Are Muslims Being Radicalised Inside Our Prisons?

muslimprisoner

‘The Stream’ Tonight on Aljazeera TV.

Are Muslims Being Radicalised Inside Our Prisons?

Join myself & other guests for a one-hour live discussion on this subject tonight on Aljazeera TV at 19:30 GMT – Sky Channel 514 – and you can also catch it live on line at stream.aljazeera.com

Mark Leech

Editor: Converse

The National Prisons Newspaper

Lindholme – “worst prison we’ve inspected in many years”

HMP_Lindholme

HMP LINDHOLME – Nick Hardwick Chief Inspector of Prisons writes:

HMP Lindholme is a category C training prison with a category D wing that holds a total of about 1,000 men. The prison, near Doncaster, forms part of the ‘South Yorkshire cluster’ with HMP Moorland and HMP Hatfield. The category D side, ‘I wing’, had been used as an immigration removal centre (IRC) but this closed in January 2012 and the facility had been passed back for use by the Prison Service.
The inspection came at a difficult time for the prison. In November 2012 it was announced that all prisons in the South Yorkshire cluster would be moving into the private sector and, at the time of the inspection, the uncertainty this created added to the difficulty in running the prison.
However, these difficulties do not excuse the very poor findings of this inspection. Outcomes for prisoners across the prison as a whole were not good enough in too many areas, but the category D side was the worst establishment we have inspected in many years.
The category D side was separate from the main prison and should have provided an environment in which low-risk prisoners were prepared for release with purposeful activity and effective rehabilitation work. In practice, it appears that the funding that had been lost when the wing stopped being used as an IRC had not been replaced. The wing then had been forgotten and neglected, and so very little activity of any sort – by staff or prisoners – took place. It was an astonishing situation.
Reception, first night and induction arrangements on the category D side were perfunctory, and there was far too little subsequent contact between staff and prisoners. Prisoners on the wing were frightened. In our survey, 38% told us they had felt unsafe at some time, and 28% felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. This compared with 16% and 5% respectively at comparable prisons. Nothing had been done to address this. Drugs and alcohol were widely available and prisoners told us there were high levels of victimisation by other prisoners and staff.
The most basic services were not provided on the wing. There was no access to Listeners and no work on diversity and equality. Even chaplaincy services were inadequate. There were prayer meetings for Muslim prisoners but none for Christians, and some religious tensions were evident. In a recent incident, someone had defecated in the washing facilities for Muslim prayers; managers were unaware of this until we brought it to their attention.
The health needs of prisoners on the wing had not been assessed and it was difficult for prisoners to see a doctor if they were unwell. Staff were often not available to escort prisoners to health care on the category C side, and only 8% of prisoners told us it was easy to see a doctor, against the 59% comparator. There was simply no work or education available on site, apart from a few desultory domestic duties. The classrooms that had been used by the IRC were a sad sight, unused and piled high with discarded furniture and equipment. There was very little done to address prisoners offending behaviour or give them practical help to resettle successfully after release. There were a few opportunities for prisoners to maintain family ties or work outside the prison through release on temporary licence – but this was thoughtlessly limited because release and return times were not synchronised with the infrequent local bus service.
We brought our concerns about the category D side to the attention of the Chief Executive of NOMS immediately after the inspection. It was closed shortly afterwards and remains so. We welcome this and it should not re-open until the concerns we identify in this report have been addressed. However, it is unacceptable that the situation was allowed to develop. There is a danger in increasingly large and complex establishment, with remote governing governors, that failings in one part of an establishment may not be evident from the performance data for the prison as a whole. Nevertheless, all it took on the category D side at Lindholme was to spend a few minutes walking through it, see the abandoned classrooms, observe the absence of staff and listen to the prisoners’ concerns to realise something was seriously wrong. That should have been done sooner.
