new community rehabilitation company (CRC).

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • despite the prison’s proactive approach to improving safety, some prisoners were too frightened to come out of their cells and levels of self-harm were high;
  • prisoners in crisis held on normal location said they received good support but too many were isolated, held in segregation or subject to other restrictions;
  • there had been two self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, although the prison was seeking to learn from those tragedies;
  • mental health services were poor; and
  • the incentives and earned privileges scheme was punitive and ineffective.

Peter Clarke said:

“Forest Bank manages big challenges and risks. It has a large population and turnover of prisoners, an inner city profile with high levels of need among its prisoners, and the destabilising influence of NPS. The experience most prisoners had of Forest Bank was reasonable. However, those who were more marginalised due to poor behaviour, self-harm or mental health issues had a much less positive experience and this required attention. This inspection found that the prison was well led, competent and confident in its approach and it coped well. A focus on continuing improvement suggests our concerns will be addressed and the effectiveness of the prison will be sustained.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:
“As the inspectorate notes, Forest Bank continues to be a well-run prison which has a strong focus on resettlement. I am particularly pleased that the hard work of the Director and staff has been recognised as their efforts have impacted on the prisoners’ motivation to learn and find employment.

“The prison holds a number of vulnerable prisoners and will use the recommendations in this report to improve the support they receive.”

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

HMYOI Parc Juvenile Unit – Much good work with children, but some safety concern

parc

There was much to commend at Parc, but they needed to understand why safety had declined and act upon it, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an announced inspection of the young people’s unit at the local prison in South Wales. [previous report]

Parc juvenile unit is a distinct and generally well separated part of the much larger prison, HMP/YOI Parc near Bridgend. The unit can accommodate 64 children, though 38 were there at the time of inspection. Its catchment area encompasses south and mid-Wales and much of south-west England. When it was last inspected in May 2014, inspectors found that young people were well cared for and experienced positive outcomes. During this more recent inspection, outcomes in the important areas of ‘safety’ and ‘respect’ had declined from ‘good’ to ‘reasonably good’. Reception, safeguarding and child protection arrangements remained effective.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • 42% of children reported being victimised by staff, which had more than doubled from the 20% in May 2014;
  • only 55% of boys felt they were treated with respect by staff;
  • the use of force had tripled since the previous inspection, mostly in response to violent incidents; and
  • almost a quarter of the boys reported having been assaulted by other boys at Parc.

Some of this level of violence was ascribed by staff to the destabilising effect of two particularly difficult children transferred into Parc during the autumn of 2015. If that was the case, managers need to be sure they have plans in place to stop it happening again.

The leadership were committed to providing a safe and decent environment for children and there were many instances of good work, including:

  • boys accessed significantly more time out of their cell than at other young offender institutions, with regular association and exercise periods; and
  • segregation was rarely used, despite challenging behaviour.

Peter Clarke said:

“Despite all the positive things that were happening at Parc, there can be no room for complacency, as the judgements in the areas of ‘safety’ and ‘respect’ have declined since the last inspection. I am sure the leadership at Parc will give this their full attention, and strive to return the establishment to its previous high performance in these key areas.”

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

“As the report notes, there is some very positive work being undertaken with young people in Parc with a high level of purposeful activity and good education and resettlement provision. The number of young people in custody has continued to fall but the challenges presented by those who remain, particularly in terms of violence, are considerable. The Director and her team are committed to providing a safe and positive environment for young people in their care and will use the findings from this report to address areas of concern to achieve improvement.”

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

HMYOI PARC JUVENILE UNIT – SAFE, DECENT AND PURPOSEFUL

parc

The juvenile unit at Parc was working well with the young people it held, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the young people’s unit at the prison and young offender institution in South Wales.

The juvenile unit at Parc is a separate part of the much larger Parc prison. It holds boys under 18 from an area that has increased to include not only South Wales but also parts of south west England. Its last inspection in 2012 found generally very positive outcomes. This inspection found that the young people held were well cared for.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

Parc was a safe institution, with robust and efficient child protection arrangements and staff who understood their responsibilities well;
there was prompt support for those at risk of intimidation;
security was very good and levels of violence were nearly all very minor;
behaviour management strategies were in place and young people were clear about the standards expected of them;
levels of self-harm were very low and structures to support those that might be at risk were well integrated;
supervision was thorough and use of force was only applied as a last resort;
evidence found suggested hardly any use of illicit substances, but there were good support services for boys who needed them;
relationships between staff and young people were excellent;
access to outside areas and general amenities, such as showers and telephones, was good;
young people had good access to time out of their cells and prompt access to a range of learning and skills activities; and
work to support the resettlement of young people was reasonably good.

