Annual Report 2018/2019 Prisons Inspectorate – Too Much Violence, Drugs & Inactivity In Prisons, But Independent Scrutiny Having More Impact

HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) generated new and unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in the scrutiny of prisons in England and Wales in 2018–19, according to HM Chief Inspector Peter Clarke.

Publishing his annual report, Mr Clarke made clear that robust independent scrutiny was vital after another deeply troubling year for some parts of the prison estate. Too many prisons continued to be plagued by drugs, violence, appalling living conditions and a lack of access to meaningful rehabilitative activity.

What goes on in prisons remained largely unseen by the public and the media.  However, in 2018–19 Mr Clarke used the Urgent Notification protocol – requiring the Secretary of State publicly to respond with action to improve a jail with significant problems – three times. Those prisons were HMPs Exeter, Bedford and Birmingham, where inspectors found some of the worst conditions they had ever seen.

The Inspectorate also secured funding and developed the methodology for its new Independent Reviews of Progress (IRPs), designed to give ministers an independent assessment of how well failing jails were addressing key Inspectorate recommendations. The Justice Select Committee, in its report on HMIP’s inspection of HMP Liverpool in 2017, had expressed concern that the prison service was effectively ‘marking its own homework’ and concluded there should be an injection of independence in the follow up to inspection reports.

 Transparency and accountability

In his annual report, Mr Clarke asks: “How do we independently assess accountability in the inevitably closed world of prisons? The need for greater transparency in the delivery of this key public service has led to some important developments over the past two years that I hope will prove to be a turning point in improving the impact of independent prison inspection in England and Wales.

“There will be around 15–20 IRPs in 2019–20 and each subsequent year and these will be focused on prisons subject to an Urgent Notification or where there are other causes for serious concern.”

Mr Clarke added: “They will concentrate on progress in implementing key recommendations, and will look to see if action plans are properly focused, resourced, and with clear timelines and lines of accountability for improvement.

“As with Urgent Notifications, IRPs will be published, affording a higher level of both political and public accountability than has hitherto been the case. Our first IRPs (in 2019–20) at HMPs Exeter, Chelmsford, The Mount and Birmingham have suggested that a great deal of energy has gone into responding to Urgent Notifications and some other very concerning inspection reports, but that in some instances the response has been disappointingly slow.

“Nevertheless, the early indications are that they are prompting a more focused response than we have become accustomed to seeing in the past.”

Special measures

Mr Clarke made clear he believes such independent scrutiny is vital, given his reservations about the effectiveness of the current HMPPS ‘special measures’ system.

“On some occasions the response has been to place a struggling prison in ‘special measures’, but I do not have confidence in that as a reliable means of driving improvement. The inspection of HMP Lewes in January 2019 found a prison that had been in special measures for two years, and yet had declined in no less than three of our four healthy prison tests and failed to improve in the vital test of safety.

“Similarly, the special measures at HMP Bedford left me with little confidence that the prison could improve, and the use of the Urgent Notification process was inevitable.

He added: “HMI Prisons will remain resolutely independent in all that it does, but that should not and will not stop us being supportive and, where appropriate, collaborative in helping prisons to improve. We are therefore pleased that early indications are that establishments are warmly welcoming the advent of IRPs. Managers have appreciated the focus that the IRP visits have given.”

The most troubled part of the prison estate

As in previous years, men’s local and training prisons – with their high throughput of prisoners, often worn-out fabric, vulnerable populations and levels of violence and illicit drugs use – caused most concern.

The report also discloses significant prisoner vulnerability. Across the service, levels of self‑harm were disturbingly high and self-inflicted deaths tragically increased by nearly one-fifth on the previous year.

Mr Clarke said the prison service response to the “deluge of drugs flowing into many prisons in recent years,” generating debt, bullying and violence, had often been slow and neither robust nor sophisticated. “The introduction of new technology that is necessary to help counter the threat has been patchy.”

The extraordinary dedication of staff

Inspectors were struck, as in previous years, “by the extraordinary dedication of those who work in our prisons. Their work is difficult, often dangerous, largely unseen by the public and, as a result, little understood.

“Many worked through a period in which reduced resources, both in terms of staff and investment, made it extremely difficult to run some of our jails.” New staff deserved support in an environment where, in too many establishments, drug-fuelled violence remained a daily reality.

Variations in performance and the quality of leadership

The report highlights evidence that performance varies between comparable prisons and makes clear the Chief Inspector’s view that the quality of leadership is a vital factor. “Some issues that have an adverse impact on prisoners are often outside the control of prison leaders.

“However, there is much that is firmly within the control of those whose responsibility it is to lead and manage these complex establishments. It is as clear as day… that the variations in performance of apparently comparable jails is directly influenced by the quality of their leadership. “

Key findings

The report contains information from inspections of adult prisons and children’s detention, as well as immigration and other forms of detention.

  • Men’s prisons: Too many prisoners were still being held in prisons that were unsafe. Levels of violence had increased in more than half the prisons we inspected.
  • Respectful detention and living conditions: Inspectors noted the positive impact of in-cell phones and electronic kiosks for prisoners to make applications, health care appointments, arrange visits and make complaints. However, far too many prisoners still endured very poor and overcrowded living conditions. Though around two-thirds of prisoners overall were positive about the way they were treated by staff, inspectors frequently found that prisoners from black and minority ethnic backgrounds had less positive views of their treatment and conditions. There was no clear strategy for older prisoners.
  • Purposeful activity: In only a third of the adult male prisons inspected was purposeful activity, which includes the provision of education, work and training, judged to be good or reasonably good.
  • Rehabilitation and release planning: Overall, there was some progress but much remained to be done, particularly  around prisoners who presented a potentially high risk of harm to the public being released without a full risk assessment. Inspectors saw large cohorts of sex offenders in prisons where specialist interventions were not available.
  • Women’s prisons: Overall, inspectors continued to find that outcomes for women held in prison were better than for men.
  • Children’s custody: HMIP inspected four young offender institutions and three secure training centres. Safety assessment had improved in three inspections. Nevertheless, levels of violence remained high and bullying was a constant concern.
  • Immigration detention: Inspection outcomes were good or reasonably good. However, detainees continued to feel unsafe and uncertain because there was too often a lack of clarity as to what the future held for them.
  • Police custody: HMIP, with HMICFRS, jointly wrote to Chief Constables expressing concern about the governance and oversight of the use of force.

