HMYOI Werrington – Improvements made but challenges remain say Inspectors


HMYOI Werrington was working more positively with the young people it held, but still had areas to address, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the young offender institution near Stoke-on-Trent.

HMYOI Werrington holds up to 160 boys under the age of 18. During the inspection about two-thirds were sentenced and one-third on remand. The significant risks and accountability of institutions holding children and young people means they are now inspected more frequently. This inspection followed an inspection in 2012 where inspectors found a reasonably caring institution, but one that had slipped back, where expectations were too low, poor behaviour not sufficiently challenged and where young people had little to do. This inspection found some improvements, but with significant shortcomings remaining.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the new purpose-built reception was impressive and young people reported very positively about their treatment on arrival;
  • behaviour management had improved;
  • use of force had fallen, was better managed and incidents were now more likely to be de-escalated by staff;
  • child protection and safeguarding arrangements were very effective and Werrington was well connected with the local authority in support of this work;
  • relationships between staff and young people were positive, but this was often not reflected in formal structures such as case notes or an effective mentoring scheme;
  • there were higher expectations of young people and outcomes for young people from minorities were reasonably good;
  • young people generally had a reasonable amount of time out of cell;
  • Werrington was developing its strategy to improve learning and skills and attendance and behaviour were better; and
  • work in support of resettlement remained good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • although anti-bullying measures were more robust, levels of violence remained high;
  • the quality of respect was critically undermined by some very poor environmental conditions: some cells were filthy and a few were not in a fit state to house young people; and
  • some teaching required improvement and the range of vocational training was limited.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Werrington has taken steps to address some of the key issues we identified at our last visit. There is now a more positive approach to working with young people and some significant risk continues to be reasonably well managed. This will be more sustainable and useful if it is supported by effective systems and structures to embed the improvement. Improvements to the provision of purposeful activity need speeding up and the cleanliness of accommodation requires immediate attention.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector recognises the progress that is being made at Werrington.

“The Governor and his staff are working positively to offer good resettlement and improve the behaviour of a complex and challenging population.

“They will continue to build on these improvements as they address the recommendations set out in the report.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 6 March 2014 at

HMP Blantyre House – Good resettlement Prison But With Shortcomings


HMP Blantyre House had many strengths but needed to adjust to its changed population, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the resettlement prison in Kent.

Blantyre House is a small, semi-open prison which holds prisoners who are coming to the end of long or indeterminate sentences and are being prepared for release. Its last inspection in 2010 found that outcomes for prisoners were good in all areas. Outcomes in this recent inspection were less good, although the prison still compared well with similar establishments. In 2010 the prison had been able to select the prisoners it held and was able to tailor its services to meet a significant but narrow range of needs. At the time of this inspection, a central unit made the allocations and Blantyre House could no longer select who it held. As a consequence the prison was holding men who presented a wider range of needs and risks than before but its work and resources had not been sufficiently adjusted to meet these new requirements.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the primary purpose of the prison was resettlement, but the prison had not assessed how the needs of its new population had changed;
  • contact between offender supervisors and prisoners was good, but not sufficiently focused on reducing reoffending;
  • public protection work was insufficiently robust;
  • there were too few places available for paid or unpaid work in the community and efforts to assist prisoners in finding something suitable were lacklustre;
  • there were insufficient training and employment opportunities inside the prison;
  • there had been two recent serious assaults, which appeared, in part, to be due to the availability of ‘Spice’ – a synthetic cannabinoid – and associated debt and bullying; and
  • there was very little self-harm but a self-inflicted death shortly before the inspection, the first at the prison, underlined that there was no room for complacency.

Despite these shortcomings, most prisoners still had a safe, respectful and productive experience at Blantyre House. Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • staff-prisoner relationships were excellent and underpinned much of the work of the prison and made good its procedural deficiencies;
  • the environment was decent and most prisoners had very good time out of their rooms;
  • most practical resettlement arrangements were effective;
  • release on temporary licence, a critical part of the rehabilitation process, was well used for most purposes and overall the risks were properly assessed, though there was insufficient multi-agency engagement in managing the risks of those released;
  • few prisoners felt unsafe; and
  • there was very little use of force or formal disciplinary processes, but prisoners whose behaviour was concerning were quickly sent back to closed conditions.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Blantyre House still retains many of the strengths we have identified in the past. In particular, its small size means there is an opportunity for its experienced staff to get to know prisoners well and address their needs and behaviour in a personalised way that is simply not possible in larger establishments. Those strengths should be advantages in dealing with the wider and more complex range of needs among the prisoners Blantyre House now holds – but neither the prison nor the wider prison service have yet got to grips with the changes required to meet these needs or the resources necessary to make them.”

