HMP BRISTOL – ‘Get a Grip’ Prisons Inspectorate tells HMPPS

The Prison Service must grip and support HMP Bristol to improve after years of decline and “seemingly intractable failure”, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Mr Clarke published a full report on an inspection of HMP Bristol in May and June 2019 which, at the time, identified such serious problems that the Chief Inspector invoked the rarely-used Urgent Notification (UN) process. Under the UN protocol, the Secretary of State must respond within 28 days, publicly, with plans to improve the jail.

Bristol has declined over four inspections since 2013 (see panel in Notes to Editors below), with safety assessed as poor, the lowest grading, in 2017 and 2019.

Mr Clarke said he had expressed some optimism at the time of the 2017 inspection that the prison might improve. However, “despite subsequent important initiatives within the prison (including the recruitment of many staff, some new investment and the designation of Bristol by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) as a prison under ‘special measures’, at this (2019) inspection we were again unable to report on any significant improvement to overall outcomes.

“We last reported more positively about this prison some nine years ago in 2010, but since then… it has been a record of seemingly intractable failure. The report, similarly to the UN letter in June 2019, sets out disturbing findings:

  • High levels of violence against prisoners and staff, some serious, and high use of force by staff (though body-worn camera footage showed de-escalation of incidents by staff.) Many prisoners felt unsafe.
  • Many prisoners spent too long locked up during the working day.
  • Around 40% of cells were designed for one prisoner but held two, affecting 260 men in bleak and “unacceptably cramped” conditions.
  • Poor conditions heightened the risk for men in crisis. Self-harm levels were high. The number of assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management documents opened for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm was extraordinarily high, and was unmanageable.
  • The safer custody hotline, for friends and family to raise concerns, was not checked and prisoners had been unable to call the Samaritans from their cells for several weeks before the inspection.
  • Nearly half of prisoners were released homeless or into temporary accommodation.

Inspectors found, though, that the prison had enjoyed some success in tackling drugs.

Mr Clarke added: “Bristol may not have reached the extreme lack of order and crisis seen in some other prisons and this report acknowledges some developments and some improvements, but many initiatives were poorly coordinated, applied inconsistently or not well embedded.”

Repeated requests for the prison to provide the Inspectorate with meaningful objectives or an assessment of the impact of ‘special measures’ in driving improvement were unsuccessful. “We were left with little confidence that the prison had a coherent and robust plan to impact and improve outcomes meaningfully.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“In 2017 the cautious optimism to which I referred gave me grounds to think that the leadership at Bristol, supported regionally and nationally, might be able to make progress. The current reality however, shows this did not happen. I hope this report and the UN that preceded it constitute a timely reminder that HMP Bristol needs to be gripped and supported at all levels of management in HMPPS.”

Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Director General of Prisons, said:

“Since the Urgent Notification in June, we have taken swift action to improve conditions and the support available to prisoners at risk of self-harm. Extra training is being given to officers, and a new method for challenging poor behaviour has been introduced to tackle violence. Major refurbishment of one wing has been completed, a new education centre opened this week and further renovations are to come. Reducing violence, self-harm and drug use will remain top priorities, and the newly appointed Governor will receive my full support at Bristol.”

  • The full report, published on 18 September 2019, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:
  • HMP Bristol is a category B local and resettlement prison, holding male adult and young adult prisoners. At the time of this inspection 464 men were resident, a slightly reduced roll, caused by the temporary closure of the prison’s D wing for refurbishment. The prison was built in 1883. B and C wings were added in the 1960s.
  • HMP Bristol has declined over four inspections:
Healthy prison assessments since 2013
Safety Respect Purposeful activity Resettlement/rehabilitation and release planning
2019 1 2 1 2
2017 1 2 1 2
2014 2 2 2 2
2013 2 1 1 3
  • Notable features from this inspection: more than 10% of the population were subject to assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management procedures; around 40% of cells held more prisoners than they were designed for; about 20% of the population had been recalled to prison; 62% of prisoners said that they had felt unsafe at some time at the prison; 62% of prison officers were within their first two years of service; 19% of prisoners said that they had developed a drug problem at the prison; only about 25% of prisoners attended activities at any time; about 47% of prisoners were released homeless or into temporary accommodation.
  • This unannounced inspection took place between 20 May and 7 June 2019.