Read the Report

HMP Brixton: ‘Transformational’ report reveals ‘bold’ steps taken to reduce drugs and violence

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has commended HMP Brixton for concerted and successful work to reduce drug use and violence, including a “bold” decision to reduce release on temporary licence because this was being used to smuggle drugs in.

Notable features from this inspection

  • The prison was 200 years old and much of the accommodation was in poor condition.
  • 60% of cells held more prisoners than they were designed for.
  • There had been no self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection.
  • 52% of the population were black or from a minority ethnic background.
  • 29% of the population were held because of a sexual offence.
  • The prison did not run any accredited offending behaviour programmes.

Peter Clarke said inspectors, who visited the 200-year-old prison in south London in March 2019, found “that with focused leadership, some bold decision-making and a highly committed staff group, much can be achieved even in the most challenging of circumstances.”

In January 2017, inspectors had assessed the prison as fundamentally unsafe, with the lowest judgement of ‘poor’ for both safety and purposeful activity. Respect was ‘not sufficiently good’ and resettlement was ‘reasonably good’.

By 2019, Brixton had many new staff and a cohort of prisoners that had changed in nature, including a larger number of sex offenders. Though the assessment of rehabilitation and release planning had fallen, other areas had improved.

“It is no exaggeration to say that… there has been a transformation in some key areas of the prison’s performance”

“The key to much of what has happened is, in my view, to be found in the determined, pragmatic and bold approach taken to dealing with the problem of illicit drugs which had been dominating prison life and driving very high levels of violence.” Two years ago, some 50% of prisoners said it was easy to get hold of drugs. That figure has now reduced to 30%.

“It is no exaggeration to say that… there has been a transformation in some key areas of the prison’s performance”, Mr Clarke said.

Click to Enlarge

This dramatic improvement had not come about by chance. Brixton had introduced the scanning of post for drug-impregnated paper, put up security netting and responded in a timely way to intelligence reports.

“In addition, the prison was faced with the question of how to respond to very clear intelligence that prisoners released on temporary licence were being pressurised to bring drugs back into the prison, usually concealed within their body and therefore undetectable by the technology available to the establishment.

“The decision was taken to stop the use of release on temporary licence (ROTL), and the evidence shows that this clearly had a huge impact on the availability of drugs.

“This was obviously a very serious step to take, and there was some concern that HM Inspectorate of Prisons would criticise the decision. On the contrary, my view is that this was precisely the type of bold, strategic decision that senior management needed to take.” He urged the prison, though, to keep the policy under review, to ensure it was proportionate.

The improvement in performance against illicit drugs had unsurprisingly been followed by a decrease in violence. “When one considers the overall trends in prisons in recent times, this was a remarkable achievement for a prison such as Brixton. The whole atmosphere within the prison had changed, and was far more relaxed and constructive than in the past,” Mr Clarke said.

“As an indication of how the staff were fully behind what had happened, we were told that in the space of two years, staff sickness levels had dropped from 25% to 4.6%.” Staff used force less often than in comparable prisons.

Inspectors, however, found that many challenges remained. Too many prisoners lived in overcrowded cells that were much too small. Many prisoners had a reasonable amount of time unlocked, but some had a very poor regime.

Ofsted inspectors judged that there had been significant improvement in the provision of education, skills and learning but there was still much to do. “It must become a priority to give sex offenders proper access to training and meaningful work, and access to interventions that can help them address their offending behaviour,” Mr Clarke said.

“It would be quite wrong if a perception were to be allowed to take hold that large numbers of sex offenders had been moved to Brixton to stabilise the prison (whether or not this was the case) and that the prison had then failed to meet their particular needs and risks.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said,

“This was a heartening inspection of what has traditionally been a very difficult prison to run well… Brixton will always be a difficult prison to keep safe, decent and purposeful. My hope is that the progress of the past two years does not turn out to be a temporary blip, and that the improvements we saw can be sustained into the future.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons, said:

“This is an encouraging report to read, demonstrating that a challenging prison like Brixton can be made much safer with hard work, good leadership and the extra staffing in which we have invested. Staff and management are doing a commendable job and I’m pleased that inspectors credit them with this transformation. They are already focused on addressing the inspectors’ remaining concerns – for instance, by looking into ways to secure more work placements for offenders.”

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

This is a remarkable report.

Two years ago many people wrote off Brixton Prison as a jail incapable of being turned around – this report shows what can be done with the right managers, doing the right things, in the right way, with the right staff.

Yes there are still improvements to be made at Brixton, the fabric of the prison is very poor, but this is a 200 year old jail –  prison Governors are Managers not Magicians, this is Brixton not Hogwarts.

Lamentably, the wording of the report that implies there has been a ban on ROTL at Brixton is at best ambiguous and at worst misleading.

There is no ROTL ban at Brixton – the population changed, with the Category D prisoners being moved to different prisons; the Chief Inspector did not make this at all clear.

The necessity to stem the flow of drugs into prisons is a point well made and the solution is to equip all prisons, not just Brixton, with airport-style body scanners that would enable prisons to deliver ROTL, helping to maintain family ties, aid employment and accommodation, test trust, and reduce reoffending – while at the same time being assured that when prisoners return, the prison has in place a security system that detects any contraband they possess.

Prison Facts:

HMP Brixton is a category C men’s resettlement prison situated in the heart of south London.

This year marks 200 years since it opened. At the time of this latest inspection, it held around 740 prisoners, of whom more than 200 were sex offenders.

HMP Brixton opened in 1819 as the Surrey House of Correction. It was subsequently a prison for women and later a military prison. In 1898, it was turned into an adult male local prison, serving London, particularly south London.

In July 2012, it became a category C and D resettlement prison for the local area. In February 2017, the role of the prison changed to a category C-only resettlement prison.

Read the Report

HMP & YOI New Hall: Continues to be a good and safe prison

HMP & YOI New Hall, a women’s prison near Wakefield, was found in its first inspection since 2015 to be an establishment which continued to be safe, respectful and purposeful, and where work to resettle and rehabilitate prisoners was improving.

