Serco criticised over Doncaster Prison


A privately-run prison, HMP Doncaster, has been heavily criticised for locking up inmates in cells without electricity or running water for more than two days.

The prison, which is run by security giant Serco, is the latest jail to be slammed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) after inspectors found its “performance was in decline”.

The report comes as Labour hosts a summit in Westminster on what the party calls a “growing crisis in Britain’s jails”.

And it coincides with a troubling report from the Prison and Probation Ombudsman into self-inflicted deaths among young adult inmates, which found suicide risk assessments and monitoring arrangements were poor in too many cases.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan, who is hosting Labour’s Prisons Crisis Summit, will tell the gathering of prison governors, officers and charities: “The Government pretends all is well in our jails. But there is a yawning leadership gap under David Cameron and Chris Grayling.

“The Tories are in denial about the scale of the crisis and offer no solutions to tackle the mounting chaos. We can’t go on like this. Five more years of the Tories risks five more years of failure.”

The event comes after a wave of bleak figures published by the Ministry of Justice last month revealed a leap in the number of on-the-run inmates in the last year, as well as an increase in deaths in custody and a rise in the number of jails considered to be ”of concern”.

HMP Doncaster was “experiencing real drift”, according to inspectors, as levels of violence in the prison were found to be up to four times higher than typically seen in similar jails.

Some “extremely violent” incidents had been referred to the police and there had been a recent incident where a wing had been damaged by fire and vandalism.

The report also revealed some prisoners had been locked in cells with no running water or electricity for more than two days and had spent only short periods out of the cells.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said: “Despite some positive features, Doncaster was a prison with much that had to be put right, some of it urgently.

“The prison was experiencing real drift and performance was in decline. Some staff seemed overwhelmed by the challenges confronting them and needed more support.”

Elsewhere, Nigel Newcomen, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), examined 80 out of 89 self-inflicted deaths of prisoners aged 18 to 24 between April 2007 and March 2014 for his most recent report.

The Ombudsman found prison staff frequently placed too much weight on judging how the prisoner seemed or ‘presented’, rather than on known risks, even when there had been recent acts of self-harm.

In one case, an inmate with a history of mental health problems and previous suicide attempts discovered his girlfriend had ended their relationship and, on the same afternoon, a close relative had died. Despite this, his level of risk was not reviewed and two days later he was found hanged in his cell.

The report also reveals a fifth – 20% – of 18 to 24-year-olds examined had experienced bullying in the month before their death, compared to 13% of other prisoners.

Mr Newcomen said: “In our sample of 80 cases of self-inflicted deaths going back to 2007, challenging behaviour was common, with prison records detailing warnings for poor behaviour, formal adjudications and punishments for breaches of prison rules.”

The Ombudsman recommended prisons act more robustly to allegations of bullying, as well as more timely referrals for mental health treatment.

Labour’s Prisons Crisis Summit will be attended by prison governors, prison officers, former senior officials, charities, voluntary groups, police and crime commissioners and local authority representatives.

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (Noms), said: “Serco took immediate action in response to the inspection findings – strengthening the management team, prioritising safety and implementing a comprehensive improvement programme.

“I am confident that these actions have addressed the concerns identified by (the Chief Inspector of Prisons) but we will monitor progress closely to ensure the prison is able to deliver its regime safely and securely.”

In response to the Ombudsman’s report, Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, which provides specialist advice to people bereaved by a death in custody, said: “These deaths are the most extreme outcome of a system that fails some of society’s most troubled and disadvantaged young people, many just out of childhood.”

She said the report “is yet more evidence of the fatal consequences of placing vulnerable young people in bleak and unsafe institutions ill-equipped to deal with their complex needs.”

Commenting on excerpts of Mr Khan’s speech on prisons, a Conservative spokesman said: “This is just political posturing from Sadiq Khan.