There were also significant problems in other parts of the prison. Most prisoners in the category C side were safe but care for those who needed extra support was inadequate. Procedures for supporting prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm were poor. Too many of these men were held in the segregation unit. Little support was available for prisoners who were vulnerable and being victimised or bullied by other prisoners. The only option they were offered was to be confined to their cell with no access to the regime. Those who declined had to sign a disclaimer – but this did not absolve staff from the consequences of neglect. Those who accepted often continued to be bullied, with threats shouted through their door. Many said their mental health deteriorated and most were eventually transferred out of the prison with nothing done to tackle the underlying problems. Drugs and alcohol were easily available here too, and action to address this was poorly coordinated.
The quality of the accommodation was reasonable and relationships between staff and prisoners, although mixed, were better than on the category D side. Basic processes, such as complaints, applications, catering, laundry and the property store, needed improvement. However, health care on the category C side was reasonably good and met prisoners’ needs.
The weaknesses in the prison’s diversity and equality work had a significant impact on the category C side. Prisoners did not have confidence in formal processes for resolving problems, such as the discrimination incident report system. They had raised this in consultation meetings, it was evidenced by the very low number of discrimination complaints being made but nothing had been done. Prisoners from black and minority ethnic groups reported more negatively than white prisoners. There was little support for foreign national prisoners. The needs of prisoners with disabilities were not identified or met. One distressed disabled prisoner told us he was constantly taunted by other prisoners and bullied for payment if he had to ask them for assistance in any way. He felt unable to report the incident for fear of retaliation.
Purposeful activity was much better on the category C side and a bright spot in an otherwise depressing picture. Too many prisoners were locked up in the working part of the day for a training prison, but for those in work, education or training, outcomes were good, the quality of training and teaching was good, and there was good leadership and management. Some vocational training, such as the construction workshop and bakery, was outstanding, there was a generally good work ethic and prisoners received effective help with literacy and numeracy. There was a good library, although access was too restricted, and PE provision was very good.
Resettlement work on the category C side required improvement. Offender management was under-resourced and large caseloads limited the contact enthusiastic and focused offender management staff could have with prisoners. Practical resettlement services were also very stretched but, on the whole, work on employment and substance misuse issues was good. Arrangements for visits were limited and there was very little constructive work to help prisoners maintain or improve their relationships with their families and children.
There were no offending behaviour programmes and prisoners who needed these had to transfer to HMP Moorland for the duration of the programme. However, because prisoners were anxious about where they would be accommodated and whether they would have a job when they returned to Lindholme, few chose to undertake the transfer, and nothing had been done to address these perceptions.
HMP Lindholme is a cause for real concern. The closure of the D side has reduced the immediate risks but legitimate prisoner grievances, the lack of activity, mixed staff-prisoner relationships and indications of some religious tensions, combined with the ready availability of drugs and alcohol, are an unhealthy mix. The uncertainty created by the prison’s move to the private sector cannot be allowed to delay the urgent improvements that are required.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisons in England and Wales said:

“This is a truly damning report which must rank as one of the worst reports I have certainly ever read- how on earth could it have been allowed to get to this point?

“Urgent action is needed to bring the Cat D side of Lindholme back into existence – and it must serve as a sobering lesson of the real dangers that exist with ‘clustering’ – where Governing Governors are on remote sites, leaving inadequate junior management grades to cope with situations they are neither trained to deal with nor have a right to expect will be dumped on them.

“Clustering may technically save money but in truth it costs far more than it ever saves in terms of care, future crime and people’s careers.”

HMP and YOI Ashfield – high levels of violence and use of force by staff

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HM Chief Inspector of Prisons,Nick Hardwick, above, in a report on Ashield Young Offender Institution published today says:

In January 2013, the Justice Secretary announced plans to close HMYOI Ashfield and re-role it as an adult prison. The inspectorate had plans to conduct an unannounced inspection of the establishment in February 2013. We decided to proceed with the inspection to ensure that the young people who continued to be held there were held safely and decently during the transition, and that plans in place to ensure their move to another establishment or release were well managed.
We focused the inspection on areas of greatest concern and produced this truncated report more quickly than usual so it could be of use before the establishment closed. Because we did not look at every area of the establishment, we have not graded it against each healthy prison test, as is our normal practice. As usual, we gave immediate, detailed feedback to the establishment and Youth Justice Board (YJB) at the end of the inspection.
At the time of the inspection, the establishment was just one-third full and held 123 young people, most of whom were aged 16 or 17. This compared with a population of 332 at the time of our last inspection, and an average of 237 in 2012. Ashfield had an operational capacity of 360.
Our concerns about safety appeared to have been justified. Despite the reduction in numbers held, there had been a sharp increase in self-harm incidents since the closure announcement. The number of formal disciplinary proceedings or adjudications was high, and fights and assaults accounted for two-thirds of the charges laid. The highest number of adjudications per 100 of the population was in January 2013. Levels of violence were high. There were 351 fights and 377 assaults in 2012 and staff told us there had been an increase in the overall number of violent incidents since the closure announcement. In the 12 months to January 2013, there had been 43 serious fights, of which 37 had resulted in serious injury and six in minor injury. Five staff had been assaulted in the same period. Use of force by staff was also high in 2012 and two boys had suffered broken bones following staff use of force.
As at other young offender institutions (YOIs), young people were routinely strip-searched when they entered or left reception. Of 3,773 such searches over the last 12 months, just one had resulted in a find.
Despite the levels of violence, young people did not tell us they did not feel safe. We were also pleased that the segregation unit had been closed since our last inspection, and there were some good systems to address the particularly poor behaviour of some young people.
The environment was reasonable, although needing some attention. Young people could have telephones in their cells, which was a good initiative. Relationships between staff and the young people were good. We were impressed by the way in which staff put their own anxieties about the change aside and did not let this affect their dealings with the young people. Health care was good.
Young people had good access to education and training. However, with the rundown of the establishment it was increasingly difficult to motivate the young people and there was a concern that provision for those transferring elsewhere would not be effectively linked to the work they had done at Ashfield.
During the course of the inspection, we were particularly concerned about resettlement and transition planning. There was a lack of effective joint strategic planning between the YJB and Ashfield. Poor communication between the interested parties was causing widespread confusion. Young people were becoming increasingly agitated because they did not understand what was happening. Some services would be discontinued before all young people had left Ashfield. Overall, we were not confident that the best interests of the young person were always considered.
We have reported our concern about high levels of violence at a number of recent inspections of YOIs holding children and young people. At Ashfield too, young people’s safety was compromised because they were exposed to unacceptable levels of violence – and there is some evidence the situation has deteriorated since the closure decision was announced. Planning for the closure itself was not effectively coordinated between the YJB and Ashfield, and the needs of individual young people were not carefully considered. The anxiety and uncertainty this created may well have contributed to the tension at the establishment. It certainly means that young people are not being adequately prepared for transfer or release. The establishment and the YJB will need to work effectively together, not just to improve the situation but also to ensure it does not deteriorate further.

Ashfield – high levels of violence and use of force by staff

Ashfield Children

Nick Hardwick, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, in a report to be published at midnight, says that in his final inspection of HMYOI Ashfield before it is re-roled from a juvenile institution to a category C adult male prison for sex offenders, he found there were high levels of violence, self-harm, along with high levels of force by staff in which two prisoners suffered broken bones.

Check back after midnight for full details of this shocking report.

Muslim prisoners ‘injured’ after refusing to join Muslim prison gang

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An increasing number of Muslim inmates complain they are being intimidated to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a prison gang, and some have received injuries following a refusal to do so.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he was aware of an ‘increasing number of complaints’ from Muslim prisoners in the High Security prison estate who claim to have been intimidated to join the prison-based ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Mr Leech said: “Radicalisation of Muslims in the High Security Estate is nothing new and the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood is equally well-known, what I find disturbing is that I have seen an increasing number of Muslim inmates and their families complaining that their loved ones are being intimidated into joining this group and some have received injuries, perhaps unconnected with their refusal, after persistently declining to join.

“One firm of personal injury solicitors I am in touch with confirm they act for a Muslim inmate seriously injured in Full Sutton prison after he continually refused to join the Full Sutton Muslim Brotherhood – unusually and perhaps of significance is the fact that prison staff at HMP Full Sutton have given evidence supporting his case.

“Prison gangs like the Muslim Brotherhood can feed on fear and perpetrate a belief that there is safety in numbers – we should not forget that the Prison Inspection report published in April 2013 on Full Sutton said:

We had two main areas of concern. First, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim prisoners about many aspects of their treatment and conditions were much more negative than for white and non-Muslim prisoners. For example, significantly fewer told us staff treated them with respect and significantly more said they felt unsafe.

“Treating all prisoners with respect and equality is the challenge for the management of Full Sutton, a Maximum Security prison which in so many other respects has shown itself well able to rise to difficult challenges and overcome them – and on this important one it must not be allowed to fail.”

Hostage incident linked to Rigby murder – Muslim inmates intimidated to join prison gang

full sutton

Prison chiefs have linked an attack on a prison officer to the Lee Rigby murder and warned prison staff of an increased risk of threats, according to reports – while an increasing number of Muslim inmates complain they are being intimidated to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a prison gang, and some have received injuries following a refusal to do so.

A male prison officer was left with a broken cheekbone after being held hostage by three male prisoners, two aged 25 and one aged 26, at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire on Sunday.

