HMP SEND – Excellent women’s prison but it must address the deterioration in education, work and training.

HMP Send, a closed training prison for women, including many high-risk offenders, was found by inspectors to have kept up high standards of safety, respectful treatment and rehabilitation and release planning.

The Surrey jail had, however, undergone a disappointing deterioration in its provision of ‘purposeful activity’ – education, work and training.

Overall, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, described Send as an “excellent” prison dealing with a “highly complex population” of up to 282 often high-risk offenders.

Three-quarters of those held at the time of the inspection in June 2018 were serving over four years and 67 were serving indeterminate sentences, including life. A substantial number, although not all, lived on one of three therapeutic or specialist facilities which “sought to address the needs of women as part of a structured personality disorder pathway.”

In 2014, inspectors assessed Send as ‘good’ in all four healthy prison tests, the highest assessment. Only purposeful activity dropped, to ‘not sufficiently good’, in 2018.

Send remained was a very safe prison, with very little violence. Though the HMIP survey raised some concerns about issues of bullying and victimisation, inspectors found the prison’s response to such behaviour had improved. Recorded self-harm had almost doubled but it remained much lower than comparable prisons. Force was rarely used and the prison, commendably, was able to operate without the need for a segregation unit.

Living conditions were clean and decent and most women reported very positively about many aspects of daily living. Relationships between staff and women were excellent and, Mr Clarke said, “were at the heart of the prison’s success.” Work to promote equality had improved and was generally very good, although more could have been done to support some groups, notably younger women and foreign nationals.

The management of resettlement was strong and offender management was at the heart of a prisoner’s experience.

Inspectors’ principal concern, Mr Clarke said, related to purposeful activity. Most women had more than 10 hours out of their cells and inspectors found very few locked up during the working day. “That said, the management of learning and skills was not robust and quality improvement lacked challenge. The range of education on offer was good but opportunities in work and vocational training were more limited.” Allocations to activity needed improvement and employer engagement was insufficient. Attendance and retention in education and vocational training were mixed and in some vocation and work settings women were insufficiently productive.

Overall, though, Mr Clarke said:

“HMP Send was an excellent prison run by a very effective governor and caring staff.  The women at the prison were treated with decency and care, being kept safe and treated with respect. The prison provided services for some very difficult and potentially dangerous women, yet did so with confidence and competence. There was work to do to improve education, vocational training and work, so we have left the prison with a few recommendations which we hope will assist in this process.”

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

“As the Chief Inspector says, Send does excellent work with a complex and challenging population. The Governor and her team are committed to maximising opportunities for the women in their care and will use the recommendations in this report, along with the measures outlined in the government’s Education and Employment Strategy, to improve the quality of training available to support women into employment on release.”

Read the Report

Plans For Five New Community Prisons For Women Axed in Revised Female Offenders Plan

Plans for five new community prisons for women have been scrapped, instead Justice Secretary David Gauke has pledged instead to set up at least five residential centres for women in a pilot scheme.

The move is part of plans to try to reduce the number of female offenders serving short jail terms, replacing them with community sentences instead that will allow women to spend more time with their children who otherwise would end up in care.

In the foreword to the strategy, Mr Gauke said 70.7% of women and 62.9% of men released from custody between April and June 2016 after a sentence of less than a year went on to re-offend within 12 months.

He said: “There is persuasive evidence that short custodial sentences are less effective in reducing re-offending than community orders. Short sentences generate churn which is a major driver of instability in our prisons and they do not provide sufficient time for rehabilitative activity.

“The impact on women, many of whom are sentenced for non-violent, low-level but persistent offences, often for short periods of time, is particularly significant.

“The prevalence of anxiety and self-harm incidents is greater than for male prisoners.

“As more female offenders are primary carers than their male counterparts, these sentences lead to a disproportionate impact on children and families and a failure to halt the intergenerational cycle of offending.”

It is estimated that female offenders cost £1.7 billion in 2015/16, of which around £1 billion were incurred by the police.

The strategy proposes greater use of community punishments for women rather than short jail terms, and a review will be carried out looking at how they can spend more time with their children.

But critics have said the £5m earmarked for the scheme, and the lack of any firm timetable for its delivery, is ‘simply not good enough’.

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales welcomed the news saying it has the potential to benefit many women offenders, ‘but the money earmarked for this is simply not enough’ he said.

Mr Leech said: “The majority of women offenders come to prison with a long and complex history of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, so on the surface this is good news.

