HMP Grendon was an important national resource working with some very serious offenders, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training jail and therapeutic community in Buckinghamshire.

HMP Grendon is based on the concept that democratic therapeutic communities, run by both staff and prisoners, should be central to the way every part of the prison operates. Prisoners are given a real say in the day-to-day running of the prison and therefore have more influence over their experience of prison life than at normal prisons. This is within the context of the usual security imperatives of a category B prison holding men sentenced to indeterminate or long sentences. Men arrived at Grendon ready to be more open about their offending and institutional behaviour and to be challenged by peers and staff within therapy and community groups. Grendon was a more demanding environment than many conventional prisons; the process of facing up to and being challenged about behaviour and attitudes was, rightly, very tough. Grendon was a very safe prison.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • entry to custody was well organised, violence reduction and safer custody work was good and the communities played a central part in keeping people safe;
  • there was very little need for formal disciplinary procedures and substance misuse was well controlled;
  • at the core of the prison were excellent staff-prisoner relationships;
  • time out of cell was good;
  • therapy was the primary purposeful and resettlement activity and accounted for a substantial part of the core day;
  • the therapeutic approach helped prisoners to address risk factors and difficulties in coping with institutional life;
  • offender management processes were generally good, as was public protection; and
  • support to help prisoners maintain contact with their families was impressive.

However, inspectors had some concerns:

  • prisoners who were not in the communities and were waiting for transfer to another prison were isolated and had a poorer regime, and potentially less safe;
  • support for disabled prisoners needed to improve;
  • the night sanitation system, though more functional than at previous inspections, was still undesirable; and
  • the prison needed to improve learning and skills to ensure it supported therapy.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Grendon used to be an anomaly in the prison system and its future always felt insecure. However, the new national offender personality disorder pathway identified a clear role for Grendon and other therapeutic prisons and promised a much more coordinated process for allocating prisoners to the establishment and promptly moving them back to a suitable place in the main prison system once their time at Grendon was over. The benefits of the new strategy have yet to be realised but there is now the real prospect that Grendon’s value as an important national resource, working successfully with some of the system’s most serious offenders, will be fully realised. It is an opportunity that should not be missed.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

“I am very pleased that the Chief Inspector has acknowledged the good work being done at Grendon.

“It is a very safe prison with excellent staff-prisoner relationships and a therapeutic approach that is helping to rehabilitate a complex population.

“The Governor and his team continue to build on their progress and will take forward the recommendations from the report.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: