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 ‘Facts’ 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.”

  • FACTS
  • The full report, published on 18 September 2019, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons
  • 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.

 

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.”

Read the Report

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.”

Read the Report

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

HMP Pentonville – Poor safety and weaknesses across all areas but management starting to get a grip on problems

HMP Pentonville, one of the country’s oldest and busiest prisons, was found by inspectors to be failing to meet the “undoubtedly great challenges” it faces, with safety assessed as particularly poor.

However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, stopped short of invoking the rarely-used Urgent Notification (UN) protocol, which is designed to bring prisons with significant failings directly and publicly to the attention of the Secretary of State.

Mr Clarke considered, but rejected, a UN at Pentonville at the inspection in April 2019 because, he said, the relatively new governor and his senior team, with active support from the (Prison) Group Director, appeared finally to be getting to grips with longstanding problems.

“We found no denial of the gravity of the prison’s situation, and there was a clear recognition of the scale of the work to be done.”

The problems were clear and serious. Built in 1842, and largely unchanged structurally since, Pentonville holds up to 1,310 adult men. It epitomises the challenges confronting ageing, inner-city prisons with transient populations, many with heightened levels of need and risk.

Mr Clarke said that “the general failure to meet the undoubtedly great challenges faced by this prison and those held in it is reflected in our healthy prison assessments.” Safety was poor, and respect, purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning were all not sufficiently good.

Violence had increased markedly, by more than 50% since 2017, driven by gang affiliations, drugs, debt and a high proportion of relatively more volatile younger prisoners who were given no targeted support. A third of prisoners said they felt unsafe.

Use of force by staff had increased significantly, yet oversight and accountability were lacking. There was good attention to gang issues and staff corruption but drugs remained hugely problematic, with a random drug test positive rate of around 29%. There were weaknesses in the physical security of the prison and ineffective use of technology to detect illicit items coming in.

There had been four self-inflicted deaths since 2017. Recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following investigations had been implemented well in relation to health care but less so by the rest of the prison. Case management support (ACCT) for those in crisis was poor. Living conditions for many prisoners were still poor, with many cells overcrowded or badly equipped.

Only 57% of the prisoners surveyed said staff treated them with respect, much lower than at comparable prisons. Inspectors received several reports suggesting a poor attitude among some staff, and there was evidence of some deep-rooted cultural problems that obstructed positive work with prisoners. Many staff were inexperienced, though they were being given reasonable mentoring and leadership.

Daily routines were more reliable but nearly a third of prisoners were locked in cell during the working day. Inspectors were concerned that 95% of prisoners under the age of 22 said they usually spent less than two hours per day out of their cells during the week. There were enough part-time activity and education places for all prisoners, but despite some recent improvement attendance remained poor. The overall strategic approach to rehabilitation work remained weak.

Mr Clarke said that inspectors in 2017 had raised similar concerns to those in 2019 but noted, then, early signs of improvement. This, though, was “evidently a false dawn.”

He gave “very serious consideration” to invoking an Urgent Notification but, he added, “managers and many staff at all levels throughout the prison told us they were committed to the changes that were underway and expressed confidence in the leadership of the establishment.” HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) had ensured a recent influx of new staff.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“We left the prison with no illusions about the scale of the task ahead and with ongoing concerns about decency and safety for prisoners. The depressing cycle of promise and further decline cannot be allowed to continue. Managers appeared to be working together to bring about the changes that were needed. Indeed, many told us that within 12 months the prison would be vastly improved. We will test the reality of this claim through an independent review of progress (IRP), which will be followed in due course by a full unannounced inspection.”

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

“We are under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge at HMP Pentonville, but I share the inspectors’ confidence in this management team and fully expect to see real improvements. A new drugs strategy has been introduced at the prison to combine more cell searches with better addiction treatment, while a scanner to intercept illicit items in mail has been deployed. We are investing an extra £100m to boost security and safety across the estate to stop drugs, weapons and mobile phones getting in so we can protect staff, cut violence, and rehabilitate offenders.”

 Notable features from this inspection

  • Nearly 900 new receptions over the previous six months
  • 23% of prisoners are on remand
  • Nearly 10% of prisoners are under 21
  • 21% of prisoners are foreign nationals
  • 57% of prisoners are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
  • 600 prisoners released into the community in the last six months.
  • 25% of prisoners were receiving psychosocial support for substance misuse at the time of inspection.
  • 213 prisoners released on home detention curfew in the previous six months

Read the Report

HMP Isle Of Wight – Still Respectful But Less Safe, With Weaknesses In Release And Rehabilitation Work

HMP Isle of Wight – holding nearly 1,000 men convicted of sexual offences – was found to be a respectful prison but one where safety had deteriorated and rehabilitation and release planning was not sufficiently good: Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook, writes these findings have ‘shocked’ staff at the prison and are disputed by prisoners too.