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HMP BEDFORD – Still very violent, with little or no progress on addressing key safety issues

HMIP made an IRP visit to HMP Bedford between 5 and 7 August 2019.

Nearly a year after an inspection which triggered an Urgent Notification at HMP Bedford, a review by inspectors found insufficient or no progress in key aspects of safety and security.

The prison was found to be fundamentally unsafe at the full inspection in August and September 2018, with alarming levels of drug-fuelled violence.

When inspectors returned for an independent review of progress in August 2019, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, “they found a mixed picture with progress ranging from none to good, but in the majority of areas progress had been insufficient.”

The level of violence was still very high, with some serious incidents, and self-harm had increased dramatically since the inspection. “Efforts to reduce violence had been limited and very slow to start. The attention given to preventing self-harm and supporting those in crisis was poor.”

Inspectors found that prisoners appeared to have little to fear from behaving badly. Some staff were reluctant to challenge rule breaking because they felt that the formal procedures to address prisoners’ poor behaviour were not effective.

The report noted: “In this permissive culture of poor behaviour, prisoners felt able to push the boundaries further – such as refusing to return to their cell at lock-up time or creating chaos when returning to units from outdoor exercise. If not managed consistently and firmly, this negative behaviour had the potential to escalate, as we had witnessed during the inspection in 2018.”

Use of force by staff was exceptionally high and needed immediate attention to identify the reasons why. Despite significant efforts, Mr Clarke said, illicit drugs continued to be a major problem, and the lack of a body scanner to detect drugs was indefensible.

Among more positive findings, living conditions, including “appalling” conditions in segregation, had improved, as had prisoner access to basics such as bedding and furniture, though Bedford remained an unsuitable location for prisoners with severe physical mobility problems. A serious problem with rats had been successfully tackled. Overall, there was good progress in ensuring prisoners lived in clean and decent conditions.

There had been no increase in the time that prisoners had out of their cell for association, outdoor exercise and completing domestic tasks. However, Ofsted inspectors judged there to be sufficient progress in two of the three themes they reviewed. Progress in the three areas of rehabilitation and release planning that were reviewed was reasonable or good.

Mr Clarke said progress in addressing the serious issues raised in the Urgent Notification (UN) issued in September 2018 had clearly been hampered because the prison had been far too slow in taking remedial action. “A new governor took up post in January 2019 and had to take some time to assess what he found and draw up his own plans. The result was that it took around six months before the prison started to make any properly focused response to the UN. This is not the first time I have had to comment on the slow response to a UN. At Bedford, urgent action should have been driven by the clear threats to the safety of staff and prisoners identified during our inspection. The slowness of the response is difficult to understand.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There is a real need for the corporate HM Prison and Probation Service response to Urgent Notifications to become prompt, focused on specific HMIP recommendations and regularly monitored against outcomes. It is to the credit of the leadership at Bedford that they have generated their own plans that are focused on the specific issues affecting the prison, and are much more closely aligned to the concerns expressed by HMIP. There has not yet been time for them to have the desired impact, but at least there is now encouraging progress in some areas.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook called the report ‘disappointing”.

Mr Leech said: “I think that, like many others, when Urgent Notifications were introduced they were expected to lead to real improvements – this report shows that should have been more of a hope than an expectation.

” A year down the line not only has very little changed at Bedford, but in some key areas of safety they have actually got worse and that is what I find disappointing and frankly unacceptable.

“Urgent Notifications were introduced because prisons, year after year, were failing to implement the recommendations of the Prisons Inspectorate with the inevitable result that when things reached absolute rock bottom the Urgent Notification was meant to identify that, and with an action plan resolve it.

“That has not happened and it risks undermining the whole Urgent Notification process itself.”


