HMP & YOI Wetherby manages a challenging population well, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the Yorkshire young offender institution.
HMP & YOI Wetherby was last inspected in early 2012. Since then two units have been mothballed owing to the fall in the national juvenile population. It now holds just under 230 young people, excluding the specialist Keppel Unit which was not inspected on this occasion. Outcomes for young people were reasonably good or better across all four healthy prison tests: safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
- the vast majority of young people reported feeling safe;
- the presence of prison-based social workers had brought tangible improvements to the quality of child protection work;
- available evidence suggested there was comparatively little victimisation and that bullying incidents were relatively low level;
- the use of force had reduced significantly with clear indications that staff had the confidence to de-escalate incidents;
- accommodation was clean and well equipped and recently refurbished windows helped prevent young people shouting out, sometimes to intimidate others;
- the quality of relationships between staff and young people were respectful;
- most young people were unlocked for over eight hours a day;
- overall learning and skills provision was meeting the needs of young people with a good focus on functional skills;
- teaching was good and there was real evidence of improving achievements among young people; and
- services to promote resettlement were similarly good, with well coordinated interventions and case management.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- young people continued to be admitted to the establishment late and this made it more difficult for staff to settle them in safely;
- there was some emerging evidence to suggest incidents involving group assaults on individuals were becoming more common;
- conditions in the separation and care unit remained bleak and the regime for most young people held there was inadequate; and
- incidences of self-harm among young people were higher than in comparable establishments, though most cases were comparatively minor.
Nick Hardwick said:
“Our overall assessment was that Wetherby was a well led and effective institution. It was safe and respectful, and although the challenges and risks of such a volatile and vulnerable group of young people were ever present, there was confidence and focus among managers and staff that ensured the needs of young people were being met.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the good work that is taking place at Wetherby.
“The Governor and her staff should be commended for creating a safe and respectful environment, with good education and resettlement services that are helping to rehabilitate a challenging population
“They will now take the recommendations forward to build on this progress.”
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said:
“The Governor of Wetherby, Sara Snell, deserves a pat on the back for what she has achieved as evidenced by this largely very positive HMI Report – its not easy in this day and age of budget cuts to get a good inspection report, all prison governors are trying to do everything with next-to-nothing these days, but to get one with a volatile young offender population like that at Wetherby is all the more remarkable.
“The evidece of increasing group assaults however are worrying and needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.”
A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 18 March 2014 at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/prison-and-yoi/wetherby