Notable features from this inspection

  • According to the prison’s data, 48% of prisoners had committed their offence to support the drug use of someone else.
  • Of the prisoners using the counselling service, only 4% said they had not suffered some form of abuse and
  • 56% said they had experienced more than one kind of abuse. For example, 53% said they had suffered domestic violence and 44% said they had been raped.
Click to Enlarge

In our survey, far more prisoners (60%) than in other prisons for women (48%) described themselves as

being disabled and 78% of prisoners disclosed they had a mental health problem.

71% of the population were receiving services from the substance use psychosocial team.

39% of prisoners were serving long sentences of over four years.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that recorded violence in the prison was quite high, “but nearly all incidents were very minor and overall most prisoners felt safe.” Work to intervene and support those perpetrating threatening or antisocial behaviour, and the victims of such incidents, was effective.

There had been three self-inflicted deaths since 2015 and most recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following its investigations had been implemented. Prisoners at risk of self-harm and with complex needs received good oversight and case management and those inspectors spoke to were positive about the care they received.

Inspectors noted a seeming over-reliance on the use of formal disciplinary processes and some punishments seemed excessive. Use of force had also increased substantially and several women had been in ‘special accommodation’ conditions on the house units, although records failed to adequately justify these decisions. The segregation unit was a clean but austere facility with a basic regime.

The prison environment was good but the quality of accommodation was more variable, although reasonable overall. Staff-prisoner relationships were good although some prisoners expressed frustration at their inability to get some simple tasks done by staff.

Mr Clarke said: “The prison would have benefited from greater visibility and support from managers. It was also our observation that the proportion of female staff was too low and was something that was a very stark and particular feature of the senior team.”

Though work to promote equality was limited outcomes for prisoners from minorities remained broadly consistent with those for other prisoners. The mother and baby unit was excellent and health care was similarly good but mental health provision was undermined by staff shortages among the mental health team.

Women experienced good time out of their cells, including association on Friday evenings, which inspectors now rarely see. The provision of learning, skills and work was improving with plans for a new curriculum and evidence of strong partnership working “Our colleagues in Ofsted assessed the overall effectiveness of provision as ‘good’, but undermined in part by quite poor levels of attendance,” Mr Clarke said.

The coordination of resettlement work had improved greatly since 2015 and offender management was clearly focused on risk reduction.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:
“New Hall remains a good prison, delivering effective outcomes for those held there. At the time of our inspection the prison was experiencing something of an interregnum with a temporary governor in post and new permanent governor about to be appointed. Our report highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of this prison. We trust the findings we detail will help the new governor to ensure momentum is maintained and continuous improvement sustained.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons, said:
“Inspectors rightly recognise the effective work of staff and management in making New Hall a safe and respectful prison.
Since the inspection, a  recruitment drive has increased the proportion of female staff to within reach of the 60 per cent target, and staff have received training on rewarding good behaviour.
A new Governor is set to be appointed in the coming weeks, and will be focusing on the Inspectorate’s recommendations to oversee  further improvements at New Hall.”

 Read the Report

HMYOI WERRINGTON – Many positives but high levels of violence impacting lives

HMYOI Werrington in holding around 120 boys aged between 15 and 18, was found by inspectors to have become less safe over the year since its last inspection.

Notable features from this inspection
  • 56% of children identified as being from a black Asian or minority ethnic background.

  • Around 40% of frontline staff had less than 12 months experience.

  • 51% of children reported having previously been in Care.

  • 15 children were facing or serving long-term sentences.

  • 57% of children reported having been restrained.

Brief history

  • The establishment opened in 1895 as an industrial school and was subsequently purchased by the Prison Commissioners in 1955. Two years later it opened as a senior detention centre. Following the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 it converted to a youth custody centre in 1985 and in 1988 became a dedicated juvenile centre (15-18-year olds) with secure accommodation for those serving a detention and training order. Young people serving extended sentences under Section 91 of the Criminal Justice Act and remanded young people are also held at Werrington.

Inspectors assessed that the young offender institution, near Stoke-on-Trent, had deteriorated in three of HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ ‘healthy prisons tests’. Care for children and rehabilitation work had both slipped from good, the highest assessment, to reasonably good. The test of purposeful activity for those held remained at reasonably good.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, while drawing attention to many positives at Werrington, was concerned that safety had now fallen to an assessment of not sufficiently good.

“The number of assaults on children remained high and violence against staff had doubled since our previous inspection. This impacted on all aspects of life at Werrington.” Inspectors found that some of the violence was serious. The use of force by staff had gone up.

The number of assaults on children remained high and violence against staff had doubled since our previous inspection. This impacted on all aspects of life at Werrington.

“We found that potentially motivational behaviour management policies were undermined by poor implementation and the lack of consistency in their application led to frustration among children and staff. Opportunities to reward good behaviour were missed and we saw many examples of low level poor behaviour not being challenged.” Inspectors, who visited in February 2019, noted that behaviour management had become more punitive compared to the previous inspection in January 2018.

Click to Enlarge

Mr Clarke added that it was “notable that there had been significant staff turnover in the previous year. During the inspection, we met many enthusiastic staff in their first year of service. However, leaders and managers needed to be more visible to support these staff, model effective practice and ensure behaviour management policies were properly implemented to help reduce the high levels of violence at Werrington.”

Outcomes in the area of care were more encouraging. The promotion of equality and diversity by the education provider at the YOI was particularly good and inspectors found no evidence of disproportionate treatment of children from minority groups. Health care was also very good.

“Engagement between staff and children was respectful but opportunities to build more meaningful and effective relationships were missed.” Inspectors, though, commended an area of good practice. The YOI’s safer custody team maintained a database of key dates, such as the anniversary of bereavements. All staff were contacted before these dates and asked to look out for these children. Time out of cell was reasonably good for most children but ‘keep apart’ issues – aimed at keeping apart boys who might come into conflict – meant there were often delays in moving them to education, health care or other appointments.

“This meant that resource was wasted as teachers, clinicians and other professionals waited for children to arrive,” Mr Clarke said. However, attendance at education had improved since the previous inspection and children appreciated the better range of vocational subjects on offer.

