HMP Lincoln was a much improved prison although there is much more to do, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an announced inspection of the local jail.
HMP Lincoln, built in the 19th century, holds 700 prisoners. It is significantly overcrowded and faces many of the challenges common to Victorian local jails. At its last inspection in 2012, the prison was poorly led, unsafe and failing to provide a meaningful regime. Inspectors returned a year later in 2013 for an announced inspection in the hope that this would encourage action and improvement. The 2013 inspection found improvement evident across a broad base, affecting most aspects of the prison’s work.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
- there was innovative work to identify the needs of new prisoners while they were still at court;
- a newly built reception meant that prisoners’ needs could be identified on arrival;
- overall levels of violence were comparable with similar prisons and levels of self-harm were lower;
- drug testing suggested illicit drug usage was relatively low, although there was evidence to indicate the increasing availability of less detectable drugs, such as Black Mamba;
- there were good levels of staff supervision around the wings and security was proportionately applied;
- the use of force was decreasing and was now comparable to similar prisons;
- the prison’s daily routine was applied with greater rigour and the number of prisoners locked up during the working day had almost halved;
- the number of purposeful activity places had increased and was now sufficient to meet need;
- Lincolnshire Action Trust, in partnership with the prison, ensured an impressive case management approach to resettlement; and
- the prison was much cleaner and staff-prisoner relationships appeared to be supportive.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- although the prison was safer than at the last inspection and levels of violence were comparable with similar prisons, prisoners expressed concerns about their safety and there had been two self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection;
- at the time of this inspection, the prison was dealing with the aftermath of a serious incident and the fatality of a prisoner;
- the first night wing remained in a poor condition, leaving prisoners with an early impression of a chaotic environment;
- there was a growing backlog of offender assessments, sentence planning was variable and prisoners had only intermittent contact with their offender supervisors;
- the prison held around 80 sex offenders who were in denial of their offence and there was no strategy to manage this; and
- although good work was being done to promote equality and diversity, prisoners from black and minority ethnic backgrounds expressed more negative perceptions of the prison.
Nick Hardwick said:
“Overall Lincoln is a much improved prison from 15 months ago. There has been evident progress in all aspects of the prison’s operation and, although there is much to do, work is incremental, grounded and feels sustainable. The prison is well led, motivated and working to a plan. There are grounds to be optimistic about the prison’s future, although the perceptions of the prisoner population and structures to support effective communication with them should be explored further.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has recognised the significant improvements that have been made at Lincoln despite the challenging operating environment.
“The Governor and his staff have worked extremely hard and deserve credit for the progress made.
“There remains more to do and we will use the recommendations in this report to support further improvements.”
A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/prison-and-yoi/lincoln