HMP FOREST BANK – Remains well-led, but violence has increased

HMP Forest Bank – a large male prison in Salford, Greater Manchester – was found generally to have remained a well-led, competent and confident prison since its previous inspection in 2016.

However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said it was evident in May 2019 that safety in the prison, holding more than 1,400 prisoners from the age of 18, had deteriorated.

Inspectors found that violence, mostly prisoner on prisoner and much of it serious, had doubled in three years. Use of force by staff had also risen, though inspectors found evidence of effective de-escalation of incidents by staff.

A third of prisoners said they felt unsafe, Mr Clarke said, “a situation that was even worse among vulnerable prisoners where the finding was 52%. There needed to be greater focus and coordination to address violence, by, for example, incentivising good behaviour and consistently holding to account those who behaved poorly.”

Security generally was applied proportionately at Forest Bank and inspectors identified the management and use of intelligence as a strength, with close working relationships with local police and robust staff anti-corruption arrangements. Many prisoners suggested that access to drugs was comparatively easy but the positive mandatory drug test rate was lower than at most similar prisons.

Self-harm had increased significantly since 2016. Some improvements had been made to case management support (ACCT) processes, although a good scheme to invite families to case management reviews was only used intermittently.

Relationships between staff and prisoners were respectful and polite, although inspectors were concerned that staff, many very inexperienced, did not assert sufficient authority when supervising prisoners.

Most prisoners were positive about most aspects of daily life at Forest Bank – including the food and good access to the shop – and accommodation was generally clean and bright. However, some 60% of single cells were doubled up and therefore overcrowded, and much furniture and cell equipment was damaged or missing.

Diversity and equality was promoted reasonably well through a comprehensive action plan and helpful consultation, including innovative one-to-one surgeries for prisoners with protected characteristics.

Time out of cell was better than inspectors often see and the daily routine, including access to evening association, was reliable, although nearly half the population was locked up during the working day.  There were sufficient places in work and education for all and attendance, if not punctuality, were good. Ofsted inspectors judged the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work as ‘good’ – a “not insignificant achievement in a local prison”, Mr Clarke said.

Rehabilitation and release planning continued to be a real strength of the prison. Assessments of prisoners and sentence management were reasonably good, and public protection arrangements were robust, with the prison’s whole approach to resettlement supported by strong community links. Support for family ties and engagement was similarly very positive.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“Forest Bank continued to be a reasonably well ordered and settled prison delivering generally good outcomes. Prisoners could, for example, access a better regime than we normally see for this type of prison. Rehabilitation and resettlement work was consistently a strength. Overall this is an encouraging report, although we do identify more work to do in safety and in providing support to staff.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons, said:

“I am pleased that the inspectors have found that HMP Forest Bank remains well-led by Sodexo with some good work educating and rehabilitating prisoners.

“More needs to be done to ensure there is a reduction in violence and self-harm, but I know that the prison director has already made progress including boosting support for vulnerable prisoners and appointing additional senior managers to improve safety and aid staff development.

“We will continue to monitor Sodexo’s performance to ensure they act on inspectors’ recommendations.”

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Prison Officer stabbed at HMYOI Swinfen Hall

A prison officer has been stabbed in an incident at a jail for young offenders.

The staff member at HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall was attacked on Friday, but it is understood the injuries were not serious and they were able to leave hospital later that day.

Security has been increased as well as searches, since the incident, and police are investigating.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said it would be seeking “the strongest possible punishment”, adding the Government had already introduced tougher sentences for those convicted of assaults on prison officers.

The incident came as a report published on Tuesday by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIC) found the jail had “made progress” on safety but still needed to make improvements, after concerns were identified in a 2018 inspection.

The site houses 570 young male long-term inmates and was inspected across three days, in July.

Carrying out an interim independent review at the jail, the chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke described “mixed” findings.

He said management at the prison near Lichfield, Staffordshire, had “made progress” on safety and activities for inmates, but progress in other areas had started “too late to have an impact” when inspectors visited.

Inspectors said: “In 2018, the fundamental issue requiring attention was the poor regime, which had a negative impact on every aspect of prison life.