Inspectors found some good work in support of resettlement but a lack of coordination. Caseworkers, and sentence plans, were not driving the care of children at Werrington.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There are many positives in this report but weaknesses in behaviour management have led to deterioration of outcomes in some areas. Managers need to make a concerted effort to support frontline staff in the challenging task of implementing behaviour management schemes, with the principal aim of reducing the number of violent incidents at Werrington.”

Helga Swidenbank, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Executive Director of the Youth Custody Service, said:

“I am pleased that inspectors have recognised the large amount of positive work taking place at Werrington, including good healthcare and education, and the strong relationships staff have developed with the boys in their care. While violence is a challenge across the youth estate, the new Governor has already started to implement plans to reduce it, review behaviour management and improve the one-to-one support for every boy. As part of a new initiative, experienced staff are now providing more support to recently recruited frontline officers and this will help to drive improvements at Werrington.”

Read the Report

HMP & YOI Foston Hall – Well-Led Women’s Prison With Inspectors Confident Of Further Improvement

HMP & YOI Foston Hall, a women’s prison situated between Derby and Uttoxeter, was found to be a “very positive institution” with reasonably good outcomes across all four HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ healthy prison tests.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said most women in Foston Hall felt safe. “Violence was rare and incidents minor. Work to investigate incidents when they did occur and the support offered to victims and perpetrators did, however, need to be better.” The incentives scheme was not very effective, and the number of adjudications and the use of force by staff were both higher than expected, although incidents when force was used were not normally very serious.

Click to Enlarge

A dedicated social worker led work to support adult safeguarding effectively, but needed better support from other staff. “Support for those with needs was not sufficiently proactive or always in line with prisoner care plans. The case management of those at risk of self-harm was variable,” Mr Clarke said. Self-harm incidents were very high and despite two self-inflicted deaths since 2016, when the prison was last inspected, not all the recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, who investigated these incidents, had been implemented.

Inspectors found the general environment to be excellent and most accommodation was good. Most women were positive about their relationships with staff. New work to promote equality and diversity had begun and was encouraging, with new arrangements for consultation now in place. Health care had improved considerably since 2016.

Most prisoners experienced very good time out of cell and some good joint working between education providers and the prison had led to improvements to the curriculum on offer.

The management of resettlement was improving, but would have benefited further from a better analysis of the distinct needs of women in the prison. Mr Clarke said: “Work to support offender management was good but more could have been done for the many prisoners serving indeterminate sentences.”

Inspectors noted some impressive initiatives, such as the Family Bonding Unit established  to encourage stronger family ties.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“This is a good report about a good prison. Foston Hall is well led, with energy and creativity evident among the senior team. Themes that emerged from our inspection were the need to refine strategies so that initiatives were better coordinated and delivered more effectively, and to ensure that the staff group was more proactive in focusing on the needs of prisoners and their well-being. We were, however, confident that managers could use the platform they had created for further improvement and we leave the prison with several recommendations which we hope will assist this process.”

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

“I am pleased that inspectors have found Foston Hall to be a good and improving prison. Staff and managers have worked hard to implement the recommendations from the previous inspection in 2016, and raise the establishment’s performance. Further work to tackle the high levels of self-harm and improve support for those at risk of harming themselves is underway, with the prison implementing a new model to do this. I know that the Governor and her management team will use the inspectors’ recommendations to build on this excellent progress.”

FACTS

Task of the establishment – A women’s resettlement and local prison

Certified normal accommodation and operational capacity – Prisoners held at the time of inspection: 263

Baseline certified normal capacity: 264

In-use certified normal capacity: 264

Operational capacity: 286

Notable features from this inspection

  • In our survey, almost all prisoners reported having problems on arrival, including depression and feeling suicidal. Three quarters of the population said they suffered from a mental health problem.
  • Thirty-six per cent of prisoners were involved with psychosocial services.
  • Foston Hall was the first women’s prison to introduce digital visits to promote contact with children and families.
  • On average 70 prisoners were released each month.
  • An unusually high proportion of prisoners, almost 20%, at Foston Hall were serving indeterminate sentences.

Prison status and key providers – Public

Physical and mental health provider: Care UK

Substance use provider: Inclusion

Learning and skills provider: Milton Keynes College

Community rehabilitation company (CRC): Derbyshire, Leicester, Nottinghamshire and Rutland CRC

Escort contractor: GEOAmey

Prison department – Women’s estate

Short description of residential units

  • First night and induction unit for 63 prisoners
  • A wing – Cameo Unit accommodation for 42 prisoners with personality disorders
  • B wing – mainstream accommodation for 42 prisoners
  • C wing – mainstream accommodation for 41 prisoners
  • D wing – mainstream accommodation for 29 prisoners
  • E wing – unit for 11 long-term and enhanced regime prisoners
  • F wing – mainstream accommodation for 63 prisoners (closed for refurbishment)
  • T wing – mainstream accommodation for 58 prisoners.

Name of governor and date in post – Andrea Black – February 2017

Read the Report

HMP Birmingham – a mixed bag of some progress in tackling violence and squalor, but weaknesses in education and management of sex offenders

HMP Birmingham has made reasonable progress in tackling the violence, drug use and squalor evident in a disturbing inspection of the prison in the summer of 2018.

However, an Independent Review of Progress (IRP) in May 2019 found a mixed overall picture, with insufficient progress in tackling antisocial behaviour and in improving work, training and education for most prisoners. There was no meaningful progress in work to support the large number of sex offenders to address their offending behaviour.

Click to Enlarge

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, recalled that HMP Birmingham was found to be in an “appalling state” during an inspection in August 2018, with the treatment of prisoners among the worst inspectors had seen in recent years. He was so concerned that he invoked the rarely-used Urgent Notification Protocol. Birmingham was then run by G4S but it has since been announced that it will return to the public sector.

At the IRP visit in May 2019, Mr Clarke said, inspectors found that the prison “had worked exceptionally hard to address violence. The causes of violence were now well understood and a range of actions had been taken to make the prison safer.” Levels of violence had decreased since 2018, though they remained considerably higher than the average for similar prisons.

There had been no progress at all on the recommendation that:

  • The prison should implement a strategy to manage and progress sex offenders in order to address their offending behaviour, who cannot be appropriately progressed, specific and sufficient offending behaviour work should be provided at Birmingham. The skills mix in the offender management unit should be improved, to reflect the need to work effectively with a large high-risk population.

There had been insufficient progress on recommendations that:

  • the perpetrators of violence and antisocial behaviour should be subject to appropriate administrative or disciplinary actions
  • all victims of violence and antisocial behaviour should be identified and assisted with comprehensive support plans which include access to regime activities
  • progress leaders and managers have made in implementing an education, skills and work provision that meets the prison population’s needs, including the prioritisation of sentenced prisoners’ session attendance
  • English and mathematics development and pre-release preparation
  • there should be a fundamental improvement in the quality of care for prisoners in distress and those at risk of self-harm who should be properly supported, and triggers addressed such as poor living conditions and isolation.

There had been reasonable progress on recommendations that:

  • The prison’s drug supply and demand strategy should be further developed, to identify additional practical measures to stop the ingress of drugs and reduce demand more robustly. It should include measures to develop a culture that does not tolerate drug use and actively supports those who are using to stop.
  • Staff should be effectively supervised, coached and trained to maintain appropriate professional standards and provide a proper balance of care and control.
  • All steps, including consultation with prisoners, should be taken to understand and analyse the causes of violence and antisocial behaviour. Actions should be taken to reduce violence, and the effectiveness of these should be monitored over time.
  • Gaps and weaknesses in public protection arrangements should be identified and urgent remedial action should be taken to protect victims and potential victims.
  • What progress have leaders and managers made in identifying and addressing fully the needs of prisoners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, who attend education programmes, so they achieve to an appropriately high level? Addresses previous inspection report recommendation.
  • Measures to ensure prisoners faced sanctions for their poor behaviour looked encouraging but had only recently been introduced and were not yet working effectively. Similarly, considerable efforts had been made to identify victims of violence and bullying but as yet too little support had been offered.

Inspectors no longer observed overt drug use on the wings, Mr Clarke said. However, one in four prisoners were still testing positive for drugs “and I found it inexplicable that the prison had been unable to secure funding for equipment such as a body scanner to help them stop drugs entering the prison.”

Relationships between staff and prisoners had improved, and the prison felt more ordered and controlled. In August 2018 inspectors had found that control in the “fundamentally unsafe” prison was tenuous. In 2019, “staff were more accountable, better supported and more able to establish appropriate boundaries and challenge poor prisoner behaviour.” The prison was also now much cleaner.

The prison had made reasonable progress in identifying and addressing the needs of prisoners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. But progress across other areas of education, skills and work, assessed by Ofsted inspectors, was insufficient. “The provision did not meet most prisoners’ needs – most critically the substantial number of prisoners requiring English and mathematics education. Attendance at activities was low.”

Many of the weaknesses in public protection arrangements evident in 2018 had been addressed. However, Mr Clarke added: “The prison had devised a strategy to manage and progress the substantial number of prisoners convicted of sexual offences but, with no support or agreement from across the wider HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), the strategy was unrealistic and likely to fail.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“It is only right that I recognise the scale of the task to improve the treatment and conditions for prisoners at Birmingham. It is huge. There is no doubt that the prison faces a long journey of recovery. It is very clear that the governor, through his vision and very visible leadership, has energised the staff and undoubted pride and optimism are emerging around the prison. I think that optimism is well founded. Birmingham has already made some tangible improvements and has the capacity for further change and improvement if it retains strong leadership and if those responsible for Birmingham at national and regional level provide it with the support necessary to sustain what has begun.”

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

On the face of it, this is a fairly balanced report, showing that Birmingham under the step-in powers (that become permanent next month) has made real progress under the Governorship of the rightly-regarded Paul Newton – but the problem I have with it, and it’s a failure running through all of Peter Clarke’s reporting – including this one –  is the complete lack of detail in terms of support for his findings.

All Inspectorate reports contain ‘partially achieved’ assessments, but the Chief Inspector has publicly confirmed there is no criteria for these assessments; it depends on the judgement of the inspector on the day. Moreover, requests for copies of the notes taken by Inspectors to support those assessments have been refused by the Chief Inspector.

The same flaw has regrettably infected these new ‘Interim Reviews of Progress’.

For example in this report, he lists areas where there has been ‘no progress’, ‘insufficient progress’, and ‘reasonable progress’, but he gives absolutely no detail whatsoever as to the evidence to support those conclusions nor, where he finds a lack of progress, does he set out what needs to be done for progress to be made.

This is contrary to previous Chief Inspectors who when they made assessments provided clear evidence to support their conclusions.

This has been a constant feature of this chief inspector and it is one that he has continually failed to remedy.

Additionally, while Clarke makes sweeping statements such as he made about Bristol prison recently (that the prison was fully staffed) he gives no details about that staffing, nor the basis upon which the calculations as to a full complement of staff are based.

A further common flaw in Clarke’s reports has been to make recommendations without any thought as to where the resources are to come from to implement those recommendations – and he later then castigates the prison for their failure to implement those very same recommendations which in many cases were destined to fil for a lack of resources to implement them from the beginning.

Peter Clarke is due to retire next February from this role, my hope is that whoever replaces him brings a greater understanding of the problems faced by our prisons than Clarke has brought to the role.

Read the Report

HMP BRISTOL – Chief Inspector Issues Urgent Notification

The country’s most senior prison inspector has demanded the Justice Secretary take action over the squalid and dangerous conditions at HMP Bristol – issuing his fifth ever Urgent Notification.

Peter Clarke invoked a rarely-used protocol forcing David Gauke to respond publicly after inspectors found high levels of violence, filthy cells and poor training and education.

Click to Download Urgent Notification in pdf

Mr Clarke warned the Justice Secretary that the category B men’s prison had not improved at all despite being placed in special measures after a worrying inspection in 2017.

In the letter, Mr Clarke said inspectors had found rates of self-harm had increased since 2017 and remained higher than most local prisons.

Despite two suicides since the last inspection, recommendations for improvements had not been implemented and inspectors saw instances of “very poor” care of at-risk prisoners.