An email circulated to staff in top-security jails and young offender institutions and seen by The Times said: “Three Muslim prisoners took an officer hostage in an office.

“Their demands indicated they supported radical Islamist extremism.

“All staff are reminded to remain vigilant to the increased risk of potential attacks on prison officers inspired by these and last Wednesday’s events.”

Counter-terrorism officers have been brought in to investigate the attack at the maximum security jail, during which a female warder was also injured.

So far, 10 people have been held by detectives investigating the young soldier’s death, including Adebowale and Adebolajo.

These include a 50-year-old man, arrested on Monday, who was released on bail yesterday.

A 22-year-old man arrested in Highbury, north London, on Sunday and three men detained on Saturday over the killing have all been released on bail, as has a fifth man, aged 29.

Two women, aged 29 and 31, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder but later released without charge.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he was aware of an ‘increasing number of complaints’ from Muslim prisoners in the High Security prison estate who claim to have been intimidated to join the prison-based ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Mr Leech said: “Radicalisation of Muslims in the High Security Estate is nothing new and the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood is equally well-known, what I find disturbing is that I have seen an increasing number of Muslim inmates and their families complaining that their loved ones are being intimidated into joining this group and some have received injuries, perhaps unconnected with their refusal, after persistently declining to join.

“One firm of personal injury solicitors I am in touch with confirm they act for a Muslim inmate seriously injured in Full Sutton prison after he continually refused to join the Full Sutton Muslim Brotherhood – unusually and perhaps of significance is the fact that prison staff at HMP Full Sutton have given evidence supporting his case.

“Prison gangs like the Muslim Brotherhood can feed on fear and perpetrate a belief that there is safety in numbers – we should not forget that the Prison Inspection report published in April 2013 on Full Sutton said:

We had two main areas of concern. First, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim prisoners about many aspects of their treatment and conditions were much more negative than for white and non-Muslim prisoners. For example, significantly fewer told us staff treated them with respect and significantly more said they felt unsafe.

“Treating all prisoners with respect and equality is the challenge for the management of Full Sutton, a Maximum Security prison which in so many other respects has shown itself well able to rise to difficult challenges and overcome them – and on this important one it must not be allowed to fail.”

GLOUCESTER PRISON NOT SAFE SAYS INSPECTORS – Vulnerable prisoners targetted for attack

Inspectors who visited a prison in Gloucestershire where concerns had been raised before found that it seemed to have “stood still”, they said in a report published.

Gloucester Prison has many problems to address, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, as he introduced the report of an unannounced inspection.

Inspectors were concerned during their visit in July to find that the environment for vulnerable prisoners at the Category B local prison was poor, and there was evidence that they experienced abuse and intimidation from other prisoners.

Segregated prisoners were not continually supervised, though this was mitigated by low numbers and generally brief stays, while the accommodation was among the poorest in the prison system, and prisoners did not have enough time out of their cells.

There was not enough for prisoners to do and inspectors found well over half of the population locked up during the working day.

Mr Hardwick said in his introduction to the report: “Gloucester is one of the older establishments in the prison system, with a poor infrastructure and situated in a cramped inner-city location.”

He said there were relatively few incidents of recorded violence, despite underdeveloped structures to confront anti-social behaviour, and the incidence of self-harm was similarly low, though there had been two self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection.

But he added: “The treatment of vulnerable prisoners remained a significant concern. The environment where they lived was poor and their regime very limited, and there was evidence that they experienced abuse and intimidation from other prisoners.

“The experience for vulnerable prisoners who had to be held on mainstream locations, if numbers required it, was even worse.

“The treatment of segregated prisoners was similarly concerning – this high-risk group were not even continually supervised, although this was mitigated by low numbers and generally brief stays.”

LEVELS OF RISK ARE INCREASING IN PRISONS

Levels of risk in the prison system are increasing, the Chief Inspector of Prisons warned today.

Reductions in staff are having an impact, Nick Hardwick told MPs.

“Even in a prison that is generally performing well, there are increased levels of risk,” he told the Public Accounts Committee.

Last year there was an increase in adverse incidents such as assaults and self harm, he said.

The committee is looking at the finances of the National Offender Management Service (Noms) and committee chairwoman, Margaret Hodge, has already expressed concern over how it will cope in a time of budget cuts and rising prison population.

Ms Hodge warned in September that the plans of the agency – which runs the prison and probation service – to deliver required savings remained in doubt.