Nick Hardwick said

“Parc is a good and accountable facility providing a safe and respectful environment where learning and resettlement support can be provided. The unit is well led and the attitude of staff is key to its success. Young people are not collectively seen as a problem or blamed, and the culture is not punitive. On the contrary, staff set clear boundaries and work legitimately with young people. Staff set a good example, advocate on their behalf and listen to their concerns. An added strength is the size of the unit which allows for really good supervision, and this brings confidence and security to staff and young people alike.”

Sarah Payne, Director of the National Offender Management Service Wales, said:

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the good work that is taking place at Parc.

“The Director and her staff have developed excellent relationships with the young people, and they deserve real credit for providing a safe and rehabilitative environment that will help to reduce reoffending.

“They will now use the recommendations to deliver further improvements.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 27 August 2014 at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Serco criticised over Doncaster Prison

doncaster

A privately-run prison, HMP Doncaster, has been heavily criticised for locking up inmates in cells without electricity or running water for more than two days.

The prison, which is run by security giant Serco, is the latest jail to be slammed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) after inspectors found its “performance was in decline”.

The report comes as Labour hosts a summit in Westminster on what the party calls a “growing crisis in Britain’s jails”.

And it coincides with a troubling report from the Prison and Probation Ombudsman into self-inflicted deaths among young adult inmates, which found suicide risk assessments and monitoring arrangements were poor in too many cases.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan, who is hosting Labour’s Prisons Crisis Summit, will tell the gathering of prison governors, officers and charities: “The Government pretends all is well in our jails. But there is a yawning leadership gap under David Cameron and Chris Grayling.

“The Tories are in denial about the scale of the crisis and offer no solutions to tackle the mounting chaos. We can’t go on like this. Five more years of the Tories risks five more years of failure.”

The event comes after a wave of bleak figures published by the Ministry of Justice last month revealed a leap in the number of on-the-run inmates in the last year, as well as an increase in deaths in custody and a rise in the number of jails considered to be ”of concern”.

HMP Doncaster was “experiencing real drift”, according to inspectors, as levels of violence in the prison were found to be up to four times higher than typically seen in similar jails.

Some “extremely violent” incidents had been referred to the police and there had been a recent incident where a wing had been damaged by fire and vandalism.

The report also revealed some prisoners had been locked in cells with no running water or electricity for more than two days and had spent only short periods out of the cells.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said: “Despite some positive features, Doncaster was a prison with much that had to be put right, some of it urgently.

“The prison was experiencing real drift and performance was in decline. Some staff seemed overwhelmed by the challenges confronting them and needed more support.”

Elsewhere, Nigel Newcomen, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), examined 80 out of 89 self-inflicted deaths of prisoners aged 18 to 24 between April 2007 and March 2014 for his most recent report.

The Ombudsman found prison staff frequently placed too much weight on judging how the prisoner seemed or ‘presented’, rather than on known risks, even when there had been recent acts of self-harm.

In one case, an inmate with a history of mental health problems and previous suicide attempts discovered his girlfriend had ended their relationship and, on the same afternoon, a close relative had died. Despite this, his level of risk was not reviewed and two days later he was found hanged in his cell.

The report also reveals a fifth – 20% – of 18 to 24-year-olds examined had experienced bullying in the month before their death, compared to 13% of other prisoners.

Mr Newcomen said: “In our sample of 80 cases of self-inflicted deaths going back to 2007, challenging behaviour was common, with prison records detailing warnings for poor behaviour, formal adjudications and punishments for breaches of prison rules.”

The Ombudsman recommended prisons act more robustly to allegations of bullying, as well as more timely referrals for mental health treatment.

Labour’s Prisons Crisis Summit will be attended by prison governors, prison officers, former senior officials, charities, voluntary groups, police and crime commissioners and local authority representatives.

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (Noms), said: “Serco took immediate action in response to the inspection findings – strengthening the management team, prioritising safety and implementing a comprehensive improvement programme.

“I am confident that these actions have addressed the concerns identified by (the Chief Inspector of Prisons) but we will monitor progress closely to ensure the prison is able to deliver its regime safely and securely.”