“What he won’t tell you is that prisons are now less overcrowded, there is less self harm and the level of assaults is lower than under Labour. And those prisoners most likely to reoffend will now get a year’s support when they leave.

“Of course there are additional pressures on prisons, because we have had to make realistic assessments to deal with Labour’s record peacetime deficit.

“That means they are going through a period of change. But we are managing these pressures and our prisons are still running safe and decent regimes.

“This means we can make sure those who break the law are now more likely to go to prison, and go for longer than under Labour. That is part of our action plan to make Britain an even safer place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said: “On the day that the Prisons Ombudsman reports on vital lessons that must be learned if we are to prevent further young deaths in custody, we hear from the Chief Inspector of Prisons that Serco-run HMP Doncaster is a vast, filthy, drug-ridden institution with grossly inadequate first-night arrangements and poor staff supervision where violence and self-harm are rife.

“In dangerous environments like this the weak, people who are mentally ill, those with learning disabilities and vulnerable young people, suffer the most. In under two years our prison system has become less decent, less humane and less safe.”

Birmingham prison awash with drugs

Nick Hardwick - Chief Inspector of Prisons
Nick Hardwick – Chief Inspector of Prisons

Nick Hardwick HM Chief Inspector of Prisons today published his report on HMP Birmingham, operated bny G4S, in which he said the prison had postitive drug levels of almost 20% almost double the target figure:

“When we last visited HMP Birmingham in late 2011 its management had recently transferred from the public sector to G4S following a competitive process. This occurred amid some controversy and was fraught with risk.
Birmingham is a very large inner city local prison serving the local courts, and holding an unusually complex and challenging population. The prison is overcrowded and manages a significant throughput of prisoners, with over 100 passing through reception each day. The operational challenges the prison faced in providing a safe and decent environment were not to be underestimated. In 2011 we recognised that Birmingham had been a failing prison over many years. At the time it was too early to assess how the transition to the private sector was proceeding, although there were some encouraging early signs.
At this inspection we found a prison that, despite undergoing a significant change, was making good progress. Against three of our four healthy prison tests, including the test of safety, outcomes for detainees were reasonably good. The huge turnover of prisoners managed by the establishment was not helped by the long wait in court cells experienced by many prisoners prior to being moved to HMP Birmingham. This and the regular overcrowding drafts meant that they often arrived at reception late in the evening. Given the number of prisoners involved this put first night and induction procedures under great strain with some important action missed.
We found that first night staff were caring and generally did a good job of keeping prisoners safe, with most feeling safe on their first night. Nevertheless and tragically, there had been four self-inflicted deaths since our last inspection, with recent arrival at the prison a common feature. The safety of newly-arrived prisoners was a significant risk that required ongoing and heightened attention. Given the high levels of mental health problems in the population, it was notable that levels of self-harm had reduced over successive years. There was reasonable case management and good care provided to those deemed at risk.
The prison was calm and ordered and most prisoners generally felt safe. The number of violent incidents was not high and while some violence reduction initiatives required more rigour, the safer custody team was well motivated, proactive and known around the prison. Sex offenders were now safely accommodated on G wing, although overspill arrangements were less satisfactory. Despite some good supply reduction work the prevalence of illicit drugs remained stubbornly high. We were persuaded that this in part reflected wider issues in the West Midlands, particularly surrounding more organised criminality.
The prison was proactive in trying to combat this challenge. Substance misuse services to try to tackle demand had improved since the last inspection and ensured a useful range of interventions. The number of prisoners being segregated was commendably low and there was some good support on offer in segregation including some one-to-one work and some reintegration planning. This was better than we normally see although the segregation unit environment itself remained poor. Use of force was also low and management of the process was very good. We found Birmingham to be a more respectful institution than we have seen in previous inspections. Living conditions however, were mixed, ranging from old and tired Victorian wings to a significant amount of newer and better quality accommodation. Cleanliness and access to amenities was good but many cells were doubled up with unscreened toilets. Relationships between staff and prisoners were good and much improved from previous inspections.
The quality of formal prisoner consultation, some of it engaging with outside organisations and former prisoners, was a new strength of the prison. The management of diversity was generally good but support for minority groups remained mixed. Men with high care needs were looked after well, but the needs of some other disabled men were not met consistently. Black and minority ethnic prisoners were generally concerned with the same issues as white prisoners, although some Muslim prisoners felt less positive that their concerns were being listened to. Foreign nationals were particularly negative about their experiences at Birmingham. Complaints were poorly managed and prisoners had little faith in the process, although legal services were better than we normally see. Health care provision was generally good and valued by most prisoners. Mental health care support for the relatively high number of prisoners needing it was very good. The quality of food provided was reasonable although many prisoners still complained about its quality. Most prisoners had a reasonable amount of time out of cell, and the regime was predictable and rarely curtailed. Leadership and management of learning and skills provision was improving and the number of education and work places had increased since the last inspection, although there was still not enough.
A move to offer more activities on a part-time basis would help improve engagement, as would improving punctuality and attendance. Too much wing work was also mundane and did not help develop employability skills. Success rates in education achievements had improved but not sufficiently in the important area of functional skills, notably English. Access to the library was particularly poor and just a third of prisoners regularly used what was otherwise a good PE provision. Resettlement services were useful and effective but would be further enhanced and more focused if underpinned by a needs analysis of the population.
Prisoner perceptions of resettlement opportunities were improving and outcomes across the various resettlement pathways were reasonable. The prison had a well motivated offender management unit and there was a good focus on seeking to ensure offender assessments were mostly up to date. However, public protection work was much weaker and required attention. Overall and in the context of the risks and challenges faced by this prison, this is an encouraging report. Birmingham is well led and we found a much improved staff culture. Improvement is broadly based and a commitment to meaningful consultation with prisoners seems to be a new found strength of the prison. There is much more to do and Birmingham will always have pressures and risks to face. But the Director and his staff deserved credit for their achievements so far.”