The National Audit Office said then that the Government’s abandonment of plans to halve sentences for offenders who submit early guilty pleas would deny the taxpayer £130 million of potential savings and result in there being 4,000 more people in prison than expected in 2015.

The move left Noms “scrambling to find savings elsewhere”, Ms Hodge said then.

Mr Hardwick said today that safety and decency had been improving over a period of years.

But there was an inconsistency between individual prisons.

“What we found last year was that three quarters of prisons were providing good or reasonably good outcomes around purposeful activity. But a quarter weren’t, and that is a cause for concern.

“And even in a prison that is generally performing well, we think there are increased levels of risk.”

He said a prison depended on an officer going down on to the wing for a chat.

“This kind of relationship is critical to the safety of an individual prison.

“That time to stop and take the temperature is one thing that has got squeezed.

“Generally, if the place is well run, and they have the wind behind them, they get away with it, but with less staff, the resilience isn’t there, so if something is going to go wrong, it can go wrong pretty quickly.”

Another area where there was a squeeze was in offender management activities, which were sometimes replaced by wing based activities, while supply did not meet demand for programmes for sex offenders.

He said general inconsistencies between prisons often came down to leadership, while it was easier to run a modern prison than a Victorian one.

Mr Hardwick said he did not want to scaremonger, or say that prisons were about to explode.

He said the result of a badly run prison could be apathy, rather than anger.

Liz Calderbank, Chief Inspector of Probation, said the work of probation trusts was often not fully understood or properly valued – “the contribution they make to reducing offending and managing the risk of harm that people pose to their communities”.

She added: “What we are seeing now is a proliferation of sentences, and electronic monitoring being used as a punishment rather than a mechanism of changing behaviour.

“While punishment can be effective in changing behaviour, it always needs to be affordable, and it needs to be effective in reducing reoffending, and at the moment we have no evidence, with the way that electronic monitoring is being used, that that is the case.”

Noms chief executive Michael Spurr said the prison population had been “reasonably stable” in the last 12 months, with an increase of 0.8%.

“There’s 86,000 in prison, 0.8% up on last year, but we’ve got 91,000 places available. We would have had 93,500, but we’ve been able to make some savings. I believe there is still capacity to make some more savings and still accommodate all the prisoners coming through the courts, and our projections indicate that is the case.”

He accepted that there was overcrowding in prisons but the current levels of crowding could not be reduced while still achieving savings, though he wished it was possible.

“We will have to continue at that level of crowding in order to make the financial savings we have to make,” he said.

CHIEF INSPECTOR OF PRISONS SPEECH TO THE POA CONFERENCE 2012

SPEECH OF NICK HARDWICK

HM CHIEF INSPECTOR OF PRISONS

TO THE PRISON OFFICERS ASSOCIATION NATIONAL CONFERENCE 2012

15 May 2012

 


 

Good afternoon.

First of all, thank you for inviting me to your conference.  It’s a great pleasure to be here.

I want to talk to you about three things today.

First of all, I will explain our inspection process – what our remit is and how we come to our judgements. I am conscious that when I talk to your members as I go round a prison that they only see a part of the process and we may not have explained how we will use what they or a prisoner says to us.

On of the things I find your colleagues are keenest to talk to me about is prisoners with mental health problems and the very difficult – and unappreciated job – the job they have to do to care for them. So I also wanted to say a little about how we think the mental health issues we identify on our inspections should be addressed.

And finally, that will lead me on to say something about the role of a prison officer.   I think it is worth returning to the report of the Justice Committee on that topic a couple of years ago and considering how some of the recommendations they made could be progressed.

I am very happy to take questions when I have finished my remarks – either on what I have said today or on any other issue relating to our inspections.

So first, the inspection process.

I will start by saying why I think independent inspection is important. Britain has a long tradition of independent prison inspection going back a couple of hundred years. The inspectorate has been established in its current form for about thirty years.

Independent inspection is particularly important in a custodial setting.  It provides a safeguard for those who are held and work in the establishment – out of sight, behind high walls. It should help the public understand what is being done in their name and it should help those who work in the prison, whose view is also constrained by those walls, to compare their work with what is happening in similar establishments elsewhere.

I think if you work in a prison you can forget how little most people know about what goes on behind the walls. I remember once doing a local radio interview after we had published a report on an old city centre prison and the journalist said to me: people walk past the prison every day but they have no idea what happens behind those walls. Tell us what it is like’.

So we try to do that – just tell people what it is like.

It is not just the public who need to be told what is happening behind prison walls.

I think inspection also helps guard against the ‘virtual’ prison – the one the governor thinks he or she is running but which as both officers and prisoners tell us, is sometimes very different from what is really happening down on the wings.

SLIDE 1

My responsibilities are set out in the Prison Act of 1952.

That requires me to inspect or arrange for the inspection of prisons in England and Wales and report to the Secretary of State on the treatment of prisoners and conditions in prisons.

What that means in effect is that I report on outcomes for prisoners not the management of prisons.

 

SLIDE 2

That remit has since been extended to immigration detention facilities and escorts, police cells and court custody. I also inspect military custody by invitation. We will shortly be joining Ofsted in their inspections of Secure Training Centres.

The inspectorate is independent. We are not part of the management of the prison service. I decide where we will inspect and when and I approve our inspection findings and sign off all our reports. Ministers and prison management cannot tell me where to go or what to say – and to be fair, they do not try to do so.

SLIDE 3

We assess prisons against four internally recognised criteria of a healthy prison:

Safety                              Prisoners, particularly the most vulnerable, are held safely

Respect                         Prisoners are treated with respect for their human dignity

Purposeful activity      Prisoners are able, and expected, to engage in activity that is likely to benefit them

Resettlement                Prisoners are prepared for their release back into the community and effectively helped to reduce the likelihood of reoffending

So in plain English what I look for is that prisoners are kept safe – from themselves and others and as secure as necessary.

That prison officers and staff set a good example and the environment encourages self-respect and respect for others.

That prisoners are busy – so they acquire the skills, habits, training and experience they need to get and hold down a job when they are released and that they leave prison having had the help and interventions they need to make them less likely to offend than when they went in.

I don’t for a minute think that it is easy to do but I think that is what we should aim for.

These healthy prison tests are underpinned by our expectations or inspection criteria that describe the outcomes we expect to see and the evidence we would usually use to make a judgement.  Our expectations are based on international standards and do not necessarily match prison service standards.

It’s important to be clear about this point – we are not auditors checking whether the procedures the prison service has agreed are being applied – we are inspecting against independent criteria based on international standards.

I recognise that some are outside the control of an individual establishment.

But if, for instance, a prison is overcrowded so that your members cannot do the work they know is required– we will say so, even if numbers are within limits the prison service says are OK.

SLIDE 4

We use five sources of evidence to come to our conclusions and it is the combination of these sources of evidence that enables us to come to our conclusions rather than just one of them on their own.

Mostly we observe. About half our inspectors are former prison governors who have worked their way up from the wings. The rest have extensive custodial experience. We will be in the prison for a week or so and mostly we observe.

At the start of an inspection we survey a randomly selected sample of prisoners. We have been doing that for many years now so we can compare survey results between similar establishments and the same establishment over a number of years.

Of course you cannot take survey results at face value but if, for instance, prisoners tell us they now feel safer when they first arrive than they did when we last inspected, we normally find other evidence that supports this perception and suggests why it might be so. Or if many more prisoners than in comparable prisons tell us they don’t know who to ask for help with accommodation on release – we usually find that does reflect a real problem.

We talk to prisoners individually and in groups, staff and other service providers and visitor in the prison.

And we look at records, policy and data.

We pull all of that together to come to a judgement, talking through what we find with the prison’s managers on a daily basis, and arguing it out amongst the inspection team.

SLIDE 5

We inspect every prison regularly and most inspections are unannounced.  Last year we carried out 63 prison inspections and more than half of those were unannounced.

We make recommendations at the end of each inspection and when we checked up on them last year, 84% has been accepted and two thirds achieved.

SLIDE 6

That is reflected in our overall findings from our inspections up until last year. The trend was very clear – despite the pressure your members are under, they delivered significant improvement in outcomes in every area. There are not many public services that can say that.

We are now putting together our report for last year – and will see whether that improvement could be maintained as the money is stretched ever more thinly.

I or my deputy join most inspections on the final day and have a look round ourselves and I am really grateful for the unfailingly patient way your colleagues in the middle of a busy day take time to explain to me what they are doing.

And I do need you and your colleagues to help me understand what the problems are. I remember going to Brixton not long after I had started in my role.   I will remind you what I said in the report:

 

The most disturbing sight in the prison was the inpatient mental health care. Some young men, who had been sectioned, were waiting for up to six months for a place in a secure mental health hospital. Some cells were in a very poor state of repair with ripped linoleum floors, graffiti on the walls and dirty toilets without seats. The staff we spoke to were concerned about their inability to move some very ill patients to more suitable care. They made a point of introducing us to a distressed prisoner who appeared unable to care for himself in even the most basic way and who was in an extremely disordered cell. It was a disgraceful way to hold someone who was little more than a boy and very sick. 