Notable features from this inspection:

HMP Isle of Wight consists of two distinct sites, HMP Albany and HMP Parkhurst;

Cellular accommodation on wings 11 to 15 at the Albany site uses a night sanitation system requiring prisoners to be unlocked one at a time during the night to use the toilet;

40% of prisoners held are over 50 years of age;

83% of the population are high risk; 90% of prisoners are serving sentences of more than 10 years; in our survey, only 8% of prisoners said it was easy for family and friends to visit them, and only 7% said they received a visit each week.

Most of the prisoners held at the time of the inspection in April and May 2019 were serving long sentences for serious offences. Forty per cent of the population were over 50 years old and a significant proportion were elderly and sometimes frail. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the prison continued to house a very small remand population from local courts on the island, although it was ill-suited to this role.

Since the last inspection of Isle of Wight in 2015 the assessment of respect had slipped from good, the highest grading, to reasonably good, and safety fell from reasonably good to not sufficiently good. Purposeful activity remained at reasonably good and rehabilitation and release planning remained not sufficiently good.

Despite the deterioration in safety and respect, Mr Clarke said, much positive work continued at the prison. “Relationships between staff and prisoners remained good, underpinning prisoners’ experience of everyday life.” Most prisoners said they had a member of staff they could turn to if they had a problem and living conditions were also reasonably good.

Most prisoners could get 10 hours out of their cell each weekday and gym and library provision were good. Teaching and learning were also good and achievement rates were very high on most courses, though inspectors found a large number of prisoners underemployed in a significant number of wing roles.

More concerningly, Mr Clarke said, “we found prisoners had very poor perceptions of safety. In our survey, more than half said they had felt unsafe during their time at HMP Isle of Wight and nearly a quarter felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. While violence was still not widespread, it had risen significantly since the previous inspection and the response of managers was not good enough, leading to inconsistent challenge of perpetrators and little support for victims.”

Many Isle of Wight prisoners were held a long way from home and families experienced significant travel times and expense visiting the prison. It was therefore disappointing that support for prisoners to maintain contact with the outside world was limited to letters, phone calls and some fairly basic visits facilities.

The long-term, high-risk sex offender population presented significant challenges in rehabilitation and release planning, Mr Clarke said. “We found a very similar picture to the previous inspection. Fundamentally, some good work was undermined by a lack of up-to-date assessments of risk and need, high offender supervisor caseloads and a lack of contact between offender supervisors and prisoners.

“This meant the one-to-one motivational work needed with the large number of prisoners who were maintaining their innocence could not take place.” Around half the men at the prison maintained their innocence.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“HMP Isle of Wight is a respectful place where good relationships between frontline staff and prisoners result in many positive outcomes. However, there needs to be a better operational grip on safety. Managers need to address the weaknesses in offender management to ensure the prison fulfils its purpose of reducing the risks these long-term prisoners pose, both within the prison and, importantly, when they are eventually released.”

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

“The high-quality education and training at HMP Isle of Wight are vital for helping offenders lead a productive, law abiding life on release, but we recognise that more work is needed to make the prison safer. The Governor and his  staff are working hard to bring down levels of violence and self-harm, and the excellent relationships between prisoners and staff will be important in doing this. Every prisoner now has a dedicated officer giving them personal support and, combined with working closer with probation and local authorities, we expect to see an improvement in arrangements to prepare prisoners for release.”

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

The lack of safety at HMP Isle of Wight is contrary to the feedback that I get the from the two prisons on the Island.

HMP Isle of Wight has had a considerable influx from the YOI estate despite which HMP IoW is reported by residents and staff to be a safe prison.

The prison only does local release for remands and their sentenced population go onto the mainland, it is not resettlement prison, probation at the prison is overloaded and residents report it is often impossible to make appointments – despite which every resident has a dedicated Key Worker – even remands.

Over the last 18 months HMP IoW has taken numbers from the YOI estate and  some that have been re-catted from dispersal, the result is high testosterone levels, but the clear view of residents and staff is that it is a largely safe prison.

