HMP MAIDSTONE – Violent incidents and Use of Force increase and the growing drugs problem must be addressed

Inspectors found that the number of violent incidents and the use of force by staff had increased since the previous inspection but levels were lower than in most similar category C prisons.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “In terms of behaviour management, it was good to see what we have recorded as good practice in the use of incentives and earned privileges.”

However, Mr Clarke added: “I would sound a note of caution about the…impact of illicit drugs. The prison, unlike so many others, had not been destabilised by an influx of drugs, but there were some worrying signs.” The positive test rate in random tests of prisoners had risen and now stood at 14.5%.

“This was too high to be taken lightly. Shortly after this inspection some 15 parcels containing contraband, including drugs, were thrown over the wall into the prison in the space of a single night. Despite the clear indications that drugs were a growing problem, the response to intelligence was poor, with backlogs and suspicion searches not being carried out in a timely fashion or at all. There was clearly a need to refocus on the strategy for reducing the supply of illicit drugs, and there is certainly no room at all for complacency.”

Inspectors found generally good relationships between staff and prisoners “and a higher than usual proportion of prisoners told us they were treated with respect by staff.”  However, much of the residential accommodation was old, shabby and in need of refurbishment and the sports hall had been condemned and closed.

One of the most serious concerns was the decline in terms of the purposeful activity available to prisoners. Mr Clarke said: “For those in employment the amount of time out of cell was perfectly adequate, but there were only sufficient activity places for around three-quarters of the population.

“Far too much of the work that was available was mundane and menial, and I was surprised to see large numbers of prisoners in workshops playing games rather than being engaged in work.”

In contrast, rehabilitation and release planning had improved since the last inspection, though Mr Clarke added: “Those prisoners who were destined to be held in detention under immigration powers at the conclusion of their sentence should have been told that this was going to happen sooner rather than later, and certainly not left until very close to the time when they anticipated that they would be released.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“The prison was completely aware of the distinct needs of their population, although more needed to be done to understand the more negative perceptions of their treatment and conditions held by prisoners with protected characteristics. The establishment also needed support in terms of investment to get the fabric of the buildings back to an acceptable standard and facilities such as the sports hall restored.

A copy of the full report, published on 19 February 2019, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Maidstone prison was originally built in 1819. The prison underwent a re-role in 2013 and is now a designated foreign national prison.

The unannounced inspection took place between 8 and 19 October 2018.