HMP Lancaster Farms: A pointless Inspection Report by a Chief Inspector who doesn’t ‘Get’ the need for evidence

View Mark Leech’s: Analysis: Partially Achieved & Pointless.

HMP Lancaster Farms is a Cat C resettlement prison serving the North West of England.

Opened in 1993, the prison has an operational capacity of 560 and now holds adult male prisoners in a prison campus that contains six main accommodation units. The majority of those held were aged between 21 and 40, with most serving sentences of between two and 10 years. A smaller number of shorter-term prisoners and those serving life were also in residence. Most prisoners had arrived at the prison over the preceding 12 months.

We last inspected Lancaster Farms in 2015 when we found a prison that was reasonably safe and respectful but with more to do to improve outcomes in learning and skills as well as resettlement.

At this inspection the evidence pointed clearly to some improvement, but overall our healthy prison assessments remained the same. It was disappointing that only a third of our previous recommendations had been achieved.

Click to expand

The prison continued to be a reasonably safe place. Arrangements to receive new prisoners into the establishment were generally effective and we found a prison that was calm and ordered. Levels of violence broadly reflected those seen in similar prisons but most incidents, with some exceptions, were relatively less serious. There was some evidence of prisoners intimidating other prisoners and there were several individuals who sought sanctuary either through self-isolation or in segregation.

Support for these prisoners was better than before but remained insufficient. New CSIP (Challenge, Support and Intervention Plan)1 case management and multi-disciplinary initiatives to promote improved outcomes for victims and perpetrators were encouraging but embryonic.

The use of force had increased noticeably but was poorly documented, which meant there was inadequate assurance that it was used proportionately and legitimately. Segregation was usually full, although staff were supportive and living conditions reasonable. Reintegration planning for those segregated was too limited.

Security was managed competently and proportionately. There was a good flow of intelligence, although some was not prioritised or acted upon with sufficient rigour. There was considerable evidence of a drug problem within the prison, notwithstanding a series of initiatives to combat the problem. Many prisoners thought it was easy to get hold of illicit substances and testing suggested a high but reducing positive rate.

Care for those at risk of self-harm was reasonably good, but too many lived an isolated experience and levels of self-harm were now much higher than the previous inspection. Case management was, however, reasonable and efforts to include families, if possible, were a good thing. Prisoners in crisis told us they felt well supported by staff. The prison had met all previous recommendations made by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).

Staff-prisoner relationships in general were very good, with 84% of prisoners telling us they felt respected by staff. The lived environment was bright and spacious and outside areas were clean and well maintained. Cellular   accommodation was reasonable, as was the food, and there were reasonable attempts at formal consultation with prisoners.

Attempts to improve the way prisoners made applications were not yet, however, working effectively and the complaints process was undermined by delays. Work to improve the promotion of equality had started recently but it was too early to be sure whether this initiative would lead to substantive and sustained improvement.

Outcomes for differing groups with protected characteristics remained mixed. The provision of health care, like many other areas, was improving and was satisfactory overall, despite often long waits for access. Drug services, aided by a new well-being unit for those recovering from drug abuse, were very good.

Time out of cell was reasonable, as was access to the gym and library. There was good support for family ties and visits, thanks in considerable measure to the work of the Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) and Partners of Prisoners (PoPs), and there was sufficient activity for all prisoners following recent increases to the number of places available.

Despite this, many of the weaknesses identified at the previous inspection had still to be addressed. Too few prisoners attended education or work regularly or on time and cover for staff absences was insufficient, leading to the frequent cancellation of activities. Allocation to learning activity too often did not recognise a learner’s abilities or experience, and learning targets were of limited use.

Basic skills were not well supported in vocational training and shortcomings in teaching, learning and assessment all combined to limit learner progress. For those prisoners able to complete a course, however, the achievement of qualifications was high on most courses. Overall our partners in Ofsted judged the effectiveness of provision as ‘requires improvement’.

There was some improved collaborative work between departments to support rehabilitation and resettlement, but many weaknesses persisted. Many prisoners did not have an up-to-date offender assessment system (OASys) assessment or arrived at Lancaster Farms without one.

Contact with offender supervisors was too limited or reactive, and the shortage of probation staff was a concern regarding higher-risk cases and the overall quality of risk management. Some of the case work we inspected was poor. Public protection work had improved but remained insufficiently robust,  particularly concerning support for multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA).

Offending behaviour work was narrow but resettlement assessments and work with those about to be released were much better.

The evidence of this inspection confirmed to us that Lancaster Farms remained a competent prison enabled by a capable management team and a generally confident staff. There was a definite sense that if you were a motivated prisoner with a determination to improve your own life chances, there were opportunities and resources that were available for you in the prison.

In contrast, if you were less motivated, you could easily opt out with too little challenge from the institution. This was a missed opportunity. Lancaster Farms was a decent enough place in comparison to many similar prisons, but it can do more and do it better.

Analysis

Mark Leech, writes:
Partially Achieved & Pointless

The above summary, written by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, reveals a seriously disturbing sleight of hand that has quietly taken place in the presentation of Prison Inspection reports since Clarke became Chief Inspector – concerning ‘Partially Achieved’ recommendations, that I will come to later.

First the facts: In the four years that have passed since HMP Lancaster Farms was last inspected and the Chief Inspector made 66 recommendations to improve the prison, less than a third of those recommendations have been implemented – a fact Peter Clarke casually waves away as ‘disappointing’.

It’s not ‘disappointing’ Mr Clarke, its an absolute disgrace – and in failing to see that, so are you.