HMP IoW is a Level Three prison, out-performing many others.

As one IoW staff member told me: “I was shocked to read this report .. the thing about the inspection teams are they have to find fault in order to justify their existence.

“The reality is while HMPPS pays the wages that it does it is unlikely to retain the staff and so the experience that it needs, until that happens, HMPPS is going to keep slipping and Boris can forget about an additional 10,000 spaces, we do not have staff to run it now, never mind with 10,000 more.”

Facts

HMP Isle of Wight is a training prison holding around 1,000 prisoners, almost all of whom have been convicted of sexual offences. It opened in April 2009 with the merger of three prisons: HMP Albany, HMP Parkhurst and HMP Camp Hill. Albany was constructed in the 1960s and occupies the site of a former military barracks. Parkhurst was originally a military hospital and became a prison in 1863.

Camp Hill was built in 1912 using prisoner labour from Parkhurst, but closed in April 2013.

This unannounced inspection took place between 15 April and 2 May 2019.

Resettlement Work In YOIs – In Most Cases Letting Down The Children They Release, Say Chief Inspectors

Young offender institutions (YOIs) are largely failing to prepare children they release to live safe, law-abiding and productive lives in the community, according to a new report by two criminal justice inspectorates.

In too many case, those released do not have suitable accommodation lined up in time for the necessary support services to be put in place. Most have no training, education or employment arranged and mental health support is often lacking.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Probation, in a joint thematic inspection on resettlement work, principally in YOIs, also found inadequate planning to protect others, including families and younger children, from the risk posed by those released.

Every year, hundreds of children are released into the community from the five YOIs in England and Wales – many of them with very profound needs for support and follow-up care. Some pose a serious risk of harm to others.

The report noted: “With the exception of the casework team in HMYOI Wetherby,  none of the YOI-based agencies or departments we inspected were sufficiently focused on resettlement.”

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Justin Russell, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said: “We saw some examples of excellent resettlement work which offered children the best opportunities to change their lives and successfully reintegrate into their communities.” A common feature of the good examples was a ‘team around the child’ approach in which professionals worked together across agency boundaries.

“More often, though, we found that, while children were in custody, there was not enough productive resettlement work; this had detrimental consequences for them when they were released.

“The most damaging outcome was a lack of suitable accommodation identified in time for other services to be in place.” Ten days before release, almost 14% of children released in the first three months of 2019 did not know where they would be living after leaving the YOI. Most did not have education, training or employment arranged.

The inspection looked in detail at 50 cases of children released. “We judged that 38 out of 50… did not have these services in place at an appropriate time before their release. Mental health support was also, too often, not in place.”

Inspectors found that staff in YOIs – in casework, education and health care – were committed and enthusiastic, and interested in the welfare of the children. There was some imaginative resettlement work in all of the YOIs.

However, the report noted: “With the exception of the casework team in Wetherby, none of the YOI-based agencies or departments we inspected were sufficiently focused on resettlement.” Inspectors were concerned by a range of systemic weaknesses:

  • YOIs tended to concentrate on delivering services while the child was in custody that met their immediate needs and risks. Not enough thought was given to their future.
  • YOIs did not consider sufficiently often the risk to others that the child might pose on release.
  • None of the children who spoke to inspectors felt that the work that they had done in the YOI had helped them towards doing better on release.
  • Good work in mental health support during custody was often negated by a lack of attention to continuing support on release.
  • The children who reached 18 years old while serving a custodial sentence and were transferred to adult offending services faced additional difficulties with the loss of their rights to children’s services and the different expectations placed on them, often with little preparation or understanding.
  • Resettlement planning and interventions were mostly resource-led and formulaic. Children were ‘fitted in’ to what was available within the YOI, with little attention paid to their individual needs.

Mr Clarke said: “YOIs have not fully grasped the essential function of resettlement. They frequently neither enabled nor required their casework and other teams to deliver it. In addition, they have not ensured that resettlement work is understood, respected and prioritised across the whole YOI.”

Mr Russell said: “We found children and young people are being let down and are not being supported to succeed on release. Good mental health support in custody needs to continue in the community. Education and training should lead to purposeful activity and help individuals to fulfil their potential. Children and young people should have safe and secure accommodation on release. It is disappointing to see that four years after we last looked at this issue, so many of the same issues remain.”