“Research shows they are more than twice as likely to have a mental health issue than men, and almost half committed their offence to support the drug use of someone else .

“Women are often the prime carers for their children who, when the mother goes to prison, are often taken into care where potentially life-long offending cycles can start for them too.

“Wherever possible women need to be given community penalties – but let’s be honest, the £5m earmarked for these five centres is chicken-feed in the scheme of things – what’s happened to the £50m earmarked for the five new prisons, and why isn’t that being invested in this initiative?

Mr Leech said his caution was not in relation to the theory, ‘governments have shed-loads of theories’, but on his past experience that these things rarely come to fruition as initially announced.

Mr Leech said: “The glaringly obvious lack of resources and absence of any coherent timetable for delivery, is deeply worrying.

“Let’s see the delivery plan, with ring-fenced funding and a strict delivery timetable, and then we can welcome progress that is real rather than another expression of good intent that so often comes to nothing.”

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The strategy is welcome recognition of the futility of short prison sentences for women whose offending is often driven by abusive relationships or unmet mental health needs.

“The strategy recognises that many women are victims of more serious crimes than those they are accused of, and contains many positive promises of change. But it has not provided the resource to deliver that change, and no timetable to drive it.

“If the Government turns its good intentions into action, many thousands of women and families, including victims, will benefit. That work must start immediately.”

The Government has pledged to spend £5 million over two years on “community provision” for women.

Number of female prisoners released into homelessness soars

homeless_womanThe number of women released from prison into homelessness has more than doubled over the past year, new figures have revealed.

Information obtained by Labour showed that 227 female offenders were recorded as being homeless by the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) in the second quarter of 2017, compared with 103 a year earlier.

In total, almost a third of offenders released under CRC supervision had “unknown or unsettled accommodation outcomes”, according to written parliamentary answers to Labour.

The proportion of offenders released into homelessness is up by 12% over the past year, Labour said.

Shadow justice minister Imran Hussain said: “The Tories are presiding over a failing justice system that is putting public safety and confidence at risk.

“It is shocking that so many ex-offenders are being released without a roof over their head, despite homelessness being a major factor in reoffending. How can these people hope to turn their lives around when they don’t even have anywhere to live?

“This is yet another damning indictment of the failure of the Community Rehabilitation Companies to meet even the most basic of needs of offenders. The Tories need to take urgent action to ensure that these probation companies that they privatised are fit for purpose.”

 

A Ministry of Justice spokesman: “The Justice Secretary has been clear that we are committed to improving work across government to help prisoners and ex-offenders find a home, as well as a job, help with debt, or treatment for a drug addiction.

“As part of this, we are working with the Department for Communities and Local Government to develop a pilot project enabling offenders to find – and stay in – private rented accommodation following release from prison, building on existing government support for those at risk of homelessness.

“We will also shortly be bringing forward a strategy for female offenders aimed at improving outcomes for women in the community and custody, to add to the support already in place.”

HMP/YOI DRAKE HALL – A Safe, Decent and Purposeful Women’s Prison

drakehallHMP/YOI Drake Hall was a safe and respectful prison, with good work, training and education provision on offer and a focus on rehabilitation, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in Staffordshire.
HMP/YOI Drake Hall was previously inspected in 2013 when inspectors found it was producing reasonable or good outcomes for the women held. This remains the case. This more recent inspection found a safe prison despite some changes in the population. Some women had moved to Drake Hall after HMP Holloway closed and found the relative freedom to move around the site difficult to adjust to. A small number of mainly younger women with more challenging behaviour were causing some difficulties. Staff managed these challenges well and dealt with most conflicts through lower-level interventions. Drake Hall was a respectful prison with good staff-prisoner relationships at its core.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • challenges with drug use and illicit alcohol were well managed and security arrangements were appropriate;
  • force was rarely needed and segregation only used as a last resort;
  • levels of self-harm were lower than in many other women’s prisons and good care was provided to those needing support;
  • staff were clear about their roles, challenging women when needed, supporting them when required and motivating them to engage with the activities and resettlement work of the prison;
  • the prison had recently received the Enabling Environment award from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a quality mark to show they promote good relationships and wellbeing;
  • the provision of work, training and education had improved and was now good overall and nearly all women were occupied purposefully and most achieved good outcomes;
  • the focus on resettlement was a strength across the prison, with staff supporting women’s efforts to develop skills for living crime-free lives, and good offender management arrangements; and
  • the new open unit was excellent and provided opportunities for women to further demonstrate a reduction in risk and enhance their employability skills.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • while the new health care provider was adequate overall, there were some notable failings, such as delays in accessing services and the management of medications, which were deficient;
  • some aspects of the work with foreign nationals needed improvement;
  • two older accommodation units, build in 1940, needed to be replaced; and
  • there needed to be more support offered to women who had been abused, victimised or trafficked before coming into prison.