“We found that it was disrupted about 60% of the time, limiting prisoner access to work and education.”

Last year’s visit highlighted a lack of time out of cells, having “an acute effect on younger prisoners” and inmates “vulnerable or prone to committing acts of self-harm”.

“It also prevented the development of prisoners’ constructive relationships with staff, family contact and basic living conditions,” said Mr Clarke.

“All of this inevitably had a negative impact on prisoners’ feelings of wellbeing and prevented the prison from fulfilling its objectives as a training prison.

During the recent interim visit, inspectors found the prison’s regime had made progress against half of a selection of key recommendations, set following last year’s visit.

There had been “insufficient” or “no meaningful progress” in the other markers.

Mr Clarke said: “This mixed picture masks the important work to improve safety and purposeful activity that had taken place.”

On safety, the report found the prison “faced significant external challenges” since last year, after receiving a transfer of prisoners from Aylesbury after that jail’s capacity was cut.

“This contributed to a spike in violence earlier in 2019,” the report concluded, but management had made “tangible progress”.

It added that levels of self harm “remain a concern”.

Despite improvements in staff-prisoner relationships, inspectors also found “overall too few prisoners thought they were treated with respect or had a member of staff to turn to with a problem”.

Responding to the stabbing, a Prison Service spokeswoman said: “A prison officer received hospital treatment after an incident at HMP Swinfen Hall and was discharged the same day.

“The police are investigating and we will push for the strongest possible punishment.

“This Government has doubled the maximum sentence for those who assault prison officers and last month committed an extra £100 million on airport-style security to crack down on crime in prisons.”

As well as equipping prison officers with body-worn video, Pava spray and police-type restraints, tougher sentences for those assaulting staff have been brought in.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers Act doubled the maximum jail term for assaults on prison officers from six to 12 months.

HMP/YOI SWINFEN HALL – Improved safety and activity, but progress slow in other areas

Progress toward improvement in HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall, after a troubling inspection in 2018, was found to be mixed when inspectors revisited the prison in July 2019.

However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that the mixed overall picture masked the prison’s important work to improve safety and purposeful activity, including training and education.

In 2018, Swinfen Hall – near Lichfield and holding around 570 young male offenders serving sentences of four years or more – was assessed as not sufficiently good for safety and poor for purposeful activity.

Mr Clarke said that in 2018 the poor regime had a negative impact on every aspect of prison life. “We found that it was disrupted about 60% of the time, limiting prisoner access to work and education. The lack of time out of cell had an acute effect on younger prisoners and those who were vulnerable or prone to committing acts of self-harm.”

In 2019, in an independent review of progress, inspectors found that the prison had recently implemented a new “domestic period” ensuring that all prisoners were offered a daily shower and a telephone call, and evening association was now far more predictable than at the time of the inspection.

Managers had increased the number of activity places and the allocation process had improved, halving the number of prisoners who were unemployed. However, Mr Clarke added, “the population had also increased in this time and the prison was still some way off being able to ensure that every prisoner could access full-time employment. This was a significant deficiency in a training prison holding a long-term young population.”

Swinfen Hall had received prisoners from the long-term young offender institution at Aylesbury, contributing to a spike in violence earlier in 2019. “Despite these challenges, managers had made tangible progress. A dedicated team of supervising officers now investigated all violent incidents swiftly, and managers used data better to understand the causes of violence and take action.” The report highlighted positive action in introducing metal detector wands on all prisoners leaving two residential units and the prison looked at the ‘Viper’ scores – Violence in prison estimator, a calculation based on an estimation of how violent a person may be – of all new arrivals. “This was impressive. It afforded an early opportunity to identify prisoners who might perpetrate violence.”

Care for prisoners at risk of self-harm had also improved, though overall levels of self-harm remained a concern. The introduction of key workers and a more predictable regime had led to improvements in staff-prisoner relationships but there had been little or no progress in improving the complaints system. The pace of work to understand and meet the needs of the younger prisoners was too slow.

