HMP Preston: A reasonably good prison – but which could improve still further

PRESTON PRISIONHMP Preston was better than many other local jails and could make further progress, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local jail in Lancashire.

Parts of HMP Preston date from the 18th century. It holds just over 800 adult male prisoners, drawn mainly from the North West. The prison’s location embedded in the local community and its role serving that community gave clarity to its purpose and function. At its last inspection in 2014, inspectors found that the prison was doing some good work to reform and resettle those it held but that some aspects of safety needed to improve. This more recent inspection found that the prison continued to do reasonably well, and had become safer.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • generally prisoners received a positive induction when they arrived, despite the poor environment of the reception area;
  • violence was not increasing, unlike in many similar prisons, but there was the potential for more effective work in this area;
  • a confident staff group ensured a generally calm prison and vulnerable prisoners were now receiving better support;
  • although case management of those at risk of self-harm was mixed, prisoners in crisis said they felt supported by staff and mental health input was good;
  • the management of security was generally sound, with an improving approach to reducing the supply of illegal drugs;
  • prisoners were very positive about the value of the incentives and privileges scheme to promote good behaviour;
  • arrangements in the segregation unit were adequate and prisoners were not held there for long;
  • although the amount of time prisoners spent out of their cells had deteriorated, 85% of prisoners were still engaged in either work, training or education;
  • Ofsted judged the effectiveness of learning, skills and work to be ‘good’ overall; and
  • offender management work was efficient, public protection arrangements were robust and the community rehabilitation company and resettlement work in general gave prisoners being released significant support.

Inspectors were, however, concerned to find that:

  • there had been four self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, although levels of self-harm were lower than inspectors usually see at similar prisoners;
  • living conditions were variable and access to basic amenities needed to be better;
  • not enough in the prison was being done to promote equality;
  • although staff were generally experienced and treated prisoners decently, there was some poor practice and culture that needed to be challenged; and
  • health care provision had deteriorated.


Peter Clarke said:

“Preston remained a traditional and stable institution despite having many of the disadvantages common to old, inner-city prisons. In many areas it continued to do better than comparable prisons. The prison could, however, do more and there is no room for complacency. With more consistency, greater imagination and better coordination, even better outcomes are within the prison’s grasp. The management team was competent, settled and committed to the success of the prison. The staff group were capable and confident. Preston was a reasonably good prison; it should be ambitious and a very good prison.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said:

“As the Chief Inspector notes, HMP Preston has made progress in a number of areas since the last inspection, with an improved strategy in place to tackle drugs and new technology to intercept mobile phones. I commend the staff for their commitment and achievements in a challenging operational environment.

“However there remains to work to be done, particularly in the areas of mental health and violence reduction. The Governor will now use the recommendations in the report to further develop the prison. Additional staff are also being recruited which will help accelerate progress over the coming months.”

A copy of the full report, published on 27 July 2017, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

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