Let’s face it:  if a prison can’t implement a recommendation of the Prisons Inspectorate in four years then it’s never going to do it, is it?

The reality, when you strip away the niceties in this report is that Lancaster Farms is a violent prison, where prisoners lock themselves away, where adjudications have rocketed, where use of force has spiralled – and where the appropriate paperwork is simply not completed.

The education delivery by Novus comes in for devastating criticism and rightly so – but that criticism is from Ofsted not the Prisons Inspectorate.,

The wait to see a GP regularly exceeds four weeks, a pharmacist attends just once a week, and 79 prisoners had been waiting for up to four months to see a dentist – Lancaster Farms is a prison where safety, respect, purposeful activity and preparation for release have all been subject to ignored – and repeatedly ignored – recommendations from the last inspection four years ago.

The figure of 32% achieved recommendations means that 68% of the Inspectorate recommendations were ignored. These figures are fairly meaningless in isolation until you see exactly what those ignored recommendations actually were; take a look.

A senior manager should identify and record the exceptional circumstances to justify a prisoner on an ACCT [suicide and self harm] document being held in segregation. (1.31)
Not achieved

Segregation reviews should be meaningful and should involve the prisoner in a forum consisting of staff from relevant departments and their unit, and reintegration plans should be actively promoted where possible. (1.72)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 1.32)

Prescribing regimes for drug dependency should be flexible and tailored to the individual and reflect national guidance. (1.81)
Not achieved

Searches should be carried out promptly once the need is identified. (1.45)
Not achieved

The disciplinary approach adopted should be proportionate to the seriousness of the alleged offence.
Not achieved

Segregated prisoners should be able to exercise in clean open areas. (1.71)
Not achieved

There should be arrangements to process prisoners arriving during the lunch period. (1.7)
Not achieved

The needs of prisoners with protected characteristics should be identified and met promptly through monitoring, regular and direct consultation, effective use of prisoner representatives, individual assessment and when needed effective care planning. (S38)
Not achieved

All showers should be screened, kept in good condition and supplied with constant water pressure and temperature. (2.8)
Not achieved

All cells should be provided with lockable cabinets. (2.9)
Not achieved

Cells designed to hold one prisoner should not be used to hold two. (2.10)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 2.7)

Prisoners should be able to receive clothing sent in through the post and have quicker access to their stored property. (2.11)
Not achieved

The application process should be efficiently tracked and managed. (2.12)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 2.26)

There should be a paid carer scheme for prisoners with disabilities and the role of carers should be clearly defined. (2.36)
Not achieved

Older prisoners and those with disabilities should, where necessary, have an up-to-date PEEP and a multidisciplinary support plan with which all unit staff, including those on night duty, should be familiar. (2.37)
Not achieved

Waiting times for primary care services including the GP should not exceed clinically acceptable waiting times in the community. (2.72)
Not achieved

Prisoners should have access to a complete pharmaceutical service, including pharmacy-led medicine use reviews and audits. (2.84)
Not achieved

Prisoners should have access to routine dental appointments within six weeks. (2.91)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 2.101)

Breakfast should be issued on the day it is to be eaten. (2.105)
Not achieved

Lunch should not be served before 12 noon and the evening meal not before 5pm. (2.106)
Not achieved

Serveries should be adequately supervised. (2.107)
Not achieved

The full prison regime should be provided, more prisoners should be unlocked during the working day and men should have at least an hour a day of outside exercise. (3.7)
Not achieved

The overall quality of individual learning plans should be improved to ensure targets are clear and meaningful. (3.28)
Not achieved

All areas of the OLASS provision identified for improvement through teaching and learning observations should be dealt with swiftly. (3.16)
Not achieved

A management and monitoring system should be introduced for the cardiovascular equipment in the units and all equipment should be kept in good repair. (3.45)
Not achieved

An appropriate area should be re-established for outdoor sports and games. (3.46)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 3.15)

Offender management work should ensure that all prisoners have a good quality and up-to-date assessment to inform sentence planning and risk reduction work. (S40)
Not achieved

Effective use should be made of ROTL for suitable prisoners. (4.9)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 4.18)

Offender supervisors should have regular contact with prisoners  proportionate to their level of risk and needs. (4.21)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 4.17)

‘Partially Achieved’

Once again this Report highlights the deeply concerning practice introduced by this Chief Inspector in which  he claims that some of the previous recommendations he has made have been ‘Partially Achieved’  – but they are claims he makes with nothing to back them up.

Certainly other Chief Inspectors of Prisons who went before Clarke also made Partially Achieved assessments, the difference is that, unlike all others, Clarke cannot provide a shred of evidence to support these Partially Achieved assessments; confirming to me that there exists no criteria against which Inspectors can judge such assessments; telling me: “there is no set criteria. Inspectors use their judgement based on the outcomes and evidence they observe.”

The reality is that Clarke’s partially achieved assessments are devoid of evidence and as a result are totally meaningless – worse than that they are misleading as they are open to being misconstrued.

What on earth does ‘Partially Achieved’ even mean anyway?

Is that 1% achieved, 50% achieved, or 99% achieved?

Without supplying a shred of evidence to support that assessment, or any published criteria to back it it up, we have no way of knowing – this is a new and worrying development introduced when Clarke became Chief Inspector.

Here are examples, totally devoid of explanation, of how Clarke presents his PA assessments – click to expand images

Now Look at this report (image on page 19) on Lancaster Farms from 2011, these show recommendations from 2008 that were subsequently assessed as being Partially Achieved in the report published in 2011 – but each one with solid published evidence to back up the assessment; something Clarke has completely removed from his reports.