Progress was the least well developed for rehabilitation and release planning. Despite some work to improve the punctuality of visits, their provision was not sufficient to meet demand, particularly at weekends. Some prisoners could come into the prison, serve their time and be released without doing any focused offence-related work.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“This was a mixed review. Managers had understandably prioritised the areas of safety and activity and had made progress here. However, progress in other areas had started too late to have an impact, and in several areas senior managers needed to ensure that the quality assurance processes they had introduced were effective in improving outcomes for prisoners.”

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Which side of the line are you on?

By Mark Leech
Editor: The Prisons Handbook

Well, which side of the line are you on?

People who assault police officers should face a “two strikes” system that results in a mandatory jail sentence for a second offence, Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Britain’s most senior officer, has said.

My question is: why?

As someone who knows a thing or two about crime and prisons let me ask this: why would we allow someone to land a second punch when the first one was bad enough?

If we really want to protect our police and prison officers – the latter of whom suffered 10,311 assaults in the 12 months to March 2019, up 15% from the previous year, a record high figure and one that in the latest quarter alone rose by a further 4% – then let’s get serious.

I know from personal, lamentable, experience, that anything less than a jail sentence is seen as ‘getting off’.

Trust me when I say this: custody counts – the swiftness with which it is delivered it absolutely vital – but let me be absolutely clear about this too.

We send far too many people to prison, many for the wrong reasons, spreading a wide criminal net, catching a lot of small fish, and giving those sentences in some cases that are frankly wrong – the homeless man, who lives in a tent, who has mental health issues and who, according to the judge who sentenced him to six months for contempt yesterday, received negligent professional legal representation, is a classic example of that.

But when it comes to attacking police or prison officers we need to see these offences in a completely different category of crime.

So if you are charged with attacking an Emergency Service Worker once, never mind twice, the presumption at first hearing should be against bail – the colleagues of police officers hospitalised one night, should not see the person they charged with the offence out on the streets the very next day.

I know some will say that goes against the presumption of innocence – but no it doesn’t, because the same argument applies equally to everyone charged with serious offences who are denied bail – the problem is magistrates and judges do not see attacks on Emergency Workers as serious offences; and they must be made to do so.

On conviction, an immediate custodial sentence should also be the presumption too – and with an Extended Sentence seen as the norm.

An Extended Sentence moves the release at the halfway point of a sentence to the two-thirds point, with release then dependent on the Parole Board, and it comes with an extended period of post-release supervision, balancing support with a vitally important standing of the ground to make clear such offences are intolerable and must be dealt with as such.

I am totally against mandatory sentences, they allow politicians to pass sentences and not judges, and that isn’t what I recognise as justice – but clearly this idea of you go to jail for the second police assault diminishes the seriousness of these crimes rather than elevates them to the level of seriousness that they rightly deserve.

What’s more, if we are not to simply transfer the violence against Emergency Workers from pavement to prison, then the way we deal with those who attack prison officers must be equally robust – justice needs to be as swift in prison as it needs to be on the streets – but the truth is that it isn’t.

Far too often the CPS refuse to proceed on prison officer assaults because they do not see the point of prosecuting someone and sending them to prison when they’re already there; it’s a major miscalculation and a green light to continue.

Drugs are awash in our jails, organised by gangs corrupt who inexperienced staff, while individuals prey on their own so-called loved ones who are themselves then corrupted to bring drugs in before being caught and then jailed themselves; if you genuinely love and care about someone, you just don’t put them in that position – that’s not a relationship, its cowardly, selfish, bullying.

Violence in prisons is at a record high, and don’t believe all the hype surrounding the recent figures on the ’10 Prisons Project’ – yes they do show promising results, but a true examination of them shows it was a real mixed bag of results and not the ‘we’ve turned a corner’ gloss put on it that some would have you believe – violence in some of those 10 prisons actually increased.

We need much more investment in violence reduction strategies inside our prisons, every prison has a violence reduction strategy but in Prison Inspectorate Report after Report I see criticisms that it is simply not being delivered nor given the importance that it deserves.

We have anger management courses in prisons for offenders, but places on them are thin on the ground, with neither the cash nor the trained staff are in place to deliver them.

We need airport-style security scanners at the front gate of every prison in the country – the Prime Minister will tell you that this is happening, I can tell you they haven’t even been ordered, and there is no bidding process either for their purchase or installation underway, nor any staff training programme in train for their operation either.

The police and prison officers are our first and last line of defence – an attack on them is an attack on everyone and we should see it as such and respond in a fair, just but absolutely robust way.

As Boris would say: “No If’s; No But’s”.

Either attacks on Emergency Workers are serious offences, or they’re not; which side of the line are you on? @prisonsorguk

Homeless man jailed for six months for contempt – despite ‘negligent’ representation by Maidment/Forbes Solicitors

A homeless man with mental health issues has been given a six-month jail term after a High Court judge concluded he had breached an order forbidding him to interfere with staff providing care to an elderly relative – despite what the judge called ‘negligent’ representation by a firm of solicitors who acted for him earlier in the case.

Unemployed Andrew Palmer, 52, was jailed at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Friday after Mr Justice Keehan ruled that he was in contempt of court.

Former lorry driver Palmer, who, the judge heard, had been living in a tent, admitted wrongdoing and apologised.

He said he loved his relative, who lives near Stafford, and was not happy about the care being provided.

Mr Justice Keehan had made the order in February.

The order barred Palmer from trying to coerce his relative into leaving home and from interfering with care staff.

In June, the judge had found that Palmer had breached the order and imposed a suspended sentence.

He activated that sentence on Friday after concluding that Palmer had continued to breach the order.

The judge said Palmer was in “blatant contempt” and must learn that court orders had to be complied with.

Social services bosses at Staffordshire County Council have responsibility for the care of Palmer’s relative and had made contempt allegations.

Barrister Nageena Khalique QC, who represented the council, outlined detail of breaches of the order to the judge.

Barrister Paul Spencer, who represented Palmer for free, said Palmer had mental health issues and would “struggle to survive” in prison.

He said Palmer was “isolated” and felt “very much alone”.

– In June, Mr Justice Keehan had criticised a firm of solicitors which had represented Palmer at an earlier stage of proceedings. He said Maidments, a firm also known as Forbes, had provided “negligent” representation.

He said an employee of the firm had “incompetently misunderstood” an issue relating to legal aid and the firm had lost a bundle of documents. He said the firm was “negligent in their conduct of their representation”‘ and should pick up a £6,500 bill run up by Staffordshire council. The judge said money had been wasted because of the firm’s conduct.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook described the sentence as ‘barbaric’.

Mr Leech said: “This man had to be represented for free because his earlier solicitors messed up the legal aid application, this is not the kind of person we should be packing off to prison, this is a case for mediation, social services and mental health teams – not prison.”

Government blamed amid ‘alarming rise’ in violence at Pentonville Prison

Government neglect has “directly contributed” to an “alarming rise” in violence and drugs at one of the country’s oldest and busiest jails, it is claimed.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Pentonville has called on Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and prisons minister Lucy Frazer to provide “adequate funds” so improvements can be made “as a matter of urgency”.

It also asked the pair to visit the prison so they could see the conditions for themselves.

The concerns have been raised a week after chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke warned violence fuelled by gangs, drugs, debt and “volatile young prisoners” has “increased markedly” at the north London jail.

Violence has shot up by more than 50% since 2017. In the last six months there have been 264 assaults on staff and inmates and 61 fights, compared with 196 and 65 respectively during a previous inspection, according to Mr Clarke’s report.

Officers and prisoners were “frequently assaulted”. In March four officers and around 40 prisoners were attacked each week. “Improvised weapons” are being found on an almost daily basis, the IMB said.

It called for more funds for equipment to tackle drugs and carry out searches, saying illegal substances were “pervasive”.

The age of the prison made it “impossible” to install a full body scanner, the report said.

IMB chairman Camilla Poulton said: “Neither Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) nor the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have given Pentonville the money, care and scrutiny that it needs for years, in the IMB’s opinion.

