HMP Lincoln – poor response to deaths in custody investigations, high levels of violence and self harm

Lincoln PrisonHMP Lincoln was struggling to hold prisoners safely and in decent conditions, but staff were working to address these challenges, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local jail.

HMP Lincoln is a Victorian prison holding over 600 remand and sentenced adult and young adult men. It remained overcrowded, but while some progress had been maintained, deterioration was also evident. Like other local prisons, Lincoln faced increased levels of violence, often related to the prevalence of drugs and the difficulty of managing the problem with reduced staff numbers. In recent months it had received men from other prisons following concerted disorder at those establishments, adding to the already considerable number held there from outside Lincolnshire. The population was now more complex.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • men arriving from other prisons following disturbances had been sensibly managed;
  • violence reduction work, while rudimentary, was appropriate and developing;
  • the way the prison tackled new psychoactive substances was effective, particularly the good partnership working with local police;
  • relationships between prisoners and staff was a real strength and underpinned much that was good at the jail; and
  • good progress had been made after the new governor instituted a ‘back to basics’ approach, which aimed to ensure the prison was cleaner and more decent.


However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • although good care was provided for the most vulnerable men in the population, in some cases the prison’s response to death in custody investigations, as well as its case management of prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm, was disappointing;
  • although support for newly arrived prisoners had improved overall, there remained significant delays in reception, which potentially created risks for prisoners on their first night, a concern identified in death in custody reports;
  • oversight of the use of force was seriously deficient;
  • equalities work had been neglected and was weak;
  • prisoners did not get enough time out of their cells;
  • the lack of a senior learning and skills manager for several months had led to the prison losing focus;
  • the prison did not do enough to improve prisoners’ basic skills; and
  • some innovative work to manage men through their sentences and prepare them for release was evident but it was poorly coordinated, which undermined its effectiveness.

Peter Clarke said:

“Lincoln demonstrated many of the problems associated with old and overcrowded Victorian prisons, struggling to cope with keeping people in a safe and decent environment, while delivering a regime and interventions that support their rehabilitation. It had, however, achieved some success in addressing these challenges, and the new governor and his management team had redoubled efforts to build on the institution’s strengths. The priority it was giving to trying to get the basics right while treating prisoners as individuals was to be commended.”

A copy of the full report, published on 20 June, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

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