Peter Clarke said:
“This was a very positive inspection of a safe, decent and purposeful prison that was doing well at what it had set out to do, namely to support women in taking steps to become more independent, reduce their risks to others and resettle back into the community. The governor and his staff should be commended for this.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 22 November 2016 at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

HMP & Yoi Foston Hall: woman’s prison with some strengths but improvements needed

IMG_0065Foston Hall was a reasonably safe and decent prison with some good rehabilitative work, but further improvements need to be made, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in Derbyshire.

HMP & YOI Foston Hall is a local and resettlement prison. Like most other women’s local prisons, it holds a complicated mix of women, from those recently remanded in custody to those with lengthy sentences. Levels of need in the population were very high. Nearly half of new arrivals said they had problems feeling depressed or suicidal or had mental health problems. Many reported problems with drugs or alcohol. Over half the women had children under the age of 18 and for a similar number it was their first time in prison. When it was last inspected in 2014, inspectors assessed outcomes in safety, respect and resettlement as reasonably good but considered that work, training and education was insufficiently good. This more recent inspection was mixed – there were some obvious strengths but a few areas of significant weakness.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

· the prison was basically safe and security arrangements were appropriate;

· concerns regarding illegal drugs were being addressed;

· good care was provided to the many women at risk of self-harming and a sensible approach was adopted to managing those with complex needs;

· relationships between women and staff were strong and founded on mutual respect;

· the living accommodation was mixed, but clean and decent;

· health care was starting to deliver reasonably good support in some areas; and

· there was some good work to support higher risk women through the release process, although release on temporary licence (ROTL) was not used to support this work.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

· some aspects of early days support needed to be improved, particularly as this was when women were at their most vulnerable;

· there had been four self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection in 2014, although the prison had taken robust action to address most of the concerns resulting from these deaths;

· there were delays in prescribed medications and limited administration slots at weekends and on bank holidays, meaning some medicines were not given to women at the right time;

· a third of women were locked up during the day and there were still insufficient activity places for all the women to be purposefully occupied; and

· although the community rehabilitation company was delivering pockets of good work, it was not yet fully integrated into the prison or delivering consistently good outcomes.
Peter Clarke said:
“Foston Hall remained a reasonably safe and respectful prison, and we found some excellent work being done to manage and support progression for the highly complex mix of women. Managers and staff were focused on improving the weaker aspects of the prison’s work, and we asked them to focus particularly on early days’ support, the management of medicines and developing the purposefulness of the regime. The prison’s senior team was going through a period of instability but we hoped this would be resolved speedily to ensure continuity in building on the obvious strengths of the institution, and addressing some of the significant challenges ahead.”

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

“I’m pleased that the Chief Inspector found Foston Hall to be a reasonably safe and respectful prison. This reflects the hard work of staff to support women with complex needs, offering them opportunities to progress and turn their lives around.

“The majority of women at Foston Hall have a good regime with access to education and vocational training, but there is more to do. Since the inspection more work places have been created and the Governor is determined to use the recommendations in this report to further improve the prison.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 21 October 2016 at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

HMP & YOI BRONZEFIELD – A VERY GOOD AND IMPROVED WOMEN’S PRISON

HMP Bronzefield Women's Prison
HMP Bronzefield Women’s Prison

HMP Bronzefield was a well-led prison with committed staff and had continued to improve, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in West London.

HMP Bronzefield is a women’s local prison run by Sodexo Justice Services. It holds up to 527 women including those remanded by the courts, those serving short sentences and a number serving life. Ages of prisoners range from 18 to over 70. It is one of two prisons that holds restricted status women, deemed to require special management due to the level of risk they present or the notoriety of their offences. The catchment area of the prison is huge and the mix of women held continues to present a blend of complexity and vulnerability. Over 40% of prisoners indicated they had a problem with drugs and 66% said they had emotional wellbeing or mental health problems. The proportion of women reporting these types of problems was significantly higher than at the last inspection in 2013. It was encouraging to see that the prison had continued the improvement inspectors reported on after the 2013 inspection.