NOTES:

The joint thematic report, published on 8 August, can be found at https://prisons.org.uk/YouthresettlementTR082019.pdf

There are five YOIs, holding children under the age of 18, in England and Wales – Feltham A in London, Cookham Wood in Kent, Werrington, near Stoke-on-Trent, Wetherby and Keppel in North Yorkshire, and Parc in Wales.

This inspection looked at the experience of 50 of these children who were released between October 2018 and April 2019 from all five YOIs. As well as examining the case files, our inspectors interviewed the case managers and children themselves wherever possible. They also used data collected on 115 children released in the first three months of 2019 and drew on a survey of over 600 children in custody undertaken by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

This interim report focuses on the outcomes for children immediately on release, and the operational work carried out to prepare them for release. It is largely, but not exclusively, about work carried out by staff working within YOIs.

A joint thematic inspection led by HMI Probation in 2015 found that:

  • Outcomes for children leaving custody were poor. The worst examples were the lack of suitable accommodation being considered early enough and the failure to organise appropriate, realistic education, training and employment provision or constructive activities at the point of release.
  • Resettlement work often started too late, and work in the community was not proactive enough during the custodial stage.

HMP Channings Wood: improvement and greater consistency across many aspects of prison life

HMP Channings Wood, a men’s prison in Devon, was found in an independent review of progress (IRP) to have successfully addressed many of the inconsistencies and weaknesses evident in a full inspection in 2018.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that at the inspection in September 2018, “we assessed outcomes for prisoners as not sufficiently good across all four of our healthy prison tests – the same assessment as at the previous inspection in 2016.

“We found that inconsistency of outcomes was a recurrent theme. This was best exemplified in varying standards being accepted across the different accommodation blocks, and in partial or uncoordinated implementation of initiatives designed to improve outcomes [for prisoners].” In 2018, Mr Clarke had concluded “that the enthusiasm and openness of managers at Channings Wood needed to be supplemented with active, visible leadership, ensuring that improvement was achieved and sustained.”

A largely positive IRP visit in July 2019 found that the prison and its leaders “had taken their cue very positively from our findings and recommendations, and within nine months had moved ahead in the great majority of the areas where we had identified weaknesses.

“In particular, our call for much greater coordination and consistency of standards had been heeded.” Reasonable or good progress had been made in carrying out 11 of the 13 key recommendations in 2018.

On two recommendations, inspectors judged there had been insufficient progress. However, Mr Clarke said that one of those – relating to the resourcing and timing of mandatory drugs tests of prisoners – had to be set against the prison’s overall improved effectiveness in tackling the supply of illegal drugs into the prison.

There was also insufficient progress in dealing with the poor physical condition of some of the living units but improvement in this area depended to a large extent on budgetary issues, “where other priorities had proved pressing on security grounds.”

Among positive IRP findings, the level of violence against staff had decreased, and in other areas of safety the figures relating to violence did not show any increasing trends. There were also some signs that use of new psychoactive substances, and of drugs in general, were on the decrease. Vulnerable prisoners said that they were now safer on their induction unit.

Inspectors found that leadership and governance in health and social care had improved, a more satisfactory complaints system had been established and there had been some recent improvements in equality work. Ofsted inspectors found some improvements in education, skills and work.

Work to reduce reoffending had already become more consistent, with layers of assurance added to ensure that public protection responsibilities were carried out thoroughly, especially for high-risk prisoners approaching release, Mr Clarke added.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“At this IRP, we found strong leadership beginning to bear fruit in real improvements to almost all of the areas which we followed up from our recent inspection. There was a clear sense of coordination and of direction; this was attested to not just by managers, but also by staff, and by some prisoners as well. Most staff whom we met or observed, including many in their first year of service, were engaged, appreciative of the new management approaches and well-motivated in their work.”

 Facts

HMP Channings Wood is a training and resettlement prison near Newton Abbot in Devon, holding up to 724 adult men.

Independent Reviews of Progress (IRPs) are a new type of prison visit, which began in April 2019. They were developed because Ministers wanted an independent assessment of how far prisons had implemented HMI Prisons’ recommendations following particularly concerning prison inspections. IRPs are not inspections and do not result in new judgements against our healthy prison tests. Rather they judge progress being made against the key recommendations made at the previous inspection. The visits are announced and happen eight to 12 months after the original inspection. They last 2.5 days and involve a comparatively small team. Reports are published within 25 working days of the end of the visit. We conduct 15 to 20 IRPs each year. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons selects sites for IRPs based on previous healthy prison test assessments and a range of other factors. For more on IRPs please see – https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/about-hmi-prisons/independent-reviews-of-progress-irps/

This IRP visit took place between 1 and 3 July 2019.