Here are some of the recommendations Clarke claims to have been  ‘Partially Achieved’  in this report – but we have no way of knowing whether they are true or false; or how true, or how false, they actually are.

Assessments, including terms of reference and meeting minutes, should be revised to ensure all high risk cases are fully considered, record keeping is comprehensive and MAPPA risk levels are identified in a timely way pre-release. (4.28)
Partially achieved

The prison should introduce effective management oversight of all public protection procedures. All prisoners should be reviewed for MAPPA eligibility and their potential risks to children, and public protection issues should be correctly recorded on P-Nomis. (S41)
Partially achieved

The achievement of qualifications in under-performing courses should be improved. (3.32)
Partially achieved

Quality improvement arrangements should be developed for the non-OLASS provision particularly for the observation of teaching, learning and coaching. (3.17)
Partially achieved

Feedback from teachers should provide prisoners with clear information on what they need to do to progress. (3.29)
Partially achieved

Custody staff should be present when medicines are being dispensed to manage queues and ensure confidentiality. (2.85)
Partially achieved

Custody staff should all be trained in basic life support and the use of the automated defibrillator. (2.63)
Partially achieved

The prisoner consultation process should ensure that effective and timely action is taken to resolve prisoner concerns. (2.17)
Partially achieved

The prison should ensure there are sufficient prison work opportunities for the population and that work skills prisoners develop are recognised and recorded. The available activity places should be used fully. (S39)
Partially achieved

Prisoners subject to ACCT procedures should have a consistent case manager and care plans should contain specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound objectives. (1.30)
Partially achieved

The establishment should ensure that all administration of medication substance misuse treatment is adequately supervised by suitably trained officers. (1.82)
Partially achieved

The prisoner consultation process should ensure that effective and timely action is taken to resolve prisoner concerns. (2.17)
Partially achieved

Custody staff should all be trained in basic life support and the use of the automated defibrillator. (2.63)
Partially achieved

Custody staff should be present when medicines are being dispensed to manage queues and ensure confidentiality. (2.85)
Partially achieved

This isn’t just semantics.
Governors who work to implement HMIP recommendations shouldn’t have their efforts assessed as ‘partially achieved’ or ‘not achieved’ at all, solely dependant on the toss of a coin as to which Inspector they get.

That’s the danger Clarke cannot see.

Peter Clarke is due to retire as Chief Inspector of Prisons in 10 months time; as a former Police Officer with 32 years service in the Metropolitan Police and no prior prison experience at all, he was never the right person for this vital statutory Independent office.

The fact that Clarke only applied to become Chief Inspector of Prisons after being telephoned personally and invited to apply for the post by the then Secretary of State for Justice (the very person who then later appointed him to independently inspect his own prisons) demonstrated in Clarke from the outset  a worrying inability to recognise what ‘independent’ actually meant.

My hope is that the next incumbent as Chief Inspector will better understand prisons, will realise that independence means what it says, that its not just a form of words but a frame of mind – and that it will be someone who will immediately roll back Clarke’s seriously defective policy of failing to provide evidence for Partially Achieved assessments he makes in official reports.

After 32 years in the Police one might be forgiven for expecting that Peter Clarke, better than anyone, would have understood the vital need to provide evidence for statements that are made – but his failure to provide any basis for his partially achieved assessments shows it was, unexpectedly, an expectation too far.

Read The Report

Mark Leech is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales
@prisonsorguk

 

HMP & YOI Hollesley Bay: A successful and effective open prison

HMP & YOI Hollesley Bay, an open prison in Suffolk holding up to 485 adult  prisoners, was found to be a “very safe” jail with good or reasonably good outcomes for those detained. 

Many of those held are serving relatively long sentences of more than four years, with just over 100 serving over ten years or life. More than 100 were violent offenders. The prison was making plans to hold sex offenders, although there was much more work to do on this development.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “We last inspected the prison in 2014, when we reported on an impressive institution. Following this inspection, we can report that the prison 

Most prisoners said they felt safe and violence and use of force by staff were relatively rare. However, there had been a “disappointing increase in the use of drugs.” The report noted: “A local analysis…had identified that prisoners had moved away from using the harmful new psychoactive substances (NPS) and that cannabis was now the preferred drug. We calculated that about 59% of all positive drug test results in the previous year had been for cannabis, with no positive results for NPS in the previous six months. The use of cocaine and steroids was an emerging problem.”

The prison, Mr Clarke added, was an overwhelmingly respectful place, underpinned by some very supportive staff-prisoner relationships, though some prisoners felt intimidated by staff and feared that they could be arbitrarily returned to closed conditions. “This was a perception that the prison needed to do more to understand and remedy.”

Prisoners had significant amounts of time out of their cells and the prison offered a wide range of educational and vocational training programmes. The prison had good relationships with regional employers and this had led to many unpaid and community positions for prisoners on release on temporary licence (ROTL).

Inspectors had one significant concern. Mr Clarke said: “In contrast to much that was happening in the prison, public protection work was not good enough. We have made this very significant failing the subject of our one main recommendation.”

