HMP LINDHOLME – Nick Hardwick Chief Inspector of Prisons writes:

HMP Lindholme is a category C training prison with a category D wing that holds a total of about 1,000 men. The prison, near Doncaster, forms part of the ‘South Yorkshire cluster’ with HMP Moorland and HMP Hatfield. The category D side, ‘I wing’, had been used as an immigration removal centre (IRC) but this closed in January 2012 and the facility had been passed back for use by the Prison Service.
The inspection came at a difficult time for the prison. In November 2012 it was announced that all prisons in the South Yorkshire cluster would be moving into the private sector and, at the time of the inspection, the uncertainty this created added to the difficulty in running the prison.
However, these difficulties do not excuse the very poor findings of this inspection. Outcomes for prisoners across the prison as a whole were not good enough in too many areas, but the category D side was the worst establishment we have inspected in many years.
The category D side was separate from the main prison and should have provided an environment in which low-risk prisoners were prepared for release with purposeful activity and effective rehabilitation work. In practice, it appears that the funding that had been lost when the wing stopped being used as an IRC had not been replaced. The wing then had been forgotten and neglected, and so very little activity of any sort – by staff or prisoners – took place. It was an astonishing situation.
Reception, first night and induction arrangements on the category D side were perfunctory, and there was far too little subsequent contact between staff and prisoners. Prisoners on the wing were frightened. In our survey, 38% told us they had felt unsafe at some time, and 28% felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. This compared with 16% and 5% respectively at comparable prisons. Nothing had been done to address this. Drugs and alcohol were widely available and prisoners told us there were high levels of victimisation by other prisoners and staff.
The most basic services were not provided on the wing. There was no access to Listeners and no work on diversity and equality. Even chaplaincy services were inadequate. There were prayer meetings for Muslim prisoners but none for Christians, and some religious tensions were evident. In a recent incident, someone had defecated in the washing facilities for Muslim prayers; managers were unaware of this until we brought it to their attention.
The health needs of prisoners on the wing had not been assessed and it was difficult for prisoners to see a doctor if they were unwell. Staff were often not available to escort prisoners to health care on the category C side, and only 8% of prisoners told us it was easy to see a doctor, against the 59% comparator. There was simply no work or education available on site, apart from a few desultory domestic duties. The classrooms that had been used by the IRC were a sad sight, unused and piled high with discarded furniture and equipment. There was very little done to address prisoners offending behaviour or give them practical help to resettle successfully after release. There were a few opportunities for prisoners to maintain family ties or work outside the prison through release on temporary licence – but this was thoughtlessly limited because release and return times were not synchronised with the infrequent local bus service.
We brought our concerns about the category D side to the attention of the Chief Executive of NOMS immediately after the inspection. It was closed shortly afterwards and remains so. We welcome this and it should not re-open until the concerns we identify in this report have been addressed. However, it is unacceptable that the situation was allowed to develop. There is a danger in increasingly large and complex establishment, with remote governing governors, that failings in one part of an establishment may not be evident from the performance data for the prison as a whole. Nevertheless, all it took on the category D side at Lindholme was to spend a few minutes walking through it, see the abandoned classrooms, observe the absence of staff and listen to the prisoners’ concerns to realise something was seriously wrong. That should have been done sooner.
There were also significant problems in other parts of the prison. Most prisoners in the category C side were safe but care for those who needed extra support was inadequate. Procedures for supporting prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm were poor. Too many of these men were held in the segregation unit. Little support was available for prisoners who were vulnerable and being victimised or bullied by other prisoners. The only option they were offered was to be confined to their cell with no access to the regime. Those who declined had to sign a disclaimer – but this did not absolve staff from the consequences of neglect. Those who accepted often continued to be bullied, with threats shouted through their door. Many said their mental health deteriorated and most were eventually transferred out of the prison with nothing done to tackle the underlying problems. Drugs and alcohol were easily available here too, and action to address this was poorly coordinated.
The quality of the accommodation was reasonable and relationships between staff and prisoners, although mixed, were better than on the category D side. Basic processes, such as complaints, applications, catering, laundry and the property store, needed improvement. However, health care on the category C side was reasonably good and met prisoners’ needs.
The weaknesses in the prison’s diversity and equality work had a significant impact on the category C side. Prisoners did not have confidence in formal processes for resolving problems, such as the discrimination incident report system. They had raised this in consultation meetings, it was evidenced by the very low number of discrimination complaints being made but nothing had been done. Prisoners from black and minority ethnic groups reported more negatively than white prisoners. There was little support for foreign national prisoners. The needs of prisoners with disabilities were not identified or met. One distressed disabled prisoner told us he was constantly taunted by other prisoners and bullied for payment if he had to ask them for assistance in any way. He felt unable to report the incident for fear of retaliation.
Purposeful activity was much better on the category C side and a bright spot in an otherwise depressing picture. Too many prisoners were locked up in the working part of the day for a training prison, but for those in work, education or training, outcomes were good, the quality of training and teaching was good, and there was good leadership and management. Some vocational training, such as the construction workshop and bakery, was outstanding, there was a generally good work ethic and prisoners received effective help with literacy and numeracy. There was a good library, although access was too restricted, and PE provision was very good.
Resettlement work on the category C side required improvement. Offender management was under-resourced and large caseloads limited the contact enthusiastic and focused offender management staff could have with prisoners. Practical resettlement services were also very stretched but, on the whole, work on employment and substance misuse issues was good. Arrangements for visits were limited and there was very little constructive work to help prisoners maintain or improve their relationships with their families and children.
There were no offending behaviour programmes and prisoners who needed these had to transfer to HMP Moorland for the duration of the programme. However, because prisoners were anxious about where they would be accommodated and whether they would have a job when they returned to Lindholme, few chose to undertake the transfer, and nothing had been done to address these perceptions.
HMP Lindholme is a cause for real concern. The closure of the D side has reduced the immediate risks but legitimate prisoner grievances, the lack of activity, mixed staff-prisoner relationships and indications of some religious tensions, combined with the ready availability of drugs and alcohol, are an unhealthy mix. The uncertainty created by the prison’s move to the private sector cannot be allowed to delay the urgent improvements that are required.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisons in England and Wales said:

“This is a truly damning report which must rank as one of the worst reports I have certainly ever read- how on earth could it have been allowed to get to this point?

“Urgent action is needed to bring the Cat D side of Lindholme back into existence – and it must serve as a sobering lesson of the real dangers that exist with ‘clustering’ – where Governing Governors are on remote sites, leaving inadequate junior management grades to cope with situations they are neither trained to deal with nor have a right to expect will be dumped on them.

“Clustering may technically save money but in truth it costs far more than it ever saves in terms of care, future crime and people’s careers.”