At this IRP visit, we followed up 13 of the 60 recommendations made at our most recent inspection and made judgements about the degree of progress achieved to date. We judged that there was good progress in six recommendations, reasonable progress in five recommendations and insufficient progress in two recommendations. We found no recommendations where there had been no meaningful progress.

Police Terrorism Act (Tact) Custody – Many Positive Features With Recommended Improvements Focusing On Governance

The first independent inspection of the treatment and conditions for detainees in specialist police Terrorism Act (TACT) custody suites found good care for those held.

Inspectors reported that the environment and conditions in which detainees were held in five suites in England and Wales were generally of a good standard. Detainees were treated respectfully.

The inspection, in January and February 2019, was conducted jointly by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. It focused on the experience of the detainee in relation to custody and did not cover criminal investigations or their outcomes. Among positive features, inspectors noted that:

  • Custody staff spoke to and treated detainees respectfully, and considered and maintained their dignity during their detention. Their interactions with detainees were professional and courteous throughout.
  • There was good attention to meeting detainees’ individual and diverse needs. Female detainees generally received good support and care, and custody staff were sensitive to detainees’ religious and cultural needs and took care to ensure these were met.
  • Physical conditions in TACT custody suites were very good. Most cells were slightly larger than standard custody cells and had additional facilities to reflect the much longer periods that TACT detainees can be held. There was a focus on diverting children from custody, where possible. Very few children were detained but those who had been received good care.

Overall, the report made clear there were good outcomes for detainees despite some weaknesses in governance and leadership. The inspection found some areas of concern in the provision of TACT custody – a collaboration between Counter Terrorism Policing nationally and the forces in England and Wales which host the five TACT custody suites.

These areas included:

  • There was no national framework or guidance within which forces could operate, resulting in inconsistent approaches to delivering TACT custody and different practices across the forces. The report recommended that Counter Terrorism Policing should provide a clear framework for delivering TACT custody, supported by national policies and guidance, within which all forces can operate.
  • There was a lack of governance and oversight by senior officers in each of the forces, and the lines of accountability for TACT custody were unclear. The report recommended that each force should strengthen its governance arrangements with senior officers taking clear accountability for the delivery of TACT custody in their force.
  • Not enough information was collected or monitored at national or force level to show how well custody services were performing and whether the required standards for detainees were met. It was recommended that each force should gather and monitor comprehensive and accurate information on TACT custody to assess how well the services are performing. Counter Terrorism Policing should develop a performance framework to assess performance at a national level.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector or Prisons, and Wendy Williams, HM Inspector of Constabulary, said:

“Overall this was a good inspection with many positive features. Custody staff provided good care for detainees, meeting and, in some cases, exceeding required standards. The environments and conditions in which detainees were held were generally of a good standard. The main areas we identified for improvement related to governance, oversight and consistency of approaches and procedures. The network and individual forces were open to external scrutiny and, during the inspection, had already recognised and started to address some of our concerns. We were confident that the required improvements would be delivered.”

Read the Report

  • FACTS

This report sets out the findings from an inspection of Terrorism Act (TACT) custody facilities in England and Wales in January and February 2019. This inspection, conducted by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), was the first one of custody facilities holding people detained for terrorism offences or terrorism-related offences. Individuals arrested for terrorism offences are detained at one of five TACT custody suites situated across the country. These detainees can be held in custody for up to 14 days, significantly longer than detainees held in mainstream custody.  Because of this, there are different arrangements under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) for the detention, treatment and questioning of detainees. We set out the legal background to TACT detention in the section in the report on Context. Responsibility for the safe and respectful delivery of custody in the TACT suites rests with the chief constable of the force in which the TACT custody suite is situated. Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) oversees the provision of TACT custody and has a national strategic role in directing, coordinating and supporting TACT custody.

This inspection assessed the effectiveness of custody services and outcomes for people detained on suspicion of terrorism offences or terrorism-related offences throughout the different stages of detention. It forms part of our wider work to inspect all police custody suites in England and Wales on a rolling programme. These inspections focus on the experience of the detainee in relation to custody and do not cover the criminal investigation or outcome of this. We examined the national framework for TACT detention suites provided through, and overseen, by CTP. There are five police forces that host a TACT custody suite, and the inspection also examined their approach to custody provision in relation to safe detention and the respectful treatment of detainees, with a particular focus on vulnerable people and children,