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

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted Blantyre House as a good resettlement prison with safe and productive conditions – this is a credit to the hard work of the Governor and his staff.

“We recognise that the population at Blantyre House is more complex and challenging than previously and the Governor and his team will continue to have the support needed to take forward the recommendations in the report.”

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

HMP Dovegate Therapeutic Community – Working Effectively to Reduce The Risk of Reoffending

HM Prison Dovegate - operated by Serco
HM Prison Dovegate – operated by Serco

HMP Dovegate’s Therapeutic Community was doing some good work with prisoners to reduce the risk they posed, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the facility at the Staffordshire jail.

The Dovegate Therapeutic Community (TC) is a distinct institution holding up to 200 men, contained within the larger HMP Dovegate. The main prison, a category B training prison, is inspected separately. Dovegate TC is based on the concept that democratic therapeutic communities, run by both staff and prisoners, should be central to the way the prison operates. Prisoners are given a real say in the day-to-day running of the prison and have far more influence over their experience of prison life than at normal prisons. This happens within the context of the usual security imperatives of a category B prison holding men on indeterminate or long sentences. Men arrive at Dovegate TC needing to be more open about their offending and related institutional behaviour and to being challenged by peers and staff within therapy and community groups. Often they have a history of serious violent offending, poor institutional behaviour and prolific self-harm.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • Dovegate TC remained a safe prison, with very few incidents and most day-to-day safety problems dealt with by the communities rather than by more formal processes;
  • support for the small number of men vulnerable to self-harm was good, as was support for men with substance misuse issues;
  • staff-prisoner relationships were very good, which underpinned much of the work being done;
  • time out of cells was good, but sometimes affected by problems in the main prison;
  • leadership of learning and skills was developing, but some elements of quality improvement needed to be fully embedded;
  • resettlement support was good and men were encouraged to address their risks of re-offending; and
  • some very good work was being done during therapy, but problems in delivering some key aspects of therapy risked undermining effectiveness.

However, inspectors had some concerns:

  • men spent their first few months on the assessment unit and they had little to do that was purposeful;
  • the lack of experienced TC members in the unit was affecting the transfer of some key elements of the TC’s ethos;
  • prisoners needed to feel confident enough to raise concerns in therapy about other prisoners’ behaviour, and this was not fully embedded, which needed to be addressed head on;
  • the focus of learning skills as complementing therapy needed to be better understood and supported by staff; and
  • the promise of the national integrated personality disorder pathways strategy had not yet been realised, which was a wasted opportunity to ensure men arrived at the prison at the right time, and that there was a structured plan for them to progress after completion of the programme.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Overall, Dovegate provided a safe, respectful but testing environment for the prisoners it held and the public as a whole benefited from its effective work to reduce the risk that they would reoffend after release. We identified some weaknesses, but we were reassured that management had already identified and begun to address most of them. This provided grounds for optimism that the good work of the prison would not just be continued but be enhanced.”


Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the good work at Dovegate Therapeutic Community.

“It is a safe prison that is working well to rehabilitate a complex population and reduce their risk of reoffending.

“The director and his team will take forward the recommendations made in the report as they continue to build on their progress.”


A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 27 February 2014 at:

HMP Pentonville – “Huge Challenges”

Exercise yard at Pentonville Prison, north London
Exercise yard at Pentonville Prison, north London

HMP Pentonville was very concerning, despite the best efforts of many staff and governors, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the north London local jail.

At the time of the inspection, Pentonville was seriously overcrowded and held 1,236 men, 35% above its certified normal accommodation. More than half the population were held on remand or for short sentences of less than six months. All local prisons hold needy and challenging populations but at Pentonville this was especially so. Eleven per cent of men had been assessed as malnourished when they were admitted to the prison. About half of all the men held were on the caseload of the prison’s drug and alcohol service. The mental health service received about 100 referrals a month. The prison was shortly to start taking remanded young adults who would no longer be held at HMP YOI Feltham.

The staffing reductions the prison was required to make were having a number of serious consequences. A number of staff accepted for voluntary redundancy were still working at the prison; some were disengaged and their attitudes were having a detrimental effect on the prison as a whole. Prison service procedures, which did not take into account the London recruitment market, were making it difficult to fill some critical posts. The prison was operating at well below its agreed staffing levels and the governor was due to move. In the face of all this, inspectors were impressed that in some areas there had been improvements.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • some good systems were in place to tackle antisocial behaviour;
  • the very high levels of violence found at the last inspection had reduced, but levels remained slightly higher than in similar prisons;
  • first night arrangements had improved;
  • support for those most vulnerable to self-harm was good, but the application of some safer custody processes needed to be more consistent;
  • the prison was vigorously combating the supply of drugs and alcohol and support for the large number of prisoners with substance misuse issues was well developed;
  • managers had worked hard to improve the personal officer scheme;
  • the large number of foreign national prisoners received some good support, but the Home Office’s input on immigration matters was inadequate;
  • the quality of teaching mostly good;
  • strategic management of resettlement work had improved and the approach was based on a good needs analysis of the population; and
  • reintegration planning was reasonable, though too many prisoners were being overlooked.

However, inspectors were concerned that:

  • almost half of prisoners said they had felt unsafe in the prison at some time;
  • the core day was unpredictable and prisoners were often unlocked late and association cancelled because of staff shortages;
  • the segregation unit environment and regime were particularly poor;
  • despite the prison’s efforts to combat drugs, positive drug testing results were high;
  • the physical conditions were poor and there were vermin infestations;
  • prisoners struggled with basic needs such as access to showers;
  • while some staff carried out good work, too many were distant and, on occasion, dismissive;
  • management of learning and skills had not sufficiently progressed, there were insufficient activity places for the population and those available were not well used; and
  • although good work was being carried out with high risk and indeterminate sentence prisoners, the focus on other groups was less well developed.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Pentonville faces huge challenges and many staff and governors have worked with determination and skill to meet them. At the time of the inspection the prison was going through a particularly difficult time as it made the transition to new staffing levels. Nevertheless, it is clear that Pentonville cannot operate as a modern 21st century prison without investment in its physical condition, adequate staffing levels to manage its complex population and effective support from the centre. It these things cannot be provided, considerations should be given to whether HMP Pentonville has a viable future.”

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

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector recognises that progress has been made at Pentonville in important areas despite the challenges inherent in running a large, old prison with a highly transient and challenging population.

“The reduction in violence and the advances in resettlement are particularly noteworthy and the former Governor and staff deserve credit for the progress made.

“At the time of the inspection the prison was transitioning to new staffing profiles and new working arrangements which will provide a decent, consistent and stable regime for prisoners going forward. Pentonville will receive the support it requires to build on the progress made and to address the further recommendations set out in this report.”

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


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

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

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

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

However, inspectors had some concerns:

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

Nick Hardwick said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

HMP Norwich: Improvements but more to do


HMP Norwich had improved in some important areas but much remained to do, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of the local Norfolk jail.

HMP Norwich is an overcrowded local prison holding a complex mix of remand and sentenced prisoners and young adults. The prison was split across three distinct sites with different functions. Most prisoners were held on the ‘reception’ site which acted as a local prison for mainly remanded and category B prisoners. The Local Discharge Unit (LDU), outside the main perimeter, held category C prisoners and some specialist functions. Britannia House, also outside the main perimeter, was a resettlement unit for category D prisoners. The last inspection in January 2012 identified some serious concerns and inspectors returned to check progress more quickly than usual.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • vulnerable prisoners had been moved from the threatening environment on A wing and most were now held in a better and calmer environment on C wing and had a better regime;
  • the number of violent incidents and the use of force had fallen;
  • the number of prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm who were being managed on open ACCTs (assessment, care in custody and teamwork case management) had fallen;
  • the segregation unit offered a better environment;
  • the care and management of older prisoners and young adults was better than inspectors normally see;
  • prisoners had more time out of cell and there were more activity places available; and
  • there had been improvements in the quantity and quality of learning, skills and work since the last inspection, though more was required.