The report noted: “About 10% of the prison population presented a medium or high risk of harm to children. Assessments of the risks were not always undertaken promptly enough following arrival at the prison, and contact restrictions were not always applied in the interim. The monitoring of mail and telephone contact was poor.” MAPPA management levels were not always confirmed with the National Probation Service offender manager.” Multi-Agency Protection Arrangements are designed to manage the risk from offenders released into the community.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“Hollesley Bay remained a successful and effective prison. The establishment was, at the time of our inspection, experiencing a time of change, with a new governor about to be appointed and plans to develop the prison’s role to hold sex offenders. Outcomes were, however, reasonably good or better and those detained were treated well. We leave the prison with several recommendations which we hope will assist further improvement.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, said:

“I welcome the Inspectorate’s positive assessment of Hollesley Bay as an effective open prison, doing impressive work to prepare men for resettlement, often after lengthy periods in custody. The new Governor will develop this work further and the prison has already taken steps to improve public protection and implement the report’s recommendations.”

 A copy of the full report, published on 5 March 2019, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons 

“MASS INTOXIFICATION” At Cumbria Prison – As Prisons Minister Rory Stewart Does A Photo Call At Bristol Prison 250 Miles Away

In their latest annual report published today 1st March 2019 the IMB at HMP Haverigg, Cumbria’s only prison says there is continuing concern about the impact of widespread use of Psychoactive Substances (PS) not only on those addicted to its use but on the general prison population, staff and but also on the overall regime.

The report is published on the day that the Prisons’s MP – and Prisons Minister – Rory Stewart – spends the day 250 miles away at Bristol Prison.

Death risk from Psychotic Drugs

 It is disturbing to note in two reports from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, that PS may have been a contributory factor in two deaths in custody which occurred during the year within weeks of each other. Near fatalities in the latter half of the year have only been prevented by the swift and effective action of officers and healthcare staff.

Increased surveillance systems initially disrupted the supply chain of illicit drugs into the prison, but access to PS resumed, despite the best efforts of the management.

IMB Chair Lynne Chambers explains

“The Board has observed on a weekly and sometimes daily basis, the effects of the use of illicit substances, and on one day in November, when seventeen prisoners were found to be under the influence of PS in a ‘mass intoxication’

The impact on the populations of South and West Cumbria of the concentration of Northwest Ambulances at the prison throughout that day is likely to have been significant”.

Emotional challenges

The geographical isolation of HMP Haverigg, the limitations of public transport and an underdeveloped road network present both practical and emotional challenges to prisoners and their families in maintaining links. However, the Board commends the innovative work of the “Visitors and Children’s Support Group” in hosting a range of events for Families, Lifer/Long term prisoners, Enhanced prisoners, and the Kainos “Challenge to Change” programme.

Although tackling the use of PS and other illicit substances, has, necessarily, been of high priority throughout the reporting year, the Board has, nonetheless, observed the good progress and positive impact of the Rehabilitative Culture initiative on the prison population.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, said it was a “shocking report”.

Mr Leech said: “Rory Stewart, who is not only a Cumbrian Member of Parliament but also Prisons Minister, should not be all smiles and shaking hands 250 miles away outside Bristol Prison – but right outside Haverigg main gate answering questions as to what on earth he is going to do to correct the defects identified in this shocking report.

“It seems Rory Stewart couldn’t care less”

Key Report Findings  

Are prisoners treated fairly?  

The effectiveness of the Rehabilitative Culture and Restorative Justice initiatives have had a significant impact on the outcome of adjudications with the IMB receiving just two applications from prisoners arising from this process. The Independent Monitoring Board is of the view that prisoners are treated fairly.

Are prisoners treated humanely?

The Board is of the opinion that the prison continues to have an emphasis on humane treatment and has regularly observed sensitive and respectful interaction between staff and prisoners. However, there have been occasions when some prisoners have had to endure unacceptable and adverse living conditions.,

Are prisoners prepared well for their release?

The Board has received a large number of applications from prisoners relating to sentence management and of these a third concerned preparations for release including accommodation, approved premises, bank accounts, support services and medication, for example. The Board is concerned that lack of preparation and resources to support prisoners in the community after release may increase the risk of re-offending.

For further information contact: the Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Haverigg:

Notes

The Independent Monitoring Board is a body of volunteers established in accordance with the Prison Act 1952 and the Asylum Act 1999 which require every prison and IRC [Immigration Removal/Reception Centre] to be monitored by an independent Board, appointed by the Secretary of State for Justice, from members of the community.

To carry out these duties effectively IMB members have right of access to every prisoner, all parts of the prison and also to the prison’s records.

HMP Haverigg opened over 50 years ago, is on an old military airfield site dating from World War II and some of the original wartime buildings, are still in use.

Most of the prisoners are serving sentences of four or more years, although a significant number are serving a life sentence and a small number are of foreign nationality.

Read The Report

HMP Parc Young Persons Unit: Inspectors Commend Continuing Improvement – But CSIP and Catering Issues Must Be Addressed

Inspectors visited the Young Persons Unit at HMP Parc in South Wales last October and in their Report, published on 26th February 2019, said:

HMYOI Parc is a small juvenile facility comprising two wings and holding up to 60 boys aged under 18 located in the much larger Parc prison in South Wales. The unit and wider prison are operated by the private company G4S. At the time of this annual inspection there were 37 boys in residence.

At our last inspection we reported how good leadership and a re-energised staff group had contributed to significant improvement at the establishment. It was clear on this visit that the team had continued in their efforts to make the unit safer, more purposeful and more respectful. We had previously found high levels of violence, and boys with poor perceptions of their own safety. During this inspection, perceptions of safety were much better and recorded violence was on a consistent downward trajectory, with few serious incidents. Very few boys isolated themselves in their cells or were located in the segregation unit. The leadership team had established a reward-led culture that motivated most boys to behave, incorporating an evidence-based instant rewards scheme that we considered good practice.

Child protection procedures, an area in which we have previously been critical, were now much more effective and again evidenced good practice. Similarly, the multidisciplinary case management approach to managing the victims and perpetrators of violence through the application of a nationally sponsored process known as CSIP1 was an example to the many establishments that have struggled to grasp its potential.

Our highest assessments were in the areas of respect and purposeful activity. The units were clean and well maintained, relationships between boys and staff were good, and staff were tolerant but also displayed the confidence to challenge inappropriate behaviour when necessary. They balanced authority and care to create a supportive and disciplined environment.

The strategic approach to the management of equality and diversity had improved and health care services remained good. Time out of cell was impressive, even for those on the lowest level of the rewards scheme. There had been a progressive move to establishing a whole-unit approach to managing the boys at Parc. Departments worked together in a way we do not often see. Some experienced prison officers had been supported to undertake the postgraduate Certificate in Education training to work in education, which served to break down barriers between departments.

The education unit was exceeding the performance indicators set out in its contract and boys achieved a success rate of over 90% in most qualifications.

However, we made two main recommendations, one regarding the food and the other risk management. During our inspection, we spoke to most of the boys on both units. They were quick to praise staff and were very fair about their experiences at Parc, complaining about very little. This gave considerable credibility to their consistent complaints about food. Our own observations supported their negative perceptions and we would urge the prison to meet with the contractor at the earliest opportunity to address concerns in this important area.

Our second main recommendation concerned weaknesses in the establishment’s approach to risk management. Caseworkers worked well as part of multidisciplinary teams and were particularly effective in helping to manage boys on CSIP plans. The team knew the boys on their caseloads well and contact was good. However, despite significant information about risk being available to caseworkers, it was not always recognised or sufficiently investigated to inform sentence planning and management. This meant that planning for release did not adequately consider the vulnerabilities of or risks posed by some boys on their return to the community.

Given the energy and commitment put into addressing the concerns raised at previous inspections, we remain confident that leaders at Parc will make every effort to address our recommendations.

This was a good inspection and we found that the establishment was characterised by good relationships, excellent multidisciplinary work and strong leadership.

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

There is no getting away from it this is a good report on a small unit managed by G4S, the same company that six months ago saw the Ministry of Justice step-in to Birmingham Prison, which it also then operated, because of disastrous issues of management and control.

The young person population at Parc is minute by comparison, the report is silent on the resources made available to this Unit in terms of staff profiling, a constant defect in Inspection Reports that prevent effective comparability, but this is a good report, on an often difficult to manage, volatile and vulnerable population.

Parc overall is a huge prison, one of the largest in Europe and a research report last month showed that Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment in Western Europe – despite having one of the lowest crime rates.

The rewards-based focus identified in the report demonstrates once again that more carrot and less stick is often the most effective way to achieve behavioural change, and G4S are to be commended for putting rehabilitation and reducing reoffending at the heart of their work.

The two issues identified as defective in the report must be tackled.

The issue with catering, producing food that is often cold, unappetising and the source of constant complaints – confirmed by the Inspectorate – must be a major focus now for the prison’s management; we have seen too many times how complaints about food can lead to serious unrest if the issue is not tackled effectively.

But by far the more serious issue is with the weaknesses identified with the approach to CSIP, which must be addressed as a matter of urgency. [Challenge, Support and Intervention Planning, is a system used to manage the most violent prisoners and support the most vulnerable prisoners in the system. Prisoners who are identified as the perpetrator of serious or repeated violence, or who are vulnerable due to being the victim of violence or bullying behaviour, are managed and intended to be supported on a plan with individualised targets and regular reviews.] 

My one point of caution would be that all the good work that is being achieved at this small unit at Parc risks being undone if the issue with CSIP is not addressed properly – and this takes on an even greater significance if, as seems likely at the end of their sentence, these young people are simply tossed back into the same toxic inner-city, high-crime, poor opportunity environments that they were first taken out of – but that is a societal issue for the Welsh and UK Governments as a whole to tackle, and in respect of which G4S to be fair can itself have little effect.

Read the Report

NORTH WEST NPS – Rated ‘Good’ but struggling with significant staff shortages

Inspectors found that senior leaders of the North West division of the National Probation Service (NPS) had a clear vision and strategy for high-quality services, but not enough staff to deliver them.

Staff shortages have been seen in a number of NPS inspections by HM Inspectorate of Probation. During the inspection of the North West division in October 2018, there was a 20% shortfall in the number of probation officers, around 140 posts. These probation officers are the frontline staff responsible for managing individuals who pose a high or very high risk of harm to others.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said staff shortages were a long-standing problem, resulting in an “undue reliance” on more costly agency workers. “Recruitment is centrally managed by the NPS. Local leaders are doing what they can to ameliorate the problem, but professional staff workloads are high. Despite these difficulties we found the quality of work was generally good.” The division was rated as ‘Good’, the second highest HMI Probation rating.

However, some aspects of practice needed attention. “Reviews of risk of harm were not always completed when circumstances change, and in some cases appropriate contingency plans needed to be set out,” Dame Glenys said, adding: “Domestic abuse and safeguarding checks were not always undertaken when required to inform court reports and allocation.”

The division’s approach to encouraging victims to take part in the NPS’s victim contact scheme was assessed as outstanding, the highest rating, with personal contact with victims followed up to ensure that victims could make an informed choice on whether to participate in the scheme. The scheme is for victims of a violent or sexual crime where the offender has been jailed for at least 12 months or detained under the Mental Health Act.

The North West division of the NPS covers the Manchester and Merseyside urban areas and stretches into sparsely-populated Cumbria. The provision of specialist services – interventions designed to reduce the risk of reoffending – varied according to geographical location.

Buildings in the division also varied in their quality, with long waits for repairs or maintenance in some areas. Dame Glenys said: “Staff should not have to work in vermin-infested premises, in my view. And oddly, probation staff who work in some courts in this division are not allowed to use the same facilities as other civil servants who work there, despite being an integral part of the service delivered to the court.”

Overall, Dame Glenys said:

“The division is delivering a good overall standard of service, despite being under strain, and I hope that our findings and recommendations help the division to improve further. We note that staff shortages and poor facilities have featured in each of our recent NPS inspections, and our recommendations also reflect these wider concerns.”

The report is available at www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

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.

Gauke: Prison isn’t working for thousands of criminals and sets out the case for scrapping short jail sentences.

Prison is not working for thousands of criminals, the Justice Secretary has declared, as he set out the case for scrapping short jail sentences.

David Gauke called for a more “imaginative” approach to crime and punishment, with greater focus on rehabilitation in the community.

He said there is a “very strong case” to abolish sentences of six months or less altogether, with some “closely defined exceptions”, such as for violent and sexual crimes.

Short custodial terms would be replaced by “robust” community orders under Mr Gauke’s blueprint.

His comments provide the clearest indication yet of the Government’s intention to move away from the Tory mantra of “prison works”.

In a speech in central London, the cabinet minister set out his vision for “smart justice”.

He said: “I think now is the time for us as a society, as a country, to start a fresh conversation, a national debate about what justice, including punishment, should look like for our modern times.

“I know that there will be some who argue that the only problem with our criminal justice system is that it isn’t tough enough, that the answer to short sentences is longer sentences, that the best way of stopping recently released prisoners from re-offending is not to release them.

“And that the endless ratchet effect of higher sentences is giving the public what it wants.

“But I believe that those in positions of responsibility have a duty to show leadership.”

The Tories’ approach to sentencing has been analysed against the “prison works” doctrine since former home secretary Michael Howard used the phrase 25 years ago.

Mr Gauke cited figures showing that, in the last five years, just over a quarter of a million custodial sentences have been given to offenders for six months or less, while more than 300,000 sentences were for 12 months or less.

But, he said, nearly two thirds of those handed the punishments go on to commit a further crime within a year of being released.

Shoplifting is the most common crime attracting sentences of under six months, with around 11,500 such cases a year.

Mr Gauke said: “For the offenders completing these short sentences whose lives are destabilised, and for society which incurs a heavy financial and social cost, prison simply isn’t working.

“That’s why there is a very strong case to abolish sentences of six months or less altogether, with some closely defined exceptions, and put in their place, a robust community order regime.”

He said all options were being explored to bring about the shift, including legislation.

While the case for reform is seen as strongest in relation to sentences of six months or less, ministers will also look at the impact of a “presumption” against sentences of a year or less in Scotland.

The number of offenders given community sentences has fallen in recent years, prompting suggestions that judges and magistrates lack confidence in them following concerns over probation arrangements.

The Government has already taken a number of steps to improve the management of convicts away from prison.

At the weekend, Mr Gauke announced the roll-out of GPS tagging technology to allow 24/7 monitoring of thousands of offenders in the community.

New arrangements to loosen some of the barriers to releasing some prisoners on temporary licence are also being trialled.

Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Wera Hobouse welcomed Mr Gauke’s remarks on short sentences but accused the Government of “saying one thing and doing another”.

“Even as he makes that admission, his Tory colleagues at the Home Office are busy introducing more short prison sentences in their Offensive Weapons Bill,” she said.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The justice secretary is establishing a reputation as a thoughtful, balanced policy thinker, driven by evidence not preconception.”

Damning Report as Working Links CRC Goes Into Administration

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, has welcomed government action to ensure the continued operation of three private probation companies whose parent company, Working Links, has announced it is going into administration.

The need for an urgent government response, in the interests of protecting the public, is underlined by a deeply troubling report released today by Dame Glenys, following an inspection of one of the Working Links CRCs – Dorset, Devon and Cornwall (DDC).

As soon as the results of the DDC inspection in November 2018 were apparent, Dame Glenys advised the government that intervention was necessary, the first time she has recommended this course of action. It is the first CRC in HMI Probation’s 2018-19 inspection schedule to be rated as ‘Inadequate’, the lowest rating.

Inspectors found staff were under-recording the number of riskier cases because of commercial pressures. They were also completing individuals’ sentence plans to meet performance targets, without actually meeting the offender.

In the report, Dame Glenys said these were “immutable lines” which had been crossed. She said: “The professional ethos of probation has buckled under the strain of the commercial pressures put upon it here, and it must be restored urgently.”

Today, Dame Glenys welcomed the government’s “swift action” in moving to ensure the three CRCs under the wider Working Links banner are protected and can continue to safeguard the public. Working Links has three CRCs, in Wales and the south west. The government has agreed that Seetec, owners of Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC, will take over the three Working Links CRCs.

Dame Glenys said: “This should be a turning point. Ministers recently took the decision to terminate all 21 CRC contracts early, next year. The Secretary of State is now considering what comes next. Our CRC inspection evidence shows a variable picture but it is one in which the provision of services in most cases is wanting, often significantly so.

“We find probation services delivered by the National Probation Service, for higher risk individuals, to be good, overall. It is not easy to change the model for delivery by CRCs of a complex service for over 154,000 medium and lower-risk offenders every year. But the future model must preserve the ethos of probation, and respect and nurture the probation profession itself. The alternative is made clear in the thoroughly dispiriting Dorset, Devon and Cornwall CRC report.”

That report records CRC staff telling inspectors they believed the way Working Links was operating was “contrary to the core values and purpose of probation”, with no direction or any strategy for improvement.

Staff, inspectors concluded, “are trapped in a spiral of decline. The imperative to meet task-related contractual performance targets and so avoid service credits (financial penalties) dominates working life”.

Dame Glenys was particularly troubled by two aspects:

  • All cases in Working Links CRCs are assigned a blue, red, amber or green rating, based on their level of risk of harm and/or of reoffending. This rating determines the resources which will be allocated to them. Cases rated as ‘red’ require the most frequent contact and more interventions. The report noted: “Practitioners told us they refrained from case-appropriate assessments in some instances to limit the numbers of ‘red cases’ that have to be seen every week. This is an immutable line crossed. It seriously compromises the CRC’s understanding of the caseload and the resources required to manage the work safely and effectively. What is more, it compromises probation itself in those cases.”
  • A key element of CRC work is to involve the individuals in planning the progress of their sentences from the courts. While there was sufficient engagement with individuals in most Cornwall cases, it was insufficient in the majority of those in Devon and Dorset. Too frequently, inspectors found, there was no plan at all. The report noted: “This is exemplified in one case by the inspector’s observation that “the plan was completed to meet a target, so was done before the responsible officer met the service user, with the service user having been turned away from his induction appointment because the CRC had not yet allocated the case.” The report noted that this, too, was an immutable line crossed.

Dame Glenys said: “The Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall CRC is not delivering probation services to anywhere near the standards we and the public expect.”

Inspectors found good Through the Gate services for people leaving prison. These services are outsourced in a well-contracted and properly-resourced scheme. But, Dame Glenys said: “Most other work is of poor quality, and simply not enough meaningful work is being done. Instead, effort is focused disproportionately on reducing the risk of any further contractual (financial) penalty. For some professional staff, workloads are unconscionable.”

Some officers had on average of between 80-100 cases, with some caseloads reaching 168 – an unmanageable workload. CRC staff had been cut by one-third since 2015 and one manager described the pressure as “mind-blowing”. Courts had very little confidence in the CRC.

Staff felt they had little support and had not been consulted in a staff survey since 2015. The report noted: “There were many concerns about the personal safety of staff in operational offices.”

The Inspectorate has previously expressed concerns about work in the Gloucestershire area (part of the Working Links’ Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire CRC), where inspectors found that work to protect the public and reduce reoffending work was poor. HMI Probation will next week start inspecting the Working Links’ Wales CRC.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said:

 “We were aware of Working Links’ financial situation and have taken action to ensure continuity of probation services.

“That means probation officers will continue to be supported, offenders will be supervised, and the public will be protected.

“The Chief Inspector’s report on these CRCs lays bare their unacceptably poor performance and we will work closely with the new provider to urgently raise standards.”

MOJ add:

 We have agreed with Seetec, the parent company of Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC, that this CRC will take over service delivery in the South West and Wales. This change has been made via a variation to Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC’s existing contract.

  • The future proposals for probation services outlined more bespoke arrangements in Wales; as such, we are working with Seetec and HMPPS Wales to arrange an earlier transition of Wales Offender Management Services into HMPPS.

 

Further background:

 We have been aware of Working Links’ and the CRC’s financial situation for a period of time and have taken action to ensure vital probation services are maintained, offender supervision continues and the public are protected.

    • A dedicated team of experts has been working tirelessly to deliver our contingency plans and we have agreed to transfer staff and services to Kent Surrey and Sussex CRC, which is owned by Seetec, a high performing CRC provider.
    • We are confident that with their expertise and a proven track-record of delivering good probation services in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, Seetec can deliver and improve services.
    • Probation services in the thee areas, Devon, Dorset & Cornwall Bristol; Gloucestershire Somerset & Wiltshire and Wales remain fully operational and will continue to operate as normal.
    • Our priority is to minimise disruption to staff and service users, while protecting the public and ensuring that probation services continue to be delivered.
    • We keep a close eye on the financial health of providers, including Working Links and were approached by them in October 2018 to have initial, discussions regarding the future viability of the business.
    • Following this, it became clear that Working Links would not be able to fulfil its full contractual obligations so we then began to enact our well-rehearsed contingency plans.
    • The agreed transfer will take place via a variation of the existing contract with Kent, Surrey and Sussex’s CRC contract. We are transferring staff and services to Kent Surrey and Sussex CRC.
    • Kent Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company was judged in 2017 by national inspectors to be one of three probation companies deemed to be “performing well”.
    • Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC continue to perform well against their contractual obligations.

Notes

The report is available at https://www.prisons.org.uk/ddccrc.pdf

 

Justin Russell announced as candidate for next Chief Inspector of Probation

The Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon. David Gauke MP, confirmed today that his candidate to be the next Chief Inspector of Probation is Justin Russell – currently Director General responsible for No Deal EU exit planning at the Ministry of Justice.

Justin has been selected following a rigorous assessment process conducted in accordance with the Governance Code on Public Appointments. A panel of four, including two external interviewers, assessed all the candidates and put forward to the Secretary of State those who passed the high bar for consideration for this role.

The Secretary of State has invited the Justice Select Committee to hold a pre-appointment hearing. Pre-appointment scrutiny is an important part of the appointment process for some of the most significant public appointments made by Ministers. It is designed to provide an added level of scrutiny to the appointment process.