HMP Gartree
HMP Gartree

HMP Gartree worked effectively to reduce the risk of prisoners reoffending, but needed to provide more work, training and education places, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison in Leicestershire.

HMP Gartree holds men convicted of serious offences who are serving long sentences. Its task is to help the men it holds to make progress in the long process of reducing their risks before eventual release. At its last inspection in 2010, inspectors found it was steadily improving. This more recent inspection found that improvement was continuing. The prison was mostly a safe and decent place and the work to reduce the risk that men would reoffend was good. The exception was in the amount of work, training and education the prison was providing, which was much too low for a training prison and threatened to undermine progress in other areas.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

most prisoners said they felt safe at Gartree, which was a real achievement;
the number of assaults was low;
despite two self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, there was a relatively low number of self-harm incidents;
the quality of some of the education and training on offer was good with high qualification success rates;
very good relationships between staff and prisoners ensured that the atmosphere remained stable and calm;
work to reduce the risk of reoffending was underpinned by good relationships and was better than inspectors normally see;
the environment was clean and well maintained;
rehabilitation activities correctly focused on work to address the risk that men might reoffend, there was a good evidence-based approach, and more men than at similar prisons said they had done something to reduce the risk they would reoffend; and
Gartree was running some impressive and innovative offending behaviour programmes.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

there were insufficient activity places for the population and the prison did not make the best use of the places it had;
some of the contract workshops did not have sufficient work to keep prisoners fully occupied;
the range of education on offer was too narrow, though managers had recognised that they needed to improve this and plans were in place;
the new incentives and earned privileges scheme (IEP) had been introduced and prisoners complained, with justification, that they had lost their ‘enhanced’ status because there were not enough formal opportunities available in which they were now required to demonstrate their positive behaviour; and
there were many accounts from prisoners about the availability of drugs and ‘hooch’ (illicitly brewed alcohol).