Inspectors also found the prison to be dirty, with many of the 600-plus inmates living in overcrowded cells.

Recorded levels of violence, a lot of it serious, were found to have increased since the 2017 inspection, and was much higher than average for local prisons.

Nearly two thirds of prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some point while held in HMP Bristol, and over a third said the currently felt unsafe.

A hotline for family and friends of prisoners in crisis to report their concerns had not been checked for over two weeks before the inspections, Mr Clarke said.

It was found the prison had enough activity places for all prisoners to take part in education, training or work for at least part of the day, but only half of prisoners had been allocated an activity.

Of these, on average only half attended their activity.

Under the terms of the urgent notification protocol, within a month the justice secretary must come up with a plan to improve the prison.

In the letter, Mr Clarke said: “The chronic and seemingly intractable failings at Bristol have now been evident for the best part of a decade.”

He added the prison had “demonstrably been in a state of drift and decline for many years” and that additional investment had not led to any visible improvement in conditions.

Mr Clarke said: “Some of the efforts to improve have, in reality, been a case of too little, too late.

“Some we saw had only just been implemented, and some were introduced during the inspection itself.

“On the basis of this latest inspection, I can have no confidence that HMP Bristol will achieve coherent, meaningful or sustained improvement in the future.”

The urgent notification protocol was added to the existing protocol between the prisons’ inspectorate and the Ministry of Justice in November 2017, signed by then-justice secretary David Lidington.

Bristol is the fifth prison to trigger the protocol since it came into force, Mr Clarke has also demanded urgent action over HMPs Nottingham, Birmingham, Bedford and Exeter.

The unannounced inspection took place between May 20 and June 7 of this year.

Prisons Minister Robert Buckland said: “We know Bristol faces serious challenges and we have been providing additional support.

“That has resulted in more prison officers and reductions in drug use, but some of the chief inspector’s findings make very difficult reading and it is clear that much more work is needed.

“We have immediately addressed the issues around prisoner phone support lines to make sure those problems can never happen again, and will publish an action plan within 28 days to reduce violence and self-harm and help turn the prison around.”

CHIEF INSPECTOR’S KEY FINDINGS

• Bristol is a frontline local prison, receiving prisoners from the courts, many with vulnerabilities and often with no previous experience of prison. In light of this, we were disappointed to see first night arrangements had only improved marginally and that many of these improvements were only introduced during the course of the inspection.

• In our survey, nearly two-thirds of prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some point during their stay at the prison, with over a third feeling unsafe at the time of the inspection itself. Recorded violence, much of it serious, had increased since our last inspection and was much higher than the average for local prisons. We saw that there was a new violence reduction strategy, some good security initiatives and some very important work to combat illegal drugs, but some of this was poorly coordinated, not measured for effectiveness and not applied with sufficient rigour to give us the assurance it will be impactful or sustained. Despite the high levels of violence, there were no prisoners being managed under CSIP (the agreed casework approach to managing perpetrators and victims of violence), which meant that perpetrators were not being monitored and challenged and victims were not being supported.

• The use of segregation, the number of adjudications and use of force incidents were all high and, to a large extent, reflected the levels of violence in the prison. Most work to improve processes was very recent and untested. Work to incentivise prisoners was too new to assess its effectiveness, and the poor management of adjudications led to a situation where so many charges were not proceeded with that it risked creating a culture of near impunity for those prisoners who behaved poorly. Of the 1,075 adjudications so far in 2019, only 400 had reached a conclusion.

• The rate of self-harm had increased since the last inspection and remained higher than most other local prisons. There had been two self-inflicted deaths since our last inspection, and significant recommendations made following Prisons and Probation Ombudsman investigations had not been implemented. An extraordinarily high number of prisoners – one in 10 – were identified as being at risk of suicide and self-harm and were being managed through assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management processes. We believe this was unmanageable. There was no effective strategy to reduce levels of self-harm and this was an indication of risk aversion rather than considered risk management. This was poor practice and potentially an impediment to care for those in crisis.

• We saw examples of very poor care for prisoners identified as being at risk of suicide and self-harm. One prisoner being managed on ACCT became very distressed one evening and smashed up his cell. Despite this, staff did not review his case that evening, nor was the level of observations on him increased. He was left overnight, and all the following day, in his damaged cell.

• Our confidence in the prison’s competence to support those at risk of self-harm was severely undermined when we found that prisoners had been unable to telephone the Samaritans from their in-cell phones since 15 May 2019 because the prison had not kept the number topped up with credit.

• We were extremely concerned to find that a hotline for the family and friends of those in crisis, to call and report their concerns, had not been checked by staff at all for the two weeks before the inspection. When inspectors asked for records, staff retrieved 21 voicemail messages which required action. Three of the prisoners concerned had already been released from Bristol.

• When we last inspected we were concerned about the lack of care, particularly social care for some very vulnerable prisoners with physical disabilities. At this inspection, the social care arrangements were still completely inadequate, leaving several prisoners we observed with unmet care needs. One of these men had been at the prison since October 2018. He was not able to walk unaided. He had a wheelchair, but it did not fit through his cell door. His cell had no adjustments made and he spent most of his day lying in bed, with a urine bottle tucked under his sheets. A fellow prisoner helped him by getting his meals, making sure he had clean bedding and clothing and lifting him in and out of his cell, but this prisoner was neither trained nor supervised. An initial social care referral was made in December 2018. A care assessment was made during our inspection on 5 June.

• Most accommodation remained bleak and grubby with too many overcrowded cells. C and G wings were the poorest environments. There remained a substantial backlog of maintenance work, infestations of cockroaches were common and many cells lacked sufficient basic furniture. A bulk order of new furniture had been placed in January 2019, but had still not arrived.

• There were currently sufficient activity places for all prisoners to engage in education, training or work for at least part of the day, yet only half had been allocated and of these on average only about half attended. Leaders and managers had not prioritised purposeful activity, were largely unaware of the poor attendance rates, and their expectations were too low, despite significant investment in education facilities. Classes were often cancelled. The quality of teaching, learning and assessment was weak: too many prisoners failed to make any progress, complete their course or gain any qualification or tangible outcome. Time out of cell for the many prisoners not allocated to activity was limited to around two hours each day, and during the working day we found just under a third of prisoners locked in their cells.