However, inspectors had some concerns:

  • the numbers of prisoners on open ACCTs, though reduced, was still high and care was inadequate in too many cases;
  • prisoners who were the victims of bullying felt unsupported and inspectors found some prisoners too frightened to leave their cells;
  • the prison was not sighted on the true levels of violence and bullying;
  • problems were most acute on A wing which acted as a first night and induction centre and a centre for those receiving treatment for drug and alcohol misuse;
  • many prisoners on open ACCTs were held on A wing and staffing levels were completely inadequate to manage the mixed population safely;
  • prisoner mentors were being used to conduct sensitive first night interviews with new arrivals, which was dangerous and open to abuse;
  • staff were stretched across the prison and prisoners sometimes struggled to get basic issues, such as mail, sorted out;
  • many prisoners assessed as having poor literacy and numeracy were unwilling to address this; and
  • offender management was not central to the work of the prison, though most practical resettlement services were adequate.

Nick Hardwick said:

“HMP Norwich has made progress since our last inspection. The treatment and conditions of prisoners was satisfactory and they had good practical help to prepare them for release. The treatment of older prisoners and young adults was very good. Prisoners in Britannia House had very good opportunities to obtain and keep a job on release. However, there were still too many exceptions: not enough prisoners had an activity place, too many services were inconsistent and, of most concern, A wing was not safe. The issues on A wing need to be addressed as a matter of urgency and we hope this report will help the prison to do this and to make the sustained improvements required.”

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

“Norwich is a complex prison and I am pleased that this report acknowledges the progress it has made, which is to the credit of the Governor and his staff.

“As the Chief Inspector points out there is more to do – and the Governor has taken action to address these issues, particularly on A Wing.”

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

Offenders with learning disabilities being ignored say inspectors


The needs of many people with learning disabilities are going unnoticed when they are arrested by police, go to court and are sentenced, according to independent inspectors. They have published the report of a joint inspection into people with learning disabilities within the criminal justice system which said their needs should be recognised and addressed.

The report, A joint inspection of the treatment of offenders with learning disabilities within the criminal justice system: phase 1 from arrest to sentence, reflects the findings of HM Inspectorate of Probation, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and the Care Quality Commission. The inspection covered activity at police stations, the prosecution and court process, pre-sentence report preparation and the assessment and planning undertaken at the start of the community order.

No clear definition or agreement exists across criminal justice and health organisations about what constitutes learning difficulties or disabilities. Although believed to be a sizeable minority, possibly as high as 30%, there is no way of knowing the number of people with such conditions within the criminal justice system. Adequate provision is, consequently, not always made by the agencies involved to cater for their specific needs.

Inspectors were concerned to find

  • little had changed by way of effective screening of detainees with a learning disability at the police arrest stage;
  • few medical or psychiatric professionals were specifically trained to work with people with learning disabilities in police custody suites;
  • a lack of knowledge and training led to offenders with a learning disability being perceived as a problem to be processed rather than an individual with particular needs requiring individual help;
  • too often, offenders with learning disabilities were not receiving the support they required to reduce their risk of harm to others or their likelihood of reoffending;
  • in some areas police custody sergeants said appropriate adults were not always available to assist with cases;
  • only one of the police forces inspectors visited had a mechanism to divert offenders from custody before arrest on the grounds of identified mental health problems or a learning disability;
  • in other areas, diversion schemes were implemented within the court building rather than before or at arrest. Earlier interventions might have avoided the need for a costly and stressful court process in some cases;
  • in two-thirds of the cases inspected, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was not provided at key stages with information regarding the offender’s learning disability; although all the decisions examined were correct, this information is vital to ensure they are properly informed; and
  • pre-sentence reports were not always based on an appropriate risk/needs assessment and in the majority of cases, the assessment emphasised the offender’s need rather than any risk they may have posed to the public. As a result, these offenders were sometimes denied access to interventions to address their offending.

In his review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system, published in 2009, Lord Bradley suggested that ‘the police stage in the offender pathway provides the greatest opportunity to effect change’. The recent government announcement confirming the decision to extend the provision of mental health and learning disability nurses to police stations and courts in ten pilot areas is a positive development.

The chief inspectors made recommendations for improvement for police forces, the CPS, the Department of Health and NHS England (Health and Justice), probation trusts, and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. These recommendations included the criminal justice agencies jointly adopting a definition of learning disability, ensuring information is shared and making effective screening tools available in custody suites.

HM Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service and Chair of the Criminal Justice Chief Inspectors Group, Michael Fuller QPM, said on behalf of all inspectorates:

“Although we found some excellent examples of professionals going the extra mile to ensure that individual offenders with learning disabilities received the appropriate support they required, such instances were exceptional and these deficits were mirrored across the criminal justice system.

“A balance needs to be struck between the support needs of those with learning disabilities and the need to hold them to account, where appropriate, for their offending. If offender engagement is to have any real meaning it has to start with an understanding of the offender’s learning ability and style based on an effective screening of all offenders.

“For those with a learning disability this is even more important as failure to identify and address their needs denies them their right to access services both inside and outside the criminal justice system.”

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

HMP Holme House – real strengths but concerns remain


HMP Holme House had made some solid improvements but needed to go further, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the local jail near Stockton-on-Tees.

Holme House is a large prison holding around 1,150 prisoners. Its last inspection in 2010 was broadly positive although the prison faced significant challenges. This more recent inspection was similar. Findings were largely positive with some significant exceptions, exacerbated by the disruption arising from the implementation of the prison service ‘benchmarking’ exercise.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • levels of violence were low and most prisoners felt safe;
  • the care for prisoners identified as being at risk of suicide and self-harm was good and there were few self-harm incidents;
  • the use of force was low;
  • there had been some improvements in tackling the misuse of drugs but these needed to be sustained;
  • staff-prisoner relationships had improved considerably;
  • mental health services were very good and most officers had been trained in mental health awareness;
  • most prisoners were involved in work, training or education throughout the day and the ‘working prison’ operated in four workshops; and
  • resettlement agencies worked hard to identify and help prisoners to prepare for release, assisting them with housing, job-related, health care and substance misuse issues.

However, inspectors had some concerns:

  • there had been five self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection and what appear to be two further self-inflicted deaths since this inspection;
  • although care for those identified at risk of self-harm was good, there was a danger that poor first night safety arrangements meant that those who needed support might be missed;
  • first night cells were dirty with broken equipment and there was little support from staff or prisoner mentors for those new to prison;
  • many cells were dirty, toilets were inadequately screened and some prisoners shared cells designed for one which were too small;
  • laundry arrangements were chaotic and there were insufficient phones and showers; and
  • the needs of prisoners with protected characteristics were not sufficiently identified or met and staff still refused to push prisoners in wheelchairs.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Holme House faces significant challenges and has to make a difficult transition to the new working arrangements its benchmarked staffing levels require. Despite these challenges, important progress has been made since the last inspection. Ensuring adequate first night arrangements, that prisoners can deal with their basic personal needs and that all prisoners receive equitable outcomes are key priorities for the future.”

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

“I’m pleased that the Chief Inspector recognises the progress that has been made at Holme House and the safe and purposeful environment it provides for the prisoners it holds.  The improvements achieved are a credit to the Governor and her staff.

“We are determined to maintain momentum and once established the new working arrangements will ensure that we continue to deliver a good quality regime but at lower cost to the public.

“Action has already been taken to address the concerns about first night care and arrangements are in place to meet the wider recommendations in the report.”

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

HMYOI Wetherby Keppel Unit – High standards of care in well run facility

A child in the Keppel Unit at Wetherby YOI
A child in the Keppel Unit at Wetherby YOI

The Keppel Unit at HMYOI Wetherby was extremely well run and provided a model for other specialist units for young people, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the special unit at the young offender institution in West Yorkshire.

HMYOI Wetherby’s Keppel Unit, which opened in 2008, is designed to provide a safe and supportive environment for some of the most challenging and vulnerable young people in the country whose needs cannot be met in the mainstream prison system. It is the only unit of its kind in the secure estate. This was its third inspection. Each time inspectors have reported positively about the conditions and the way young people were being treated. On this inspection, inspectors found that the positive culture and work practices had developed to a higher level and now provided a model of how a specialist unit should be run.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • high quality care was delivered in an environment where young people had the chance to settle and the opportunity to thrive;
  • all young people had an up-to-date care plan which ensured that their needs were under constant review;
  • levels of self-harm remained a concern but those at risk were well supported;
  • relationships between staff and young people were very good and staff intervened quickly to prevent bullying and fights from escalating;
  • leadership of the unit was strong and consistent, helping staff from different disciplines to work well as a team;
  • the unit was well designed, which helped to create a calm atmosphere;
  • the education department offered a supportive environment and poor behaviour was dealt with effectively;
  • time out of cell was adequate and young people had regular time in the open air; and
  • progress had been made in co-ordinating resettlement work and there was now greater involvement by external partners in safeguarding and child protection arrangements.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • removal from the unit was still used as a punishment and routine strip searching still took place with force sometimes used to gain compliance; and
  • many young people struggled to maintain regular contact with their families, a key element of support working towards and on release, due to the distance they were held from home.