“An audit revealed that less than half of the skilled Government Facilities Services Limited (formerly Carillion) workforce required to maintain the building to health and safety standards were in place. Other audits, commissioned by the new governor after arriving in August 2018, revealed shortfalls relating to safety, use of force and other issues.

“The board believes this neglect directly contributed to the violence, drugs and self-harm.”

The Victorian jail’s four wings – which are largely unchanged since it was built in 1842 – now hold up to 1,310 adult men, with nearly 10% being under 21.

There are around 33,000 “movements” through the category B prison’s reception every year – making it the busiest in the country, inspectors previously said.

The prison lacked the staff it needed for most of the year, according to the board. But it acknowledged new officers were “doing their best for prisoners”.

Reported incidents of self-harm have increased this year from 500 to 598, the report said.

The IMB also raised concerns about the prevalence of insecticide-resistant cockroaches and mouldy, broken showers.

It said: “Whilst other London prisons have benefited in recent years from additional resources, Pentonville has not.

“It desperately needs money now to raise the standard of day-to-day life for prisoners and staff and deliver its dual function of serving local courts and helping prisoners lead productive lives.”

IMBs are made up of volunteers appointed by justice ministers to scrutinise prison conditions.

The MoJ would not confirm whether ministers were considering visiting the prison but said they would respond to the IMB in writing.

The Prison Service reiterated the Government pledge to spend an extra £100 million on airport-style scanners and mobile phone blocking technology to “boost security and cut violence” in jails.

Pentonville’s new management team had made “significant improvements” in the months since the inspection, a spokesman added.

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HMP Eastwood Park: Where almost half the women released are chucked out the prison gate homeless, like a discarded bin bag of rubbish

“While there is much in this report to be pleased about, Eastwood Park is a safe, respectful and purposeful prison – none of that means anything when so much of the accommodation is in a deplorable condition and nearly half of women, some who are at high risk of causing serious harm, are chucked out of the prison gate at the end of their sentence, like a discarded bin bag of rubbish, homeless, on the streets, and with  sleeping bag and shop doorway for shelter – would you want that for your daughter?”
Mark Leech, Editor: The Prisons Handbook

“Almost half of prisoners discharged in recent months had been released either homeless or to very temporary/emergency accommodation, including some high-risk prisoners. Too little support was given to prisoners to either sustain or obtain accommodation.”
Peter Clarke: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

HMP Eastwood Park, a closed women’s prison near Bristol with a catchment area including Wales, was found to have remained a safe, respectful and purposeful prison over the last three years.

However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the latest inspection in May 2019 raised concerns about “completely inappropriate” conditions in the prison’s three closed blocks – units 1, 2 and 3. Inspectors were also concerned about the number of women released homeless.

At the time of the inspection in May 2019, Eastwood Park held just under 400 women. It was last inspected in November 2016. In 2019, assessments of safety, respect and purposeful activity had remained at reasonably good, though resettlement work had slipped to not sufficiently good.

Mr Clarke said: “Eastwood Park has a huge catchment area, including much of Wales. Consequently, half the women were being held more than 50 miles from home, and over one-third never received any visits. As with all women’s prisons, the population included many with very complex needs, and many who had been victimised in a variety of ways before coming into custody.”

He added: “Overall, we found that Eastwood Park remained a safe, respectful and purposeful prison.” Most prisoners said staff treated them with respect, they were increasingly consulted about their experiences in the prison, and we saw many positive interactions with staff.”

However, the prison needed to “think very carefully” about whether it was necessary for some women to be segregated for extended periods. “The practice of segregating women on residential wings also had a detrimental knock-on effect on the regime of the rest of the prisoners who were not in segregation.”

Mr Clarke said that although, by and large, living conditions in the prison were good, “the accommodation provided on Units 1-3 were completely inappropriate for a women’s prison.”

Inspectors found that women in Units 1 -3 felt less respected. They were often unnecessarily locked up during the working day while segregated prisoners were allowed ‘domestic time’ and exercise.