Nick Hardwick said:

“In many ways, the men held at Gartree and the wider community into which they will eventually be released are served well. The prison is safe, decent and works effectively and innovatively to help men reduce the risk that they will reoffend. However, there is still room for improvement. Some processes need to be tightened up and the prison needs to do more to reduce the risks of the too easily available drugs and alcohol. Above all, Gartree must ensure there is enough good quality activity available to provide all the men it holds with purpose, structure and the possibility of progress.”

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

“This is a positive report, which shows real progress being made at Gartree in providing both a safe environment and strong rehabilitation programmes for the prisoners it holds.

“The Governor and his staff are working to address areas where further improvements can be made, particularly in education and purposeful activity.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 2 July 2014 at

HMP WINCHESTER – Not enough progress


HMP Winchester was not making sufficient progress, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the Hampshire jail.

HMP Winchester is a complex establishment, in effect two prisons in one. The main category B site is a Victorian prison holding 556 men while the newer West Hill site is a category C training prison holding 129 men. At its last inspection in October 2012, inspectors found that outcomes had deteriorated sharply. Because inspectors were seriously concerned about the prison, this more recent inspection was, unusually, announced so that the prison would have a clear deadline for making improvements. There had been some progress but too little had been done.

As before, the prison was seriously overcrowded and was operating at 35% above its certified normal capacity. As a result of the closure of other local prisons in the west of England, the prison was serving a much larger catchment area. Some men’s progress had been set back because they had moved prisons in the middle of training courses or other work to address their behaviour. The prison had started to hold young adults following the closure of Reading Young Offenders Institution and was struggling to manage them safely. These population changes, budget reviews and other national policy initiatives had been challenging to manage.

Despite these challenges, inspectors were pleased to find that:

·         relationships between staff and prisoners had improved considerably;

·         the prison was much cleaner;

·         prisoners had more time out of their cells;

·         there had been a major effort to reduce the availability of illegal drugs and to improve support for prisoners with substance abuse problems;

·         health care services were getting better and support for at risk of self-harm was reasonable; and

·         there had been much better progress on the West Hill site than on the main site.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

·         the main prison remained insufficiently safe and more prisoners said they felt unsafe at the time of this inspection than at the last inspection in 2012 or than at other similar prisons;

·         measures to reduce violence were weak and measures to address the behaviour of bullies were ineffective;

·         the segregation unit continued to provide an unacceptably poor environment and regime;

·         there was a failure to collect and/or use data effectively to understand what was happening and to take the necessary corrective action;

·         not enough thought had been put into managing the behaviour of the newly arrived young adults, who were over-represented in violent incidents;

·         too many prisoners were still locked up during the day on the main site;

·         the management of learning and skills, the quality of provision and prisoners’ achievements all required improvement;

·         although the number of activity places had increased, too many available places stood empty; and

·         little thought had been given toWinchester’s new role as a resettlement prison and resettlement outcomes remained insufficient on both sites.


Nick Hardwick said:

“HMP Winchester had made progress since our very critical inspection in 2012 but the progress was slow and limited. The prison needs a clear focus on the basics – keeping the men it holds safe and secure, treating all of them decently and preparing them to return to the community at less risk of reoffending, with good quality activities and resettlement support. We will look forward to receiving their action plan in response to this report’s recommendations and will expect to see much greater progress when we return.”


Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:”As the Chief Inspector points out,Winchester has improved its performance since the last inspection but I accept there is more to do.


“A tougher violence reduction policy is now in place and the regime provides more activity and time out of cells for prisoners.


“The Governor will use the recommendations in the report to drive forward further improvement over the next 12 months”




Notes to Editors:

1.       A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 24 June 2014 at:

2.       HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.

3.       This announced inspection was carried out from 17-24 February 2014.

4.       HMP Winchester is a category B local adult male prison, with a separate category C unit known as West Hill.

HMP Bedford: Safe, well run, but more rehabiliation needed


HMP Bedford was a fairly safe and well run prison but it needed to do more to rehabilitate prisoners, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the local jail.

