HMP Lowdham Grange – Many strengths but safety has deteriorated

lowdhamHMP Lowdham Grange was doing some good work with the long-term prisoners it held, but it needed to improve safety, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison near Nottingham.

HMP Lowdham Grange holds longer-term category B prisoners from across the country. Many prisoners there have committed serious offences. Two-thirds are over the age of 30 and nearly all are serving sentences of more than four years. Over 40% of the population are serving indeterminate sentences, and more than 100 are serving life sentences. At its last inspection in 2011, inspectors commended the prison as impressively safe, decent and purposeful. This more recent inspection found that overall the prison continued to ensure some very positive outcomes for those held, but safety had deteriorated and the prison had yet to deal with the levels of violence.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the prison was clean, spacious and the grounds were well maintained;
  • some relationships between staff and prisoners were good, and equality was well promoted;
  • work to support prisoners with mental health needs was good;
  • prisoners had good access to time out of cell and the majority were engaged in work, training or education during the working day;
  • there was sufficient activity for all with a good range of work and training opportunities available;
  • teaching was good and achievement rates were generally high;
  • work to reduce the risk of reoffending was underpinned by a useful assessment of need and arrangements were well managed;
  • the offender management team were experienced and knowledgeable and worked well with this high-risk group of offenders;
  • there was a useful range of offending behaviour interventions and public protection work was robust; and
  • prisoners were effectively encouraged to progress through their sentence and the few who were discharged received good support.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • levels of violence between prisoners and towards staff were high and too much of it was serious;
  • nearly half of prisoners surveyed said they had felt unsafe at Lowdham and a quarter felt unsafe in the prison during the inspection;
  • the incentives and earned privileges scheme was applied rigidly and in a counterproductive manner that arguably discouraged positive behaviour;
  • the use of disciplinary procedures had nearly doubled since the last inspection and use of force was both high and higher than at comparable prisons;
  • the use of special accommodation and mechanical restraints on those in self-harm crisis was wrong and alternatives should be sought; and
  • levels of self-harm had risen and were higher than at comparable prisons, but good structures were in place to support and monitor those in crisis.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Lowdham Grange is an effective prison that is undoubtedly doing some meaningful work with long-term, high-risk offenders. The prison has many good features and the very positive approach to work and learning, as well as risk of harm reduction, is commendable. Prisoners are being helped to progress through their sentence. The lack of safety in the prison is at odds with the other strengths of the prison but the statistics speak for themselves. The prison has not been inactive in trying to deal with these problems but there is evidence to suggest that some of its responses have been reactive and unsophisticated. More work needs to be done at wing level to support the rehabilitation work of the prison and to encourage prisoners by incentivising them and continuing to support them as they are reconciled to the long sentences they face.”

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

“There is good work going on at Lowdham Grange with challenging long term offenders – but as the Chief Inspector highlights and as Serco acknowledge, there is more to do to improve safety at the prison.

“I know that the Director and her team are working hard to improve safety across Lowdham Grange and we will closely monitor progress over the coming months.”

Notes to editors:    

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