The report noted: “In our survey, 47% of prisoners on residential units 1, 2 and 3 said that it was easy to get drugs at the prison, and one in five that they had developed a drug problem while at the establishment. There was also evidence of prisoners taking medication that had not been prescribed to them; in our survey, 32% of respondents on residential units 1, 2 and 3 said that they had developed a problem with taking medication which had not been prescribed to them since being at the prison.”

Mr Clarke said: “On entering these units, I was immediately struck by the sight of rows of women’s faces pressed against the open observation hatches of their locked doors, peering out into the narrow, dark, cell block corridor. It was as if they were waiting for something or indeed anything to happen, however mundane, to relieve the monotony of their existence.

“Unless something radical can be done to improve the conditions on these units, then serious consideration should be given to closing them. At present they are simply not fit for purpose.”

The assessment of resettlement had declined and the complexity of the population clearly had an impact on the provision of effective offender management and resettlement services: 73% of prisoners said they had mental health problems, and around half had problems with illicit drug use.

In the months leading up to the inspection, a “worryingly high” 42% women had been released homeless and were left either to live on the streets or to go to temporary emergency accommodation.

Mr Clarke said: “I spoke to several prisoners who had previously experienced this and had either re-offended or felt it was inevitable that they would do so if released again in similar circumstances. In many ways this is an issue that is beyond the control of the prison, but more support does need to be given before release.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:

While there is much in this report to be pleased about, Eastwood Park is a safe, respectful and purposeful prison – none of that means anything when so much of the accommodation is in a deplorable condition and nearly half of women, some who are at high risk of causing serious harm, are chucked out of the prison gate at the end of their sentence, like a discarded bin bag of rubbish, homeless, on the streets, and left to fend for themselves.

The whole point of having a joined up prison and probation service, with end-to-end offender management, is that transition from prison to probation supervision needs to be seamless – the reality however is that vulnerable females, many a high propensity to reoffend and who are accepted to be at high risk of causing serious harm are discarded, dumped at the gate with nowhere to live, just a shop doorway and sleeping bag for shelter.

Would you wants that for your daughter?

Read the Report

Results from the 10 Prisons Project Ad Hoc Statistics Published

The Government have today published ad hoc results of the 10 Prisons Project.

In August 2018 Ministers announced a ’10 Prisons Project’ to develop a new model of excellence.

The project had the aims of reducing violence in 10 of our challenging prisons by reducing the supply of drugs, raising standards of decency, and increasing leadership capability.

The prisons chosen were: Hull, Humber, Leeds, Lindholme, Moorland, Wealstun, Nottingham, Ranby, Isis and Wormwood Scrubs.

Its purpose was to:

  • A new approach to improve standards and security will be piloted in 10 of the most challenging prisons
  • The focus will be on reducing violence through radically increasing security against drugs and challenging all abusive behaviour
  • There will be additional investment in leadership and dedicated resources to tackle drugs, security and building issues
  • Good practice will be spread across the prison estate – ultimately reducing reoffending and future of victims of crime

Today the Government have announced the results of the 10 Prisons Project ad hoc statistics

Key Findings

  • • The rate of assaults per 1,000 prisoners in ten prisons dropped by 16%, from 42.9 in June/August 2018 to 36.1 in April/June 2019
  • • The percentage of positive results from random mandatory drug tests (RDMT) dropped between August 2018 and March 2019.

Assaults: June/August 2018 to April/June 2019

The number of assaults in the ten prisons dropped by 17%, from an average of 399 in June/August 2018 to 331 in April/June 2019.

Nationally, the number of assaults decreased by 8% across the same time period.

The rate of assaults per 1,000 prisoners in the ten prisons dropped by 16%, from 42.9 in June/August 2018 to 36.1 in April/June 2019.

Nationally, the rate of assaults per 1,000 prisoners decreased by 8% across the same time period.

Click image to enlarge. Monthly 3-month rolling rate of total assaults for 10 prisons, 3 months ending August 2018 to 3 months ending June 2019

Read The Report – pdf document

Download 10 Projects Spreadsheet Tables – Excel document