• Bristol prison has an important role to play in resettling and reintegrating the many prisoners it releases. About 80 prisoners were released from Bristol every month, but a staggering 47% were released homeless or into temporary accommodation, which did little to enhance their chances of rehabilitation.

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

The one thing that stands out about this Urgent Notification is not the shocking conditions, squalor, lack of decency, care of vulnerable prisoners (whose critical care telephone line had not been answered in a fortnight) nor the high levels of violence, all that regrettably is part and parcel of the criteria for an Urgent Notification and I expected all that.

What is most concerning is that all of that took place in a prison that was both fully staffed and which has, for the last two years, been subject to HM Prison and Probation Service ‘Special Measures’ designed to bring failing prisons back up to par with added resources and managerial input.

In the words of the Chief Inspector Peter Clarke, Special Measures “have clearly failed at HM Prison Bristol.”

What’s more the prison clearly had no excuse or explanation for its failings either: 

“Despite repeated requests, the prison failed to provide us with any meaningful objectives, action plans or assessment of the impact of ‘special measures’” wrote the Chief Inspector.

Of the 76 recommendations made by the Prisons Inspectorate in 2017 at HMP Bristol, by the time of this visit a dismal 22 had been achieved – and when it came to safety there was even more incredulity – especially after two years added senior Ministry of Justice ‘special measures’ attention:

“Incredibly, for a prison that has been judged as unsafe in successive inspections, only one of the 11 recommendations made under ‘safety’ in 2017 had been fully achieved…

“In 2017 I had grounds to think that the leadership at Bristol might be able to make some progress, called for them to be allowed to continue at Bristol, and expressed some cautious optimism.

“Two years later, there has been no significant improvement. My understanding is that ‘special measures’ are intended to provide support for the Governor of a struggling prison.

“If that is the intention, they have clearly failed at HMP Bristol.”

The Chief Inspector’s Urgent Notification is a damning assessment of failure in a fully staffed prison, subject to extra resources and the added management support ‘special measures’ are designed to deliver, and which should never have found itself in this position in a month of Sundays.

The Prison Officers Association were quick off the blocks, after news of the Urgent Notification was leaked two days ago to the BBC prior to its publication today; National Chairman Mark Fairhurst said on Twitter:

“HMP Bristol gets an [Urgent Notification] not because of a poor Governor or a lack of committed staff. It’s because of a lack of investment and a reluctance to act at the very top. Start listening to your staff and @POAUnion⁩ and let’s make our prisons safe/ decent.”

The uncomfortable reality for Mark Fairhurst, however, is that there has been investment, and far from a reluctance to act from the top, there has been more than two years’ worth of added attention at Bristol.

All the evidence points to failure by the prison itself to make the most of the opportunity special measures gave to it, and that failure starts and ends at a local level, indeed right at the heart of the prison in Bristol itself.

Mark Leech is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales – follow him on Twitter @prisonsorguk

Read the Urgent Notification

HMP/YOI Moorland – significant improvements in safety and respect but must address public protection weakness

HMP/YOI Moorland, an adult and young adult men’s resettlement prison near Doncaster, showed “reassuring” improvements since its previous inspection, particularly in reducing violence overall.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that in February 2016 Moorland was uncertain about whether it would be privatised and was suffering very badly from the impact of illicit drugs, particularly new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Click to enlarge

It was therefore heartening, Mr Clarke said, to see the progress in the past three years. Safety and respect had both gone up from an assessment of ‘not sufficiently good’ to ‘reasonably good’, and purposeful activity, including training and education, remained at sufficiently good. However, its work on rehabilitation and resettlement remained at ‘not sufficiently good.’

The improvements in safety and respect were a “significant achievement, and testament to a huge amount of hard work by all the leaders and staff at Moorland.

“Levels of violence had not only stabilised, but had actually decreased – clearly bucking the national trend over that period.” However, despite this overall reduction, assaults against staff had doubled and were higher than at similar prisons. Use of force by staff had increased since the last inspection, though levels were now similar to other category C prisons. It was also notable, Mr Clarke added, “that the prevalence of NPS seen at the last inspection has decreased.”

Self-harm was very high and it was disappointing that there were insufficient Listeners – prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to fellow prisoners. Staff-prisoner relationships had improved considerably since 2016 and the prison’s key worker scheme was having a beneficial impact. In-cell telephones were “beneficial in many ways.” The prison was urged, though, to develop a better understanding of survey data suggesting adverse results for black and minority ethnic and disabled prisoners.

The most serious concern for inspectors was the lack of effective public protection measures. Over half the population, 530 men, were assessed as presenting a high risk and about a third were convicted sex offenders.

Mr Clarke said: “It was unacceptable that high risk prisoners approaching release were not receiving the detailed consideration that their potential risk to the public should have demanded.” Inspectors also noted that “arrangements to conduct and review telephone monitoring were chaotic and unmanageable. Child contact restrictions were poorly managed, and there were no assessments to support decisions.” Mr Clarke added: “Moorland has now been a resettlement prison for a number of years, and this whole area of responsibility, not only to the prisoners but also to the public, needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Overall, however, Mr Clarke said:

“This was a good inspection, and although there were some vital areas where improvement was still needed, it was obvious that the findings of the last inspection had been taken seriously… I would urge the leadership and staff at Moorland not to feel defensive about some of the issues raised in this report, which some might interpret as criticism. It is the duty of HM Inspectorate of Prisons to report on what we see, and if there are shortcomings we will point them out, in the spirit of helping to secure further improvements through recommendations. This was a reassuring inspection, and shows what can be achieved even in difficult and testing times, but it would be unduly complacent not to acknowledge that further improvement is necessary and achievable.”

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

“This is a very promising report, and the decrease in violence and use of drugs is a testament to the huge amount of hard work by staff at HMP Moorland. We take the concerns raised around public protection very seriously and the prison is already implementing new plans for managing offenders’ release. We are also rolling out the key worker scheme – which gives each prisoner a dedicated officer for engagement and support and has led to a reduction in attacks on staff elsewhere – which should help the prison to build on the good progress that the inspection team have highlighted.”