 

What happened was that I was in health care and the officers and staff who worked there said to me ‘You must see this, you must see this’ and took me to see this young man in his cell. It was not right he was there they told me.

 

Whatever your views on crime and punishment, I think most people would agree that prison is not the proper place for someone who is ill.

You know the facts but they are worth repeating. Let me give you two figures from Lord Bradley’s report about mental health and the criminal justice system.

About 1 in 200 of the general population has schizophrenia or another delusional disorder. 1 in 200.

It is almost one in ten of the prison population.

About 1 in 7 of the population as a whole have a neurotic disorder like depression.

It is almost 1 in 2 of the prison population.

And that is not to mention much higher rates of mental ill-health amongst women and young offenders, the high rate of prisoners with a dual diagnosis and the estimate of 1 in 3 prisoners with a learning difficulty.

I welcome the commitment by the Department of Health and MOJ to invest in a liaison and diversion service so that people with mental health problems do not end up in the criminal justice system in the first place. I know that this union has strongly supported the Prison Reform Trust and Women’s Institute’s Care not Custody campaign to ensure that the government sticks to its promise.

The Women’s Institute’s involvement was prompted by a member following the death of her mentally ill son in prison. As she said:

‘My son was not a criminal; he was in prison because there was no alternative place of safety’.

I get many letters myself like that from mothers at their wits’ end about their mentally ill son or daughter.

As you know, you can’t really offer much reassurance.

Generally the standard of professional medical care is OK but it is hard to think of a less therapeutic environment than a prison.

Often banged up in your cell for most of the day – either alone or with a cell-mate. Lots of noise. Very little activity to take your mind off things. Plenty of people ready to prey on the least sign of vulnerability.

And of course behaviour that is sometimes very difficult to manage so individuals end up shuttling between healthcare and segregation and sometimes almost invisible – the prisoner who is ‘low’ and at risk of dropping out of site from residential staff who are stretched more and more thinly.

Currently available data shows that there were 64 self-inflicted deaths in prisons across England and Wales in 2011-12. I don’t know what proportion of these was linked to poor mental health but I would be surprised if it was not significant.

Overall, my greatest concern is not those with the most severe illness – those with the most challenging behaviour will now usually receive attention.  In our inspections last year we found that transfer times for patients accessing secure NHS facilities continued to improve although in certain areas of the country, including London, they remained problematic. In prison, patients with more complex mental health problems generally had good access to mental health staff.

I am more concerned with those with lower level problems – the withdrawn and the poor copers – who if we are not careful may go unnoticed or who may just get written off as troublesome without any attempt to understand what lies behind that behaviour.

It seems to me that the most important people for their care are not the professional medical and nursing staff but the residential and other prison officers who interact with them on a day to day basis.

 

But you know as well as I do that prison officers do not have sufficient training or time to provide the care that many in the population they hold require.

 

On the whole, the inspectorate has tended to regard these issues as outside its remit for ‘the treatment of prisoners and the conditions in prisons’.

However, I do note that when the Justice Committee looked into the role of the prison officer back in 2009 they concluded that:

 

A comprehensive review of the role of the prison officer is long overdue.

 

The committee argued, and I quote:

 

The Government’s plans for prison building and prison workforce modernisation will further frustrate development of effective officer-prisoner relationships. These relationships often yield dividends during the handling of stressful prison incidents, as well as contributing to long-term behavioural reform.

 

I do think this needs to be understood. The problem about a growing prison population and diminishing resources is not whether there is the space available to cram them all into – the problem is whether you can manage them safely and productively if resources are stretched too thin.

 

Some establishments manage this better than others despite similar populations and resources.  Nevertheless I think it would be foolish to believe that the risks the Justice Committee pointed out in 2009 are not still present today.

 

On training the Justice Committee said this:

 

We believe the current content of basic training to be inadequate to equip new prison officers with the skills they require. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice extend basic training to include, at the very least, components on dealing with mentally ill prisoners and those coming off drink and drugs, and the legal framework applying to prisoners, particularly human rights and sentencing legislation.