HMP Bedford is a small prison dating from the 19th century. At its last inspection in 2009, inspectors described a well run prison that tried to mitigate the risks it managed and was achieving some reasonable outcomes . This inspection has made similar judgements, although there had been some deterioration in the provision of work, education and training and resettlement services.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most prisoners in Bedford said they felt safe;
  • most violent incidents were relatively minor and the prison collected useful data to support its strategies to reduce violence;
  • the management of those at risk of self-harm was generally good;
  • the strategy to restrict the supply of illicit drugs was reasonably effective;
  • relationships between staff and prisoners were a real strength;
  • much had been done to ensure the prison was reasonably clean, although some cells were damp and many were doubled up;
  • although the amount of time out of cell varied greatly among prisoners, the daily routine seemed to be delivered consistently;
  • overall the quality of learning and skills opportunities provided was good, but much work on offer was low skill and mundane; and
  • health care services were good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the prison was very overcrowded;
  • young adults were significantly over-represented in violent incidents and more needed to be done to understand and address this;
  • accountability for the use of force, of which there were a significant number of incidents, also required improvement;
  • there had tragically been four self-inflicted deaths since 2009 but inspectors were assured lessons had been learned from these incidents and that investigation action plans were being followed up;
  • accountability for the use of segregation and the routine in the segregation unit needed to be better, although staff worked well with the prisoners held there;
  • there was sufficient purposeful activity for only half the population, although the prison had sought to maximise the limited space available for providing activity places;
  • resettlement services and offender management were not well coordinated; and
  • public protection arrangements were very weak and required urgent attention.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Despite its problems Bedford is a fundamentally well run prison that importantly is both safe and respectful. The prison is confronted with many risks and operates in a less than ideal environment, but continues to use its available resources well. There is evidence of some improvements in learning and skills provision and the confidence with which staff relate to prisoners underpins much of its good work. Bedford’s main priority must be a clearer focus on its resettlement function and greater competence in the management of risk of harm reduction, sentence planning and structure to ensure effective public protection.”

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

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector acknowledges Bedford is performing well and provides a safe and respectful environment for the prisoners it holds. The Governor and his staff should be commended for their hard work in achieving this. They will now use the report to continue to make improvements.”

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

HMP Send – A very effective women’s prison


HMP Send was a safe and decent prison which did excellent work to rehabilitate the women it held, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in Surrey.

HMP Send holds just over 280 convicted women prisoners, well over half of whom are serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious offences. Its last inspection was in 2011 and found a settled institution with an impressive regime for prisoners. This inspection found that improvement has continued and Send is now a very successful prison. It is one of the few prisons to achieve the highest grading for outcomes across all four healthy prison tests: safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement. An excellent range of interventions was offered to address offending behaviour, including a facility to address the needs of women with a personality disorder.

Inspectors were also pleased to find that:

  • Send was a very safe institution where violent incidents were very rare;
  • levels of self-harm continued to reduce and care for those who were vulnerable was good;
  • there was little evidence of significant illicit drug use;
  • women with alcohol issues received appropriate support;
  • living conditions and the environment were generally very good and relationships between staff and prisoners were particularly strong;
  • mental health provision was impressive;
  • prisoners had a good amount of time out of cell and reasonable access to the prison’s grounds;
  • learning and skills provision was well managed and there was sufficient education, training and work for all the women held; and
  • resettlement services were much better than inspectors usually see and offender management arrangements were good.

Inspectors felt that the promotion of equality and diversity required attention, although most outcomes were reasonable, and also thought support for women who had been victims of domestic violence should be improved. The incentives and earned privileges (IEP) arrangements supported the safety of the prison but some requirements, notably that the hoods be cut off women’s coats, were ridiculous.

Nick Hardwick said:

“We highlight a number of relatively minor concerns that will assist the prison, but overall this is an excellent report that describes the work of a very effective prison. Women, some of whom are dealing with long sentences and considerable personal challenges and risks, are kept safely and in a prison that affords them respect. They use their time usefully and their risks are addressed meaningfully. This is not only a good prison; it is a useful and effective prison. The governor and staff should be congratulated on their success.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 3 June 2014 at:

HMP HAVERIGG – Some progress but safety needs to improve


There was a real prospect of improvement at HMP Haverigg but it still had some way to go, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison in west Cumbria.

HMP Haverigg is perhaps the prison service’s most isolated prison. It had weathered the uncertainties of budget cuts, prison closures and new policies better than most prisons. It had maintained its performance, there was a real sense of momentum and realistic plans were in place to tackle some long-term weaknesses. Nevertheless, outcomes for prisoners were still not good enough in some crucial areas.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most prisoners said they felt safe, significantly more than at the last inspection and more than at comparable prisons;
  • support for men at risk of suicide or self-harm was consistently good;
  • staff-prisoner relationships were generally very good and mitigated some of the weaknesses in the prison;
  • health care had improved;
  • most prisoners were out of their cells for a decent amount of time during the day;
  • there was a wide range of work, training and education opportunities on offer which were linked to employment prospects in the areas to which most prisoners would return;
  • the ‘smokery’ produced and sold smoked food and provided a very realistic working environment; and
  • practical resettlement services, such as helping prisoners to find accommodation or a job on release, were generally good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • a minority of prisoners were subject to gang and debt-related bullying;
  • staff supervision was made difficult by the layout of the prison, with many prisoners accommodated in ‘billets’ or huts, poor external lighting and limited CCTV coverage;
  • not all incidents of violence were identified or investigated and support for victims was poor;
  • the use of segregation had increased, the use of force was high and some incidents were poorly dealt with;
  • the prison needed to improve its equality and diversity work and had little idea of the identity and needs of prisoners with protected characteristics;
  • there were too few work, training and education places available and allocation processes were inefficient; and
  • almost one-third of the population had an out of date or no OASys assessment.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Prisoners who kept their heads down, made the most of the opportunities on offer and whose needs were typical of the prison’s population as a whole would probably do reasonably well at Haverigg. However, those who needed more support or whose needs differed from the majority might have a less positive experience – sometimes to an unacceptable degree. Progress is being made and a positive, experienced staff group have created the foundations for further progress, but some processes need to be significantly improved and managers need to give close attention to ensuring that poor practice is challenged and improved.”

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

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the progress being made at Haverigg during a period of real change.

“The wide range of work, training and education is helping to rehabilitate and resettle offenders and the Governor and his staff deserve real credit for the continued improvement.

“They will now use the recommendations in the report as part of their ongoing plans for the future.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 29 May 2014:

HMP Whitemoor – A High Security Prison doing good work to manage its population

Whitemoor high security prison
Whitemoor high security prison

Most prisoners at HMP Whitemoor felt safe and the prison was generally calm and ordered, although vigilance was needed as there was potential for serious problems to occur, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the maximum security jail in Cambridgeshire.

HMP Whitemoor held 454 adult men at the time of the inspection, all of whom were serving long or indeterminate sentences for very serious offences. The prison held a disproportionately large Muslim population who accounted for approximately 40% of the total prison population. A small number of them had been convicted of offences relating to terrorism. Sixty-nine prisoners were held on the Fens unit, formerly the ‘Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder unit’, which provided intensive therapy to men with personality disorders. A further six men were held on the Close Supervision Centre (CSC), part of a network of facilities centrally managed by the Prison Service and inspected separately.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • prisoners at risk of self-harm were generally well supported;
  • security arrangements were appropriately stringent and illicit use of substances was well controlled;
  • support for those with substance misuse problems was very good;
  • living conditions were generally good;
  • in general relationships between staff and prisoners had continued to improve, although a small number of staff remained more distant;
  • time out of cell was reasonable and vocational training opportunities were good; and
  • all prisoners had good support from offender supervisors, public protection issues were very good and a range of offending behaviour courses appropriate to the population was offered.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • while use of force was low, oversight arrangements were poor and in a small number of cases, there was little use of de-escalation and evidence of excessive force being used; and
  • the segregation regime for a number of long-stay residents remained particularly poor.

Black and minority ethnic, Muslim and foreign national prisoners were much less positive about a range of issues relating to safety and respect and many Muslim prisoners said they felt victimised because of their faith. Some good work had been done to understand and address these issues better. The issues were complex. Across all groups, there were some very dangerous men, some of whom tried to influence and pressurise other prisoners. In some cases this was gang-related, and included some Muslim prisoners convicted of terrorist offences who were an adverse influence on others. It was important not to confuse this with a development of religious faith which, for Muslims as for other prisoners, could be an important factor in positive changes of behaviour. More was still needed to assure prisoners of all faiths that their concerns were being dealt with seriously. The recently established multi-faith forum was a positive initiative and greater use still could have been made of the impressive chaplaincy team.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Overall Whitemoor was a safe, respectful and purposeful prison which provided some constructive opportunities for prisoners serving long sentences to address their offending behaviour. However, we had real concerns about the management and application of use of force and segregation which impacted negatively on some of the most vulnerable prisoners in the population, and which were a significant exception to this generally positive picture. The prison was doing some good work to manage its very diverse population and to understand and address the concerns of the significant number of black and minority ethnic and Muslim prisoners held. However, this remained a major challenge that needed a consistent high level of attention.”

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

“Whitemoor manages very challenging and long-term prisoners so it is pleasing that the Chief Inspector has recognised the safe and purposeful environment it provides and the Governor and his staff deserve credit for their hard work in achieving this.

“They will now use the recommendations in the report to address the areas of improvement identified.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 22 May 2014:

Inspection report HMP Durham: Progress needs to be speeded up


Too many services at HMP Durham were not good enough although there was some good practice, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the north east local jail.

HMP Durham holds around 1,000 adult and young adult male prisoners. The jail dates back nearly 200 years, holding people in an aged infrastructure where virtually every cell is holding more people than it should. In addition, the prison has been subject to a competitive tendering process and is currently undertaking management reorganisations and benchmarking exercises. Durham has seen a lot of change and some progress but progress remains too slow.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • prisoner perceptions concerning their own safety seemed to be improving;
  • the prison had begun to tackle drug supply and reduction, while clinical treatment and support for those with drug problems had improved significantly;
  • most prisoners indicated that they felt well treated by segregation staff and inspectors noted the way segregation staff were supporting a man in isolation who had contagious TB but was refusing treatment;
  • the prison had recently opened a new health facility and mental health provision was excellent;
  • the provision of learning and skills activity was a strength and achievements of qualifications in education and vocational training were high;
  • support for resettlement needs was generally good, including some effective work to support prisoners in need of accommodation; and
  • contact and engagement by offender supervisors with prisoners before sentence planning was variable, but better than inspectors often see.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • arrangements to promote safety were not good enough: risk management, assessment and induction arrangements all needed to improve;
  • since its last inspection in 2011, four prisoners had taken their own lives and work to support those in self-harm crisis was weak, although incidents of self-harm seemed to be falling;
  • incidents of violence and anti-social behaviour were higher than expected and monitoring needed to be better;
  • mandatory drug testing suggested illicit drug usage was high and almost twice what would be expected in similar prisons;
  • problems associated with young adults, who were disproportionately represented in both the use of force and segregation, required better understanding by the prison; and
  • relationships between staff and prisoners were lacking and less than two-thirds of prisoners felt respected by staff.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Durham produces some reasonable and, at times, very good outcomes for prisoners. It is unusual that in an old Victorian local prison it is the quality of work activity and learning that is one of the prison’s best features. Resettlement services are also reasonably good. Durham, however, could be a better prison than it currently is. Many services, notably those run by operational staff, were not good enough. The prison has experienced some significant distractions in recent times but these should not be allowed to become excuses. Progress needs to be speeded up.”

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

“Durham has been implementing major changes in working arrangements and has improved its performance whilst significantly reducing cost to the taxpayer. There is more to do – but the Governor and his staff deserve credit for the progress made in challenging circumstances. We will use the recommendations in this report to achieve further improvements over the next 12 months.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 20 May 2014 at:

Dartmoor Prison – Certainty needed about its future


HMP Dartmoor could continue to improve but only if staff and managers have much greater certainty about its future, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the training jail in Devon.

HMP Dartmoor was established in 1809. Its isolated location and the age and dilapidated state of some of its buildings make it a very challenging establishment to run. A few months before its inspection, ministers announced that negotiations would take place with the Duchy of Cornwall, which owns the prison, about its closure. However, there is a notice period of 10 years and it is possible that the prison will continue to operate for years to come.

Despite the challenges of its environment and location, the prison could offer improved and reasonable prisoner outcomes for those it held. There had been improvements in some areas since its last inspection and there were some credible plans in place to make more. There were significant weaknesses but most of these were in the prison’s direct control. However, some certainty about the timeframe is needed for staff to know where they stand, facilitate sensible decisions about the capital investment required and provide a basis for effective planning to meet the needs of the prison population.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • reception processes were efficient and welcoming;
  • care for men at risk of suicide or self-harm was reasonable;
  • the environment of the segregation unit had improved and relationships between staff and prisoners were good, although very little was done to address the behaviour of those held there;
  • good efforts had been made to improve the external environment;
  • good and improved relationships between staff and prisoners mitigated the worst effects of the poor physical conditions;
  • Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust, the new health care provider, had improved health services;
  • most men enjoyed good time out of their cells; and
  • the education, training and work environment was impressive and the quality of what was provided was good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • too many prisoners said they felt unsafe, levels of victimisation were high and sloppy processes meant that the prison was not adequately sighted on the true levels of violence;
  • safety was compromised by the too ready availability of prohibited drugs which included synthetic cannabinoids such as ‘Spice’, tradable prescribed drugs, injected drugs and illicitly brewed alcohol, or ‘hooch’;
  • the new incentives and earned privileges scheme had been poorly implemented;
  • some cells were very small, some roofs leaked badly and some cells were damp;
  • too many men arrived without an up-to-date risk assessment or sentence plan, which compromised the progress they could make at Dartmoor;
  • following the closure of other prisons in the region, Dartmoor held a large population of sex offenders, a significant proportion of whom were judged to be in denial of their offence and there was no provision for them; and
  • although practical resettlement support was generally effective, visits arrangements were inadequate and did not take sufficient account of the isolated location of the prison.

Nick Hardwick said:

“There is a risk that staff and managers at HMP Dartmoor become paralysed by the things over which they have little control – the uncertainties over the prison’s future, the state of the buildings, the prison’s location and the make-up of the population it holds – and that this becomes an excuse for not addressing the things they can change. The improvements that have been made show what can be done by determined leadership. The prison and regional managers should now focus on reducing levels of violence, building on the improvements made to education, training and work, tackling the backlog of risk assessments and ensuring an effective strategy is in place to deal with the sex offender population.”

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

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has acknowledged the improvements made at Dartmoor.

“The decision to give notice on the lease is part of our wider strategy to modernise the prison estate but Dartmoor will continue to operate as a prison for a number of years yet, and we are therefore committed to support it developing the regime.

“The Governor will use the recommendations in the report to achieve further improvement at Dartmoor over the next few years.”

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