Read the Report

HMP The Mount: improvements in activity and rehabilitation and prison beginning to address violence and drugs

HMP The Mount, a training and resettlement prison in Hertfordshire holding up to 1,000 prisoners, was assessed in April 2019 to be improving from a troubling inspection a year before.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the full inspection in April and May 2018 had shown a “prison that had deteriorated substantially in many areas.” There were high levels of violence, drug use and use of force by staff and inspectors concluded that The Mount was “clearly failing in its fundamental mission to provide constructive activity, training and rehabilitation.”

Click to Enlarge Image

However, in an Independent Review of Progress (IRP) in 2019, Mr Clarke said, “we noted that the prison appeared to be on an upward trajectory, albeit from a very low base.

“Managers told us of many improvements expected within the next few months…We were pleased to find that there was some substance to these plans. There was evidence of greater clarity of vision around training and rehabilitation, something that we had urged in 2018.”

Work to improve safety outcomes for prisoners was less advanced than would have been expected, Mr Clarke noted. Violence and use of force had risen, and the governance of use of force and segregation was still weak. Drugs remained a problem. However, there was a comprehensive, though as yet only partially implemented, strategy to address violence. More body-worn cameras were available and they were used more often. In recent months there had been evidence of steadily reducing drug use in the prison.

Click to Enlarge Image

Cleanliness had improved substantially, and a programme of redecoration and refurbishment was well under way, supported by a prisoner ‘handyman’ scheme. Staffing had greatly improved, with around 80 new officers, and staff sickness levels were now very low.

Inspectors identified the use of prisoner ‘culture representatives’ – whose experience helped the management understand whether policies designed to create a more respectful environment were having an impact – as good practice.

There was reasonably good progress in purposeful activity. While far too many prisoners were unemployed and locked up during roll checks (around 40%), time out of cell had improved substantially since 2018. A full regime was now available to most men, with some advanced plans to create more activity places.

The most impressive area of progress was in rehabilitation and release planning, Mr Clarke said. There were still insufficient interventions – for example, to address the needs of prisoners with domestic violence histories. “However, the prison now had a much more coherent and joined up approach to offender management and reducing reoffending.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“This was an encouraging review. While a great deal of work was still needed to ensure that momentum was not lost, improvement and progress were evident. The two worst areas identified at the last inspection – purposeful activity, and rehabilitation and release planning – had both seen significant improvements. There was a sense of purpose and management drive at the prison, and the contribution that prisoners themselves could make to positive change was being recognised. It would be a disappointment – and a surprise – if the areas of insufficient progress… were not addressed with vigour before we return to The Mount.”

– End –

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full Independent Review of Progress report, published on 31 May 2019, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons
  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. HMP The Mount in Hertfordshire is a category C training and resettlement prison with capacity for about 1,000 prisoners. Opened in the late 1980s, it is a relatively modern prison holding convicted prisoners, most of whom are serving long sentences for serious offences.
  4. Read the full 2018 inspection report – https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2018/09/HMP-The-Mount-Web-2018.pdf

 

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

 

  1. This IRP visit took place between 23 – 25  April 2018. At this IRP visit, we followed up 13 of the 69 recommendations made at our most recent inspection and made judgements about the degree of progress achieved to date. We judged that there was good progress in five recommendations, reasonable progress in two recommendations and insufficient progress in six. There were no areas of no meaningful progress

 

  1. Please contact John Steele at HM Inspectorate of Prisons on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452, or at john.steele@justice.gov.uk, if you would like more information.

Please contact the Ministry of Justice Newsdesk – 020 3334 3536 – for a comment on the report.

 

 

HMP Stocken – Improved safety but purposeful activity has declined

Inspectors found a mixed picture of progress in HMP Stocken, a training prison in a rural setting in Rutland, since it was last inspected in 2015.

Safety had improved and conditions for more than 800 men in the prison remained reasonably good. However, the prison had deteriorated in terms of purposeful activity, including training and education, and in rehabilitation and release planning.

Click to enlarge image

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said it was clear that the leadership of the prison was fully committed to maintaining and improving performance. “A very obvious sign of success is that the rating we awarded for safety, so often a challenge for prisons in recent times, had risen from not sufficiently good at the last inspection to reasonably good on this occasion.

“This is a very real achievement. Levels of violence had not increased, and were lower than at similar prisons. HMP Stocken had managed to defy the national trend of year-on-year increases in violence.”

Mr Clarke added, however, that HMP Stocken needed to review and develop its drugs strategy, particularly focusing on new psychoactive substances (NPS). “Nevertheless, there had been some good work carried out, and although the mandatory drug testing positive results were high for the previous six months at around 26%, there were some encouraging signs of improvement.”

Relationships between staff and prisoners were generally positive though there had been insufficient attention paid to equalities since the last inspection. Inspectors were concerned by some serious weaknesses in health care.

It was disappointing, both for the Inspectorate and the prison, Mr Clarke said, “to find that performance in the area of purposeful activity had fallen away. At the previous inspection we had awarded our highest grade of ‘good’, but this had now declined to ‘not sufficiently good’.

“Broadly speaking, there were enough activity places and those that attended generally achieved well. However, we found that only 60% of prisoners actually left their wings to attend activities, and a further 16% were wing workers who for much of the time were not gainfully employed. Our assessment was that only around three-quarters of prisoners were engaged in genuinely purposeful activity. For those who did get to their allocated activities, punctuality was often poor and they frequently failed to settle into work promptly.”

Inspectors also had a major concern about the risks to public protection potentially posed by the small number of prisoners, around eight each month, released from Stocken into the community. Stocken is not designated as a resettlement prison, and as such does not receive services from a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC). Most prisoners were transferred to a resettlement prison prior to release, but a small number were not. This created potentially serious risks, given the profile of the prisoner population at Stocken, which were compounded by weaknesses in the internal assessment of risk.

Overall, Mr Clarke said: “Some of (our) judgements were finely balanced, but the main concerns we have identified will, I hope, give a clear steer for where the undoubted energy and commitment of the leadership and staff at Stocken can best be focused.”