Nick Hardwick said:

“In the five years since its inception a positive ethos has been established and sustained within the Keppel unit and good work practices have become embedded. Despite their vulnerability, young people were provided with a high standard of care within a well-run facility. Our findings reflect the positive reaction from most young people and overall, the outcomes available were having a constructive and positive influence on some otherwise difficult young people. The secure estate has much to learn from the positive way the Keppel unit has been developed over recent years.”

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

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has recognised the excellent work being undertaken at the Keppel Unit.

“Staff look after some very challenging young people with highly complex needs, and the care they provide is outstanding. They can be very proud of this very positive report.”

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

Brixton Prison – ‘Too Much on Hold’ say Inspectors


HMP Brixton needed to do more to build a new culture and ways of working to suit its changed role, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the south London jail.

Some 12 months before the inspection, HMP Brixton been re-designated to a category C/D resettlement prison, ending the role it has had for many years as a category B local prison holding remand and short-sentenced prisoners. The inspection found the prison with plans well advanced but not yet delivered for the major improvements to its facilities required for its new role. Although the prison now held a mixture of category C and low risk category D prisoners, its regime and facilities were little changed from its former category B role. Work was well underway to provide new and refurbished activity buildings that should provide sufficient activity places for the entire population and a new learning and skills manager had begun to address issues of quality and prisoner achievement. However, there was a danger of too much reliance being placed on the new provision to resolve all the prison’s problems and not enough was being done to make improvements that were needed now.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the prison was operating at 60% over its certified normal capacity and many prisoners shared small, cramped cells;
  • there was far too little activity for the size of the population, so many prisoners were locked in their cells for more than 20 hours a day;
  • the quality of learning, skills and work activities was too often inadequate and overall the quantity and quality was unacceptable in any prison, but particularly so in a resettlement prison;
  • offender management arrangements were poor and serious delays in completing risk assessments, lack of contact with offender supervisors and the placement of prisoners at Brixton too late in their sentence meant it was difficult for many to make progress;
  • prisoners’ frustrations were compounded by security restrictions more appropriate for the prison’s former role as a category B local than its new role as a resettlement prison;
  • prisoners reported very poor relationships with staff;
  • many prisoners found it difficult to get basic needs met, such as the provision of clean clothing;
  • reception arrangements were very poor and prisoners had been left in vans for up to two hours in the middle of the hottest days in the summer; and
  • substance misuse services were good but were undermined by the availability of drugs, such as cannabis, in the prison.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • despite some inadequate learning, skills and work activities, there were some exceptions, such as the bakery, prison radio and external placements for category D prisoners;
  • plans for a restaurant in the prison, staffed by prisoners but open to the public, had the potential to provide valuable opportunities;
  • levels of self-harm were low and those at risk felt well supported; and
  • level of violence were low and there was little use of force.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Brixton prison is at a turning point. This inspection came at a very bad time for the prison – when all the disadvantages of major building works were apparent but none of the advantages of the new provision had yet been realised. However, the fact was that the prison was not yet ready for the category C and D prisoners it now held and too many lacked the opportunities for purposeful activity and rehabilitation they needed. Too much was on hold waiting for the new facilities to be ready and some elements of prisoners’ treatment and conditions were unacceptable – and had remained so for too long.”

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

“Brixton prison was undergoing a significant change when the Chief Inspector visited but since then it has continued to adapt to its new role.

“In January the prison will see further changes with a new range of employment and education initiatives helping to increase productive time out of cell. This includes a new Clink Restaurant opening in February, which will give offenders the chance to learn the skills that can help them secure employment once they leave prison.

“The governor and his staff have been working hard to tackle the issues raised during this inspection and will continue to drive the prison forward in the new year.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 17 December 2013 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 unannounced inspection was carried out from 1-12 July 2013.
  4. HMP Brixton is a category C/D resettlement prison.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Prisons Press Office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview with Nick Hardwick.