HMP/YOI Feltham was not safe enough, violence had risen and boys and young men spent too long locked in their cells, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. There were, however, many examples of good work by staff, he added. Today he published two reports of unannounced inspections of the West London young offender institution.
HMP/YOI Feltham is divided into two parts. Feltham A holds boys aged 15 to 18 and held 126 boys at the time of the inspection. Feltham B holds young adults aged 18 to 21 and was holding 380 at the time of the inspection. Both sites are managed as a whole but operate separately. Both sites were recently inspected. Feltham A was previously inspected in August 2015 and Feltham B in July 2014. At this more recent inspection, Feltham A had seen a decline in standards and received inspectors’ lowest judgement for safety and the provision of work, training and education.
At Feltham A, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- levels of violence and the use of force had increased and some of the violence was very serious, including multiple assailants and the use of weapons;
- the response in terms of behaviour management was ineffective, with a focus on sanctions and regime restrictions;
- time out of cell was inadequate and prevented boys from using basic amenities, including showers and telephones;
- the restricted regime meant 40% of the boys were locked up during the school day while 30% were out of their cells for just two hours each day; and
- there were sufficient school places and teachers but fewer than half the boys were getting to classes.
However, inspectors at Feltham A were pleased to find that:
- staff were working in very challenging circumstances yet most interactions between staff and boys were polite;
- care for boys in crisis or at risk of self-harm was reasonably good;
- substance misuse services remained good;
- health care was good and the work of the mental health team was excellent;
- despite problems caused by the regime, the education provider had created a positive school ethos with high expectations of boys; and
- provision to resettle boys back into the community was reasonably good and preparation for release or for transition to the adult estate was well managed.
The inspection of Feltham B, after a more optimistic inspection in July 2014, was also disappointing. Despite some good work being carried out by staff across many areas of the prison, inspectors found that the young men held there were living in an unsafe environment, were often afraid for their own safety and were enduring a regime that was unsuitable for prisoners of any age, let alone young men.
Inspectors were concerned to find that:
- reception and first night environments did not help make new arrivals feel safe;
- there had been a significant increase in violence against prisoners and staff since the last inspection and nearly half of the prisoners said they had felt unsafe at Feltham;
- the response to violence had been ineffective and there did not appear to be a coherent plan to address behaviour management in a different way;
- the strategy for dealing with gang-related issues was largely ineffective;
- numerous restrictions and staffing shortfalls affected the provision of a full regime for most prisoners;
- some young men were locked in their cells for more than 22 hours a day;
- too many work and education programmes were cancelled or restricted by the regime and overall, the quality of learning and skills provision needed to improve; and
- too many prisoners arrived without an up-to-date risk assessment and sentence planning was not working effectively.
However, inspectors were pleased to that at Feltham B:
- staff-prisoner relationships were generally good;
- health care was good and mental health provision was impressive; and
- work to help prisoners resettle back into the community was generally good.
Peter Clarke said:“It would be wrong not to recognise the challenges faced by staff at Feltham A in creating a safe and decent facility. Violence was a serious problem and during the inspection there was a serious assault on an officer. Staff should be able to work in a safe environment and not be in constant fear of being assaulted. The current approach is failing to deliver that reasonable expectation and from the evidence available to us, is actually making it worse. The focus on keeping people apart rather than trying to change their behaviour has not worked. Feltham A is not safe for either staff or boys.
“At Feltham B, while the violence and poor regime overshadowed this inspection, despite everything, there was some very good work being carried out by dedicated staff.”
A copy of the full reports, published on 30 June, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons