- The number of escapes has fallen
When compared with the previous year: the number of escapes in the year ending March 2019 went down by 4, to 9.
- The number of absconds decreased, while the number of temporary release failures increased
In the year ending March 2019, there were 120 absconds – a decrease of 19 absconds compared with the previous 12-month period. There was a 55% increase in temporary release failures, 56 of which were failures to return. 69% of unlawfully at large prisoners returned to custody within 30 days, up from 65% in the 12 months to March 2018.
- Percentage of prisoners in crowded conditions has fallen
In the year ending March 2019, 22.5% of prisoners were held in crowded conditions, lower than in the previous year. During the last ten years, crowding levels have fluctuated between 22.5% in the latest year and 25.5% in 2015.
- 90.5% of Foreign National Offenders referred in 10 working days
90.5% or 7,252 of the 8,009 total referrals of Foreign National Offenders made to the Home Office in the year ending March 2019, were made within the required 10 working days.
- Slight decrease in the average number of prisoners working in custody
In the year ending March 2019, on average, around 12,100 prisoners and detainees were working in custody at any one time across public sector prisons, privately managed prisons and Immigration Removal Centres. They delivered around 17.1 million hours of work during the course of a year.
- The amount raised through the PEA levy has increased
£1.6 million was raised from the imposition of the levy on prisoners’ earnings to be paid to Victim Support. On average, 572 prisoners per month were working out of the prison on licence and subject to the Prisoners’ Earnings Act levy and had average net earnings of £846 per month.
- The percentage of positive drug tests decreased by 0.5 percentage points
Excluding psychoactive substances, 10.4% of random mandatory drug tests were positive in the 12 months to March 2019. Including the psychoactive substances, the rate was 17.7%.
- Barricade/prevention of access incidents and incidents at height continue to rise
In the 12 months to March 2019, the number of barricade/prevention of access incidents went up by 24% when compared with the previous year. The number of incidents at height rose by 15% in the same time period.
- Finds of drugs and SIM cards have increased, while finds of mobile phones has fallen
There were increases of 41%, 8% and 14% in finds incidents of drugs, mobile phones and SIM cards, respectively, between the year ending March 2018 and the year ending March 2019.
- The number of prisoners with an enhanced IEP status increased, while those with a standard IEP status decreased
In the 12 months to March 2019, there were, on average 34,395 prisoners with an enhanced IEP status; an increase of 4% from the previous year. The average number of prisoners with a standard IEP status fell by 5% this year, compared with the 12 months ending March 2018. At the same time, there was a fall in the total prison population.
- The number of women and babies received into Mother and Baby Units dropped
In the year ending March 2019, 60 women were received and 57 babies were received into MBUs; compared with 70 women and 60 babies in the previous reporting year.
- The number of subjects actively monitored with an EM device decreased by 4%
At 31 March 2019, the total number of subjects actively monitored with an Electronic Monitoring (EM) device and open EM order was 10,772. There has been a general downward trend in the number of subjects actively monitored.
- The number of BASS referrals increased by 2% in the last year
There were 4,522 referrals for Bail Accommodation and Support Services in in the year ending March 2019, an increase of 2% on the 4,436 made in the previous year. The rise is as a result of an increase in HDC referrals.
- 9.6% of HMPPS Staff who declared their race, were classified as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic
Of all HMPPS staff, public sector prison staff had the lowest BAME representation rates with 7.2% of staff who declared their race as BAME, compared with 15.3% of staff in the National Probation Service.
- HMPPS staff lost an average of 9.3 working days to sickness absence
In 2018/19, YCS staff had the highest sickness absence rate at 12.5 Average Working Days Lost (AWDL), followed by NPS (10.5 AWDL), PSPs (9.3 AWDL). Absence rates are substantially lower in HMPPS HQ and area services overall compared with the operational parts of NOMS (5.0 AWDL).
HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) generated new and unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in the scrutiny of prisons in England and Wales in 2018–19, according to HM Chief Inspector Peter Clarke.
Publishing his annual report, Mr Clarke made clear that robust independent scrutiny was vital after another deeply troubling year for some parts of the prison estate. Too many prisons continued to be plagued by drugs, violence, appalling living conditions and a lack of access to meaningful rehabilitative activity.
What goes on in prisons remained largely unseen by the public and the media. However, in 2018–19 Mr Clarke used the Urgent Notification protocol – requiring the Secretary of State publicly to respond with action to improve a jail with significant problems – three times. Those prisons were HMPs Exeter, Bedford and Birmingham, where inspectors found some of the worst conditions they had ever seen.
The Inspectorate also secured funding and developed the methodology for its new Independent Reviews of Progress (IRPs), designed to give ministers an independent assessment of how well failing jails were addressing key Inspectorate recommendations. The Justice Select Committee, in its report on HMIP’s inspection of HMP Liverpool in 2017, had expressed concern that the prison service was effectively ‘marking its own homework’ and concluded there should be an injection of independence in the follow up to inspection reports.
Transparency and accountability
In his annual report, Mr Clarke asks: “How do we independently assess accountability in the inevitably closed world of prisons? The need for greater transparency in the delivery of this key public service has led to some important developments over the past two years that I hope will prove to be a turning point in improving the impact of independent prison inspection in England and Wales.
“There will be around 15–20 IRPs in 2019–20 and each subsequent year and these will be focused on prisons subject to an Urgent Notification or where there are other causes for serious concern.”
Mr Clarke added: “They will concentrate on progress in implementing key recommendations, and will look to see if action plans are properly focused, resourced, and with clear timelines and lines of accountability for improvement.
“As with Urgent Notifications, IRPs will be published, affording a higher level of both political and public accountability than has hitherto been the case. Our first IRPs (in 2019–20) at HMPs Exeter, Chelmsford, The Mount and Birmingham have suggested that a great deal of energy has gone into responding to Urgent Notifications and some other very concerning inspection reports, but that in some instances the response has been disappointingly slow.
“Nevertheless, the early indications are that they are prompting a more focused response than we have become accustomed to seeing in the past.”
Mr Clarke made clear he believes such independent scrutiny is vital, given his reservations about the effectiveness of the current HMPPS ‘special measures’ system.
“On some occasions the response has been to place a struggling prison in ‘special measures’, but I do not have confidence in that as a reliable means of driving improvement. The inspection of HMP Lewes in January 2019 found a prison that had been in special measures for two years, and yet had declined in no less than three of our four healthy prison tests and failed to improve in the vital test of safety.
“Similarly, the special measures at HMP Bedford left me with little confidence that the prison could improve, and the use of the Urgent Notification process was inevitable.
He added: “HMI Prisons will remain resolutely independent in all that it does, but that should not and will not stop us being supportive and, where appropriate, collaborative in helping prisons to improve. We are therefore pleased that early indications are that establishments are warmly welcoming the advent of IRPs. Managers have appreciated the focus that the IRP visits have given.”
The most troubled part of the prison estate
As in previous years, men’s local and training prisons – with their high throughput of prisoners, often worn-out fabric, vulnerable populations and levels of violence and illicit drugs use – caused most concern.
The report also discloses significant prisoner vulnerability. Across the service, levels of self‑harm were disturbingly high and self-inflicted deaths tragically increased by nearly one-fifth on the previous year.
Mr Clarke said the prison service response to the “deluge of drugs flowing into many prisons in recent years,” generating debt, bullying and violence, had often been slow and neither robust nor sophisticated. “The introduction of new technology that is necessary to help counter the threat has been patchy.”
The extraordinary dedication of staff
Inspectors were struck, as in previous years, “by the extraordinary dedication of those who work in our prisons. Their work is difficult, often dangerous, largely unseen by the public and, as a result, little understood.
“Many worked through a period in which reduced resources, both in terms of staff and investment, made it extremely difficult to run some of our jails.” New staff deserved support in an environment where, in too many establishments, drug-fuelled violence remained a daily reality.
Variations in performance and the quality of leadership
The report highlights evidence that performance varies between comparable prisons and makes clear the Chief Inspector’s view that the quality of leadership is a vital factor. “Some issues that have an adverse impact on prisoners are often outside the control of prison leaders.
“However, there is much that is firmly within the control of those whose responsibility it is to lead and manage these complex establishments. It is as clear as day… that the variations in performance of apparently comparable jails is directly influenced by the quality of their leadership. “
The report contains information from inspections of adult prisons and children’s detention, as well as immigration and other forms of detention.
- Men’s prisons: Too many prisoners were still being held in prisons that were unsafe. Levels of violence had increased in more than half the prisons we inspected.
- Respectful detention and living conditions: Inspectors noted the positive impact of in-cell phones and electronic kiosks for prisoners to make applications, health care appointments, arrange visits and make complaints. However, far too many prisoners still endured very poor and overcrowded living conditions. Though around two-thirds of prisoners overall were positive about the way they were treated by staff, inspectors frequently found that prisoners from black and minority ethnic backgrounds had less positive views of their treatment and conditions. There was no clear strategy for older prisoners.
- Purposeful activity: In only a third of the adult male prisons inspected was purposeful activity, which includes the provision of education, work and training, judged to be good or reasonably good.
- Rehabilitation and release planning: Overall, there was some progress but much remained to be done, particularly around prisoners who presented a potentially high risk of harm to the public being released without a full risk assessment. Inspectors saw large cohorts of sex offenders in prisons where specialist interventions were not available.
- Women’s prisons: Overall, inspectors continued to find that outcomes for women held in prison were better than for men.
- Children’s custody: HMIP inspected four young offender institutions and three secure training centres. Safety assessment had improved in three inspections. Nevertheless, levels of violence remained high and bullying was a constant concern.
- Immigration detention: Inspection outcomes were good or reasonably good. However, detainees continued to feel unsafe and uncertain because there was too often a lack of clarity as to what the future held for them.
- Police custody: HMIP, with HMICFRS, jointly wrote to Chief Constables expressing concern about the governance and oversight of the use of force.
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Lewes, East Sussex, raised the concerns when it published its report on today (Friday 28th June 2019 – but as yet it doesn’t appear on the IMB web site).
The body said there was a “significant increase in prisoner-on-prisoner violence” while “high levels of self-harm and the availability of drugs” were all “major issues”.
Of particular concern is the recorded violence between inmates, which rose from 165 incidents to 278 in 2018/19, an increase of 68%, the report said.
There were 579 instances of prisoners identified as being at risk from self-harm or suicide, according to the IMB.
And the availability and usage of drugs in the prison remains high, it said.
Searches by the prison included 106 occasions of drugs being found and the average failure rate of prisoners from random drug testing between April and November 2018 was more than 20%.
Mary Bell, chairman of the IMB at Lewes Prison, said: “The board also considers the residential accommodation at HMP Lewes is often not of a high enough standard.
“Increased efforts are needed to improve the accommodation conditions, including the timely replacement of furniture, and that cleanliness is made a higher priority.”
She said there were still “major failings in that men who do not go to work or education are likely to be locked up for more than 22 hours a day”.
The report is not yet published on the IMB web site
The prison system is in a state of ‘fragile recovery’ after a lengthy period of staffing problems, increases in drugs and violence, and inadequate rehabilitation opportunities, said in their national annual report summarising the findings of prison independent monitoring boards in England and Wales to the end of 2018.
In the report, Dame Anne Owers, National Chair of the IMBs, highlights:
• the damage to regimes caused by insufficient staff, and then the risks resulting from a high proportion of new and inexperienced staff
• the impact of new psychoactive substances on prison safety, with a rise in violence and self-harm
• continuing failings in prison maintenance contracts, with crumbling infrastructure and sometimes degrading conditions
• the over-use of segregation for prisoners with serious mental health concerns or risks of self-harm
• the long-standing inability to manage prisoners’ property effectively; and
• the shortcomings of community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) and housing and benefits problems that undermine successful resettlement.
Dame Anne said that some new initiatives were showing signs of promise, but that it was too early to say whether they would have a sustained impact on outcomes for prisoners. They include:
• staff recruitment drives
• management focus on decent conditions
• the new drug strategy and measures to prevent the entry of drugs
• the roll-out of offender management in custody; and
• revised processes for supporting prisoners at risk of self-harm and reducing violence.
Boards will continue to monitor the impact of these changes.
The report also raised significant concerns about the number of prisoners with serious mental health conditions, or at risk of self-harm, being held for lengthy periods in segregation units, where their condition deteriorates. It points to the need for more appropriate alternative provision, particularly in NHS facilities.
Dame Anne said: “There is no question that IMBs are still reporting some serious and ongoing problems in prisons. The decline in safety, conditions and purposeful activity in prisons over the last few years has seriously hampered their ability to rehabilitate prisoners.
“This will take time to reverse, and will require consistent leadership and management both in the Prison Service and the Ministry of Justice, as new staff, policies and resources bed in.
“This report provides a benchmark against which we will be able to judge progress. IMBs will continue to monitor and report on the new initiatives now being rolled out and their impact on the ground on the conditions and treatment of prisoners and the ability of prisons to turn lives round.”
Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:
Overall I think this is a really balanced report, it sets out clearly the progress that has been made across the estate, but doesn’t shy away from highlighting the major problems that it still faces, according at least to annual reports from individual Boards.
That said, the IMB as a national organisation, is still in need of root and branch reform. Too many Boards are cloaked in total darkness from the public who pay upwards of £2m a year to cover their expenses, or the prisoners in the establishments that they Monitor.
In 2019, is it still acceptable that we can know the name of the Head of MI5, but not the name of any IMB Member – that is what the Secretary of State has ruled, he claims for ‘personal safety reasons’?
If the IMB are to be taken seriously, and let’s not forget they are a statutory independent body, then they need to come from behind their cloak of secrecy and into the light of day, where they can be questioned and challenged on what they report or, more frequently, on what they help to conceal.
ANNUAL REPORT FROM THE INDEPENDENT MONITORING BOARD: HMP PENTONVILLE
Knock down Pentonville and start again, or urgently upgrade the decrepit, 174 year-old building if the new threats plaguing prisons up and down the land – ‘Spice’ and drones – are to be tackled.
That’s the stark message being delivered to the new Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, by the Victorian prison’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB).
Staff routinely intercept parcels being thrown over walls, but criminal gangs have successfully exploited the shoddy state of the prison’s windows by sending small, near-silent drones – which can be steered to window sills – with payloads of drugs, mobile phones, and other contraband, according to the Annual Report, published today.
Members of the board report seeing prisoners collapse after taking Spice (also known as New Psychoactive Substances) prompting prison officers and teams of healthcare staff to rush to their aid.
The report says: “Spice is driving a whole illicit economy, violence, self-harm and bullying. Pentonville’s security team works with the police and use drugs dogs to make every effort to stop Spice and other contraband getting in. But it is like holding a hand up against the incoming tide, when dilapidated windows in this ancient building make most parts of it porous.”
The report calls for the windows on the most exposed aspects of the prison to be replaced immediately while pointing out that plans to do so have been in place for two years: “Only 10 windows have been replaced. And not 10 of the worst because the glazing units were the wrong size. 100 more are supposed to follow. Everyone is waiting.”
Outsourced procurement and buildings maintenance firm Carillion have repeatedly failed to respond on time to jobs, according to the board, leaving cells out of action for days; chronic shortages of basic kit (towels, toothbrushes and soap); and a lift for wheelchair access to the visits hall out of action for 6 months.
“This is distressing for prisoners and families and frustrating for staff. The Board doubt that a problem with wheelchair access to the Ministry of Justice would be allowed to languish for 6 months.”
The North London prison’s population – of about 1290 inmates, including 120 Young Adults and 300 foreign nationals – has 40% more prisoners than the Prison Service’s own measure of ‘uncrowded capacity’.
Overcrowding coupled with a shortage of prison officers regularly leads to ‘temporary regimes’ in which safe staff-prisoner ratios can only be achieved by confining inmates to their cells. This means prisoners can’t get to basic education, vocational workshops or the library. So while board members welcome efforts to increase provision for such ‘purposeful activity’ – they note that library visits are down and educational attendance rates were just 56% in the last year.
Furthermore, staff shortages result in a litany of other problems: on-site and external healthcare appointments missed; drug tests curtailed in the ‘drug free’ Jubilee Wing; prisoners going without showers or unable to phone their families; and, extraordinarily, mental health assessments sometimes taking place through the locked doors of cells.
However despite these challenges, the report shows that Pentonville has bucked the national trend of increases in violent incidents with a modest, but encouraging, reduction in the period 2015-16 of 847 compared to 870 the previous year.
Staff morale has taken a battering over several years due to a combination of factors, not least poor annual reports, and a lack of investment from Government. But November’s announcement that nine new prisons would be built and “ageing and ineffective” Victorian prisons would be closed did not help matters, according to the report.
Although Pentonville has benefitted from the welcome transfer of a number of staff from the former women’s prison HMP Holloway, board members say more staff is not in itself enough: “The condition of this 174-year old prison is poor and nothing short of a massive injection of capital will improve the conditions for any but a handful of prisoners.”
The full report is available here: http://www.imb.org.uk/report/pentonville-2015-16-annual-report/
What are IMBs?
The Prison Act 1952 requires every prison to be monitored by an independent board appointed by the Secretary of State from members of the community in which the prison is situated. The Board is charged to:
- satisfy itself as to the humane and just treatment of those held in custody within its prison and the range and adequacy of the programmes preparing them for release.
- inform promptly the Secretary of State, or any official to whom he has delegated authority as it judges appropriate, any concern it has.
- report annually to the Secretary of State on how well the prison has met the standards and requirements placed on it and what impact these have on those in its custody.
To enable the Board to carry out these duties effectively its members have right of access to every prisoner, to every part of the prison and to the prison’s records.