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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

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

 Facts

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

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

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

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

HMP Manchester: Some improvements but progress is slow and weak in key areas

HMP Manchester, an important local prison in a major English city, was assessed by inspectors as having made slow and weak progress in many key areas where improvement was urged after a full inspection in 2018.

An Independent Review of Progress (IRP) at Manchester took place in June 2019, 11 months after the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, said the prison needed to “up its game.”

Mr Clarke said: “The response to the 2018 inspection can only be described as too late and too weak. It is true that there were some encouraging outcomes, and most functional heads demonstrated enthusiasm and a commitment to improving their areas. However, we found there had been little or no meaningful progress against two-thirds of our recommendations.”

The prison had recently revised its safety strategy. “Assaults on prisoners had reduced significantly since the full inspection, and we judged there to have been reasonable progress in this area.” Mr Clarke added, though: “If the establishment is to reduce violence further, particularly against staff, the lengthy list of actions aimed at reducing violence should be prioritised.”

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The use of force by staff remained high. “Despite this, there had been no meaningful progress against this recommendation; governance had not improved, staff rarely used their body-worn cameras, with no adequate explanation for this, and too few recorded incidents were scrutinised to provide assurance and institutional learning.”

The prison had made reasonable progress – the second-highest assessment, below good – in efforts to reduce the supply of drugs. Mandatory testing results showed that drug use was relatively low compared with other local prisons.

However, promising work to support prisoners in crisis had started so recently that progress at the time of the IRP visit had to be judged as insufficient. “This was very concerning given that there had been three further self-inflicted deaths since the full inspection in July 2018. It was bewildering to find that actions to prevent deaths in custody simply had not been reviewed until shortly before our visit. Similarly, the introduction of key work and wing peer support had been so slow that we could not yet see sufficient progress in this area.”

The prison had made concerted efforts to tackle the ongoing vermin problem, and some improvements had been made to living conditions.

There was also evidence of reasonable progress in the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, though Ofsted inspectors found that attendance at work and education was not prioritised and too much activity was curtailed. Too few prisoners completed their courses and achievements were not sufficiently good.

Mr Clarke said there had been no meaningful progress in the important areas of equality and diversity or time out of cell. A spot check on one wing found 49% of prisoners locked up during the day.

Mr Clarke said: “HMP Manchester was relatively well resourced and had fewer inexperienced staff than we have found at similar prisons. It was therefore hard to understand why progress had been so slow in many critical areas. Such progress as there had been had only started in the weeks and months immediately leading up to this review visit.

“Without a fundamental shift in attitude towards the findings of HM Inspectorate of Prisons, we had no confidence that there could be significant improvements in the future. At the full inspection we had been told that reconfiguration to a category B training prison was imminent. On this visit… we were told that the target date had been moved to October 2019. It is my considered view that unless the culture of the prison changes, and the need for improvement is taken seriously, it will not be ready for this change.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

 

 

First of the new HMI ‘Independent Review of Progress’ Reports shows “Too Little Too Late” at HMP Exeter

“A thoroughly depressing report”
Mark Leech, Editor:  The Prisons Handbook
for England and Wales

Work to address key failings at HMP Exeter, a troubled prison found last year to suffer high levels of drug-fuelled violence, has lacked urgency, according to HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

In the first of its new ‘Independent Reviews of Progress’ (IRPs) – in Exeter in April 2019 – HMIP tested progress against key recommendations from a full inspection in May last year. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, was so concerned by the conditions in Exeter at that time that he issued a rarely-used ‘Urgent Notification’ requiring the Secretary of State to respond with plans for improvement within 28 days.

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The IRP visit presented a mixed picture. One of the most troubling findings was ‘no meaningful progress’ in understanding the factors underlying high levels of illicit drug use.

Mr Clarke said that while there had been progress on some aspects, “the lack of progress in over half the 13 recommendations that we reviewed could be characterised by the statement ‘too little too late’.

“The purpose of the Urgent Notification Protocol, which is only used where I have serious concerns about the treatment of and conditions for prisoners, is to initiate immediate remedial action.

“At Exeter, in too many critical areas, this simply had not happened. It was not clear whether this was as a result of a conscious decision not to prioritise our recommendations, bureaucratic inertia, or whether managers were simply overwhelmed or uncertain as to how to set about making the much-needed improvements. 

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“Whatever the reason, there had not been a sufficient sense of urgency in the prison’s response to a number of key recommendations.”

In the May 2018 inspection, inspectors found there had been six self-inflicted deaths between 2016 and 2018 and self-harm had risen by 40%. Despite these levels of vulnerability, self-harm and suicide, cell call bells were routinely ignored by staff. The rate of assaults between prisoners was then the highest inspectors had seen in a local prison in recent years.

In April 2019, the IRP found that overall levels of violence had decreased, though they remained higher than in similar prisons. Mr Clarke said: “A number of actions had been taken to reduce violence and the strategy to reduce violence further in the future was promising.” The use of unregulated segregation had been eradicated, and governance of the use of force by staff was improving.

“However, despite a rise in the already high use of illicit drugs in the establishment, there had been an inexplicable failure to develop a comprehensive drug strategy which, if properly implemented, would certainly contribute to a reduction in violence. A draft strategy was being put together and it is essential that this is now treated as a priority.”

Relationships between staff and prisoners were found to be improving and improvement processes were in place to monitor cell bell responses. There was progress on prisoner applications and complaints, though equality and diversity work had not been prioritised at all. Similarly, attendance at education and work, some of which remained mundane, had not been prioritised.

Mr Clarke said that after the Urgent Notification the prison was required to produce an action plan for the Secretary of State but a number of the deadlines in this plan had not been met on time.

“Nevertheless, there had been a proactive response to some recommendations in critical areas and there are now credible plans to make further improvements in the future. It is unfortunate that the prison had not devised and implemented some of these plans earlier as they would no doubt have led to a more positive assessment at this review of progress.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales called the report ‘thoroughly depressing’.

Mr Leech said: “We all had high hopes that the Urgent Notification process would lead to real and lasting improvements in those prisons which have been subject to it – HMP Exeter was the first such prison to benefit from a post Urgent Notification IRP and this review of progress is a thoroughly depressing report that demonstrates that not even the Justice Secretary’s public undertakings of progress can be relied upon.”

The report is available here: https://www.prisons.org.uk/Exeter-HMI-IRP-052019.pdf