In response to the Ombudsman’s report, Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, which provides specialist advice to people bereaved by a death in custody, said: “These deaths are the most extreme outcome of a system that fails some of society’s most troubled and disadvantaged young people, many just out of childhood.”

She said the report “is yet more evidence of the fatal consequences of placing vulnerable young people in bleak and unsafe institutions ill-equipped to deal with their complex needs.”

Commenting on excerpts of Mr Khan’s speech on prisons, a Conservative spokesman said: “This is just political posturing from Sadiq Khan.

“What he won’t tell you is that prisons are now less overcrowded, there is less self harm and the level of assaults is lower than under Labour. And those prisoners most likely to reoffend will now get a year’s support when they leave.

“Of course there are additional pressures on prisons, because we have had to make realistic assessments to deal with Labour’s record peacetime deficit.

“That means they are going through a period of change. But we are managing these pressures and our prisons are still running safe and decent regimes.

“This means we can make sure those who break the law are now more likely to go to prison, and go for longer than under Labour. That is part of our action plan to make Britain an even safer place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said: “On the day that the Prisons Ombudsman reports on vital lessons that must be learned if we are to prevent further young deaths in custody, we hear from the Chief Inspector of Prisons that Serco-run HMP Doncaster is a vast, filthy, drug-ridden institution with grossly inadequate first-night arrangements and poor staff supervision where violence and self-harm are rife.

“In dangerous environments like this the weak, people who are mentally ill, those with learning disabilities and vulnerable young people, suffer the most. In under two years our prison system has become less decent, less humane and less safe.”

HMP Dovegate Therapeutic Community – Working Effectively to Reduce The Risk of Reoffending

HM Prison Dovegate - operated by Serco
HM Prison Dovegate – operated by Serco

HMP Dovegate’s Therapeutic Community was doing some good work with prisoners to reduce the risk they posed, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the facility at the Staffordshire jail.

The Dovegate Therapeutic Community (TC) is a distinct institution holding up to 200 men, contained within the larger HMP Dovegate. The main prison, a category B training prison, is inspected separately. Dovegate TC is based on the concept that democratic therapeutic communities, run by both staff and prisoners, should be central to the way the prison operates. Prisoners are given a real say in the day-to-day running of the prison and have far more influence over their experience of prison life than at normal prisons. This happens within the context of the usual security imperatives of a category B prison holding men on indeterminate or long sentences. Men arrive at Dovegate TC needing to be more open about their offending and related institutional behaviour and to being challenged by peers and staff within therapy and community groups. Often they have a history of serious violent offending, poor institutional behaviour and prolific self-harm.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • Dovegate TC remained a safe prison, with very few incidents and most day-to-day safety problems dealt with by the communities rather than by more formal processes;
  • support for the small number of men vulnerable to self-harm was good, as was support for men with substance misuse issues;
  • staff-prisoner relationships were very good, which underpinned much of the work being done;
  • time out of cells was good, but sometimes affected by problems in the main prison;
  • leadership of learning and skills was developing, but some elements of quality improvement needed to be fully embedded;
  • resettlement support was good and men were encouraged to address their risks of re-offending; and
  • some very good work was being done during therapy, but problems in delivering some key aspects of therapy risked undermining effectiveness.

However, inspectors had some concerns:

  • men spent their first few months on the assessment unit and they had little to do that was purposeful;
  • the lack of experienced TC members in the unit was affecting the transfer of some key elements of the TC’s ethos;
  • prisoners needed to feel confident enough to raise concerns in therapy about other prisoners’ behaviour, and this was not fully embedded, which needed to be addressed head on;
  • the focus of learning skills as complementing therapy needed to be better understood and supported by staff; and
  • the promise of the national integrated personality disorder pathways strategy had not yet been realised, which was a wasted opportunity to ensure men arrived at the prison at the right time, and that there was a structured plan for them to progress after completion of the programme.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Overall, Dovegate provided a safe, respectful but testing environment for the prisoners it held and the public as a whole benefited from its effective work to reduce the risk that they would reoffend after release. We identified some weaknesses, but we were reassured that management had already identified and begun to address most of them. This provided grounds for optimism that the good work of the prison would not just be continued but be enhanced.”

 

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the good work at Dovegate Therapeutic Community.

“It is a safe prison that is working well to rehabilitate a complex population and reduce their risk of reoffending.

“The director and his team will take forward the recommendations made in the report as they continue to build on their progress.”

 

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 27 February 2014 at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/prison-and-yoi/dovegate