 

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • arrangements to support women on arrival and during their early days at the prison were good and for those with substance misuse problems, some of the best inspectors have seen;
  • processes to keep women safe and to deal with high levels of self-harm and vulnerability were well developed;
  • work had improved with the small number of women who had very challenging and sometimes dangerous behaviour and vulnerabilities, including personality disorder and mental health conditions. While there were still concerns about two women who had been managed in the separation and care unit for over two years, the specialist input to manage their progression was good and would be developed further with interventions addressing personality disorder;
  • security was proportionate and the use of force was not excessive;
  • the environment was very good, and care was taken to keep the prison decent;
  • staff-prisoner relationships were very good and work to support the diverse range of women held was good;
  • the mother and baby unit provided excellent care and support;
  • resettlement work had improved significantly and excellent support was now provided for those women who had been abused, trafficked or were sex workers; and
  • offender management work was better than inspectors usually see and public protection arrangements were robust.

 

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the quality of teaching and learning remained too variable and outcomes in the key area of functional skills (including maths and English) needed to be better; and
  • despite little violence and few serious incidents, many women still complained that they had felt unsafe at some time and had been victimised by both other prisoners and staff, and more needed to be done to reassure women about safety.

 

Martin Lomas said:

“HMP Bronzefield was a very good and improved prison. Outcomes for the highly complex population were at least reasonably good or better in all our healthy prison tests, with the quality of respect and work to resettle prisoners particularly strong. It is a credit to the very capable leadership within the prison, and the committed and motivated staff group that the challenges they face continue to be met in such a positive and caring way.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:
“This is a very positive report and I am pleased that the Chief Inspector recognises the excellent work of prison staff which has led to improvement in all aspects of work at Bronzefield.
“The Director and her team can be proud of their achievements. Bronzefield provides a safe decent regime focused on rehabilitation and effective resettlement to reduce reoffending and to keep the public safe.”

 

Notes to editors:    

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 13 April 2016 at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Carer who sexually abused elderly victims has sentence increased to 15 years

christina-sethi

A “depraved” carer who filmed herself sexually abusing elderly victims at a residential home and shared the footage with her boyfriend has had five years added to her prison sentence.

Judges at the Court of Appeal in London agreed with Solicitor General Robert Buckland that the original jail term of 10 years imposed in the case of, 26, of Woodville Road, Torquay, was “unduly lenient”.

Sethi was sentenced at Plymouth Crown Court in August after earlier pleading guilty to five offences relating to the sexual abuse of two women and one man in her care.

The victims she selected all suffered from dementia. One was terminally-ill with cancer and receiving end of life care. Sethi used her mobile telephone to record the abuse.

Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with two other judges, said of Sethi, who watched today’s proceedings via video link from prison: “She sexually abused three elderly, vulnerable, mentally-impaired residents in the most shocking and depraved fashion.

“She filmed the abuse and shared it with her boyfriend.”

After referring to the significant impact the abuse has had on the families of the victims, the judge said: “We will never know what trauma has been suffered by the victims themselves.”

She announced: “We are satisfied that the overall sentence imposed was unduly lenient and it would be appropriate for us to intervene.

“In our judgment the least overall sentence that could have been passed is one of 15 years.”

 

Mr Buckland said after the hearing: “I asked the Court of Appeal to look at this 10-year sentence under the unduly lenient sentence scheme because multiple sexual offences were committed against three victims.

“The attacks themselves involved a degree of planning and premeditation and Sethi had no regard to the vulnerability of her victims, who she should have being caring for.

“I hope the increase in the custodial sentence to 15 years offers a degree of reassurance to the families of the victims.

“Care home residents and their families should have complete peace of mind that they will not be abused and I offer those involved in this case my sincerest sympathy for the pain and suffering they have endured due to the actions of this despicable woman.”

After Lady Justice Hallett told Sethi of the increase in her sentence, she replied: “OK, yeah. Thank you.”

HMP & YOI New Hall – One of the best women’s prisons

NewhallHMP & YOI New Hall was a safe and decent prison and staff should be commended for their work, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in West Yorkshire.