 

And went on to say:

 

“The Government must encourage the development of prison officers if prison staff are to be expected to encourage the development of prisoners. The initial training period must be significantly increased to a level that reflects an appropriate investment to enable prison officers to play a key role in the education and training of prisoners. Furthermore, prison officers should have an equivalent entitlement to training and development once they are in post”

 

And the committee suggested

 

We believe that extending the remit of the Chief Inspector of Prisons to scrutinise the relevance and provision of training would provide valuable independent oversight of the training regime. While this will require modest additional resources, it will lead to a more efficient and effective training regime overall. The Chief Inspector should co-ordinate engagement from the education and skills sectors to assist her in this work.

 

This is something we are going to consider again. We do not inspect staff training at present so I am not able to answer whether things have improved or deteriorated. No doubt you have your own views. It would be a departure for us to do so but I am sympathetic to the view that this is a question I should be able to answer.

 

I said at the beginning of these remarks that one of the purposes of the inspection is to explain to the public what is being done in their name.  We inspected Brixton Prison just before Christmas in 2010 and Liverpool just before last Christmas. I had some criticisms but if instead of coming into prison on Christmas Day to care for the mentally ill, and the alcoholic and the suicidal – those same people were being cared for in a shelter for the homeless, the people looking after them would be applauded. Because it happens out of sight behind prison walls the work you do is not properly understood or appreciated.

Whether we have a role in inspecting this or not, I am sure that the outcomes we wish to see for some of those on whom the rest of society has given up, depend on the skills, experience and vocation of prison officers – and the training they are given should reflect this.

 

Thank you.

CHARGING PRISONERS VICTIMS SUPPLEMENT DOESN’T WORK

 

Charging prisoners two-fifths of their earnings to help support victims is forcing some inmates to give up work designed to help cut reoffending, inspectors said today.

The counter-productive policy is stopping prisoners taking jobs which could help them to carry on working and turn away from crime on their release, chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick warned.

The critical report on Standford Hill open jail in Kent also found inmates rated the food among the worst of any prison in England and Wales, with uncooked meat being served while still frozen.

Inspectors said some prisoners were being forced to give up jobs that could have helped them settle back into the community after their release because the victims’ surcharge was so high that they could not afford the travel costs.

Prison governors should be given greater discretion over whether to take a prisoner’s travel costs into account when calculating their net earnings from which the levy would be deducted, Mr Hardwick said.

Under the Prisoners’ Earnings Act, 40% of a prisoner’s net earnings over £20 a week from external jobs are deducted as a levy towards Victim Support, with governors able to use their discretion only in “very exceptional circumstances”.

The report on last December’s inspection said: “The Prisoners’ Earnings Act was beginning to have an adverse effect on prisoners finding employment outside the prison by making it uneconomical to take work which incurred substantial travel costs.

“More than one prisoner was finding that after necessary expenses, such as travel, they were significantly out of pocket.

“This was beginning to limit the realistic scope for prisoners to find jobs (near enough to their home) which could provide continuity of employment after release.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Ways for offenders to make amends to victims do not have to come at the expense of vital opportunities for rehabilitation and resettlement.

“It is clearly counterproductive if the levy deducted from prisoners’ earnings means that people in prison can no longer afford to travel to work and so reduce the risk of their reoffending.

“Prison governors should use the discretion given them in the use of the levy to assist offenders in helping them to lead a law-abiding life on release.”

The report, which found significant improvements were needed, also warned that the inmates were being given food that was not fit for consumption.

Meals for more than 460 prisoners are brought in to the jail in heated trolleys in the back of a van each day from nearby Elmley prison.

But there is no record of any temperature control once the food has been put on to the vans.

The inspectors said: “Prisoners told us about, and we witnessed, some food being served lukewarm, and some meat products we observed were still frozen at the point of service.

“Chips were cooked onsite in the serveries but this was often done around two hours before service, so that the quality had deteriorated by the time they were served.”

Mr Hardwick added: “Nine out of 10 men were dissatisfied with the food – among the worst responses we have seen – and they were right to be so.

“Some food that was served was not fit for consumption.

“Until relatively recently, Standford Hill appears to have been coasting. Outcomes are reasonable in most areas but the prison is exposed by some significant areas of concern.”

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (Noms), said: “Standford Hill has made some good progress despite a transition period to a new management structure.

“I am pleased the chief inspector found that the prison has made progress in the areas of concern and I am confident that the new team will drive forward further improvements.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “Since the inspection, measures have been put in place to support prisoners working on day release with travel costs.”

The meat is understood to have been a pork pie which was meant to be served cold but had not been given enough time to defrost.