Pre-appointment hearings are held in public and allow a Select Committee to take evidence before a candidate is appointed. Ministers consider the Committee’s views before deciding whether to proceed with the appointment.

The current Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, has agreed to continue in the post until 31 May, when, subject to the pre-appointment hearing, Justin Russell is expected to take over the role.  He will resign from the Ministry of Justice and from the Civil Service before taking up post.

HM Inspectorate of Probation

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation leads HM Inspectorate of Probation, which is the independent source of fair comment for ministers and the public on the effectiveness of the work of probation and youth offending services.HM Inspectorate of Probation produces and publishes reports on individual probation service areas as well as on thematic topics such as the way probation works with sex offenders, or the role and effectiveness of Approved Premises. The Chief Inspector also publishes an annual report. More information on HM Inspectorate of Probation can be found here: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

Biography

Justin Russell has spent over thirty years working on a wide range of criminal justice issues as a researcher, policy maker and major programme leader and has a long-standing interest and involvement in probation and youth justice policy. This has included working as a Policy Special Adviser to Home Secretaries John Reid and Jack Straw and in the No10 Policy Unit, as well as heading up the Home Office’s Violent Crime Unit from 2008 to 2012, where he led the production of the 2009 and 2011 Violence Against Women and Girls strategies and the Tackling Knives and Ending Gang and Youth Violence Programmes. Until recently, he was Director General for Justice Analysis and Offender Policy at the Ministry of Justice where he led the prison, probation and youth justice reform programmes. He has also worked for the Audit Commission and Mental Health Foundation and was a non-executive Director of Turning Point from 2005 to 2011.

Notes

Pre-appointment hearings involve select committees taking evidence from the preferred candidate for certain public appointments before they are confirmed. Following the public hearings, committees usually publish a report setting out their views on the candidate’s suitability for the post.

Pre-appointment hearings are non-binding but Ministers will consider the committee’s views before deciding whether to proceed with an appointment.

All appointments are made on merit.

HMP Durham: Must Address Violence, Drugs and Deaths says Inspectors

HMP Durham, a heavily overcrowded prison, was found by inspectors to have significant problems with drugs and violence and worryingly high levels of self-harm and self-inflicted and drug-related deaths.

Durham became a reception prison in 2017. Around 70% of the 900 men in the jail were either on remand or subject to recall and over 70% had been in Durham for less than three months. On average, 118 new prisoners arrived each week. Significant numbers of prisoners said they arrived at the jail feeling depressed or suicidal. Self-harm was very high.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “Our overriding concern was around the lack of safety. Since the last inspection in October 2016, there had been seven self-inflicted deaths, and it was disappointing to see that the response to recommendations from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (which investigates deaths) had not been addressed with sufficient vigour or urgency.

“There had also been a further five deaths in the space of eight months where it was suspected that illicit drugs might have played a role.” Drugs were readily available in the jail and nearly two-thirds of prisoners said it was easy to get drugs; 30% said they had acquired a drug habit since coming into the prison. “These were very high figures”, Mr Clarke said, though the prison had developed a strategy to address the drugs problem.

The leadership, Mr Clarke added, was “immensely frustrated by the fact that they had no modern technology available to them to help them in their efforts to stem the flow of drugs into the prison. We were told that they had been promised some modern scanning equipment but that it had been diverted to another prison.” The scale of the drugs problem and related violence meant that technological support was urgently needed.

Since the last inspection at Durham in 2016, violence had doubled and the use of force by staff had increased threefold, though some of the increase in force may have been due to new staff who were not yet confident in using de-escalation techniques. Governance of the use of force had improved.

Mr Clarke added: “There were some very early signs that the level of violence was beginning to decline, but it was too early to be demonstrable as a sustainable trend.”

Alongside these concerns, inspectors noted “many positive things happening at the prison.” These included the introduction of in-cell phones and electronic kiosks on the wings for prisoners to make applications, which had “undoubtedly been beneficial”. The disruption caused by prisoners needing to be taken to court had been reduced by the extensive use of video links.

A new and more predictable daily regime had recently been introduced, increasing access for men to amenities such as showers and laundry on the wings. “For a prison of this type, the time out of cell enjoyed by prisoners was reasonable and it was quite apparent that, despite its age, the prison was basically clean and decent,” Mr Clarke said. It was also good that the leadership saw new staff as an opportunity to make improvements, not an inexperienced liability.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There was no doubt that there was an extent to which HMP Durham was still going through the process of defining, refining and responding to its role as a reception prison. The very large throughput of prisoners gave rise to the risk that taking them through the necessary processes could predominate over identifying individual needs and ensuring favourable outcomes. However, the prison was aware of this risk. The most pressing needs are to get to grips with the violence of all kinds, make the prison safer and reduce the flow of drugs. Only then will the benefits flow from the many creditable initiatives that are being implemented.”

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

“Apart from security, safety must be the primary function of any prison but the number of deaths at Durham, and particularly the failure to implement the recommendations of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman designed to reduce deaths in custody, is deeply worrying.

“Only yesterday I wrote an open Letter about this issue to the Ombudsman, and this report reinforces the point that prisons must have the resources to implement PPO recommendations otherwise what is the use of them in the first place?”

Prisons minister Rory Stewart said: “We are determined to install full airport-style security with the right dogs, technology, scanners and search teams to detect drugs.

“We will install the technology in Durham and we will be rolling it out across our local prisons. Tackling drugs is vital for reducing violence.”