HMP & YOI New Hall held around 360 women at the time of its inspection, including a small number of young adults. Several mothers and their babies were held in the mother and baby unit. Most of the women were sentenced, many with long or indeterminate sentences. Levels of need in the population were high: over a third reported having depression, mental health issues or suicidal feelings on arrival and a similar number reported having a disability. Nearly half reported having a drug problem on arrival and 43% said they had problems with alcohol. At its last inspection in 2012, New Hall was found to be a basically safe and decent prison with excellent work, training and education provision and resettlement support. This more recent inspection found the prison had improved still further.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the prison was fundamentally safe and there was very little evidence of violence or concerning incidents;
  • support for women who were vulnerable to self-harm and those with complex needs was good;
  • disciplinary procedures were well managed, and force and segregation were used proportionately;
  • relationships between staff and prisoners were a real strength;
  • the prison was clean;
  • the excellent mental health provision was welcome, given the evident high levels of need;
  • time out of cell was good and very few women were locked up during the core prison day;
  • learning and skills provision was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and was excellent in nearly all respects; and
  • provision for women who had been abused was very good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • aspects of offender management work needed to be better to ensure women who presented a risk to the public on release were quickly identified and risk reduction work was initiated and management action taken before their release.

Nick Hardwick said:

“New Hall is a safe and very respectful prison which does an excellent job in providing women with a range of purposeful and vocationally based activities, and some sound support around the resettlement pathways. The concerns we raise about aspects of offender management are well within the capacity of the prison management to quickly resolve. The prison is among the best of its type and we commend both the staff and management for the positive work they have done to achieve these outcomes.”

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

“I am pleased that this report recognises the excellent work being undertaken by staff at New Hall. They are providing good quality care to a very needy population, supporting them to develop the skills they need to turn their lives around on release.”

Read the report.

Pregnant fake will widow jailed

Dawn Smith
Dawn Smith

A solicitor’s secretary who faked her husband’s will to cut his daughters out of their share of his £1 million estate has been jailed for 21 months – despite falling pregnant at the age of 47.

Dawn Smith turned the lives of her two adult stepdaughters upside-down by making them believe their father, the Darlington businessman Harvey Smith, did not want to provide for them when he died aged 61 from pneumonia.

His heart-broken family could not believe how Smith then visited Turkey – understood to see a waiter she has since married – on an almost monthly basis, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Judge John Walford told Smith, of Carmel Road North, Darlington, a suspended sentence was not suitable.

“If I had only you and your unborn child to consider, I might have been able to consider that option, but in my judgement to do anything other than pass an immediate custodial sentence would be an affront to your step-daughters who you so cruelly deceived by your actions.”

Smith admitted drawing up the false will before his death, forging his signature and those of witnesses. She falsely swore an oath that the document was legal.

Judge Walford sentenced her to 21 months, saying: “I am conscious this will be your first custodial sentence and I cannot ignore the fact that you are pregnant but there will be a sentence of some length to mark the seriousness of this offending.”

Earlier in the sentencing exercise, he questioned the timing of her falling pregnant. It was understood she was 18 weeks pregant, dating back to her last visit to Turkey, a source said.

The judge said: “There must be a suspicion, to put it no higher, that she has deliberately become pregnant in order to gain an advantage in the sentencing process.”

Caroline Goodwin, defending, told him: “It came as a complete and utter shock to her.”

Miss Goodwin said the pregnancy was also a surprise to her partner.

The court heard how Mr Smith’s family found it very hard to accept that his widow had remarried so soon after his death.

Less than 10% of women leaving prison get a job

prison3

Fewer than one in 10 women released from a jail sentence of less than 12 months are able to get a job, prison reform campaigners have claimed.

The figure is three times worse than the equivalent figure for men, according to a briefing by the Prison Reform Trust.

In addition, the report claims nearly half of women leaving prison are reconvicted within one year of release.

The briefing calls on the Government to develop a strategy to increase employment opportunities and programmes for women with a criminal record.

Jenny Earle, director of the Prison Reform Trust’s programme to reduce women’s imprisonment, said: “Much more can and should be done by Government, probation and resettlement services and employers to support women into work and financial independence, making them less vulnerable to the abusive relationships that lie behind much of women’s offending.”

Elsewhere, the briefing claims two thirds of women in prison have dependent children, and a third of mothers are single parents prior to their imprisonment.

Four in 10 – or 38% – mothers in custody claim their offending is linked to “a need to support their children”, according to the Prison Reform Trust.

Justice minister Simon Hughes said: ” I’m not prepared to accept a situation where female offenders don’t have the chance to turn their lives around and support themselves and their families.

“As part of our reforms, all women’s prisons are to become resettlement prisons to keep women as close as possible to their homes and families, as well as prepare more effectively for their release back in to their local community.

“We are also supporting female offenders through training and education opportunities in custody, as well as linking up with local employers to help more women find employment on release.”