ashfieldHMP Ashfield was performing well after its change of role, but needed to improve the education it provided for prisoners, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison near Bristol.

HMP Ashfield was originally a facility for young people. Its role changed in 2013 and the prison now holds approximately 400 adult male prisoners, all convicted of sex offences. Most prisoners were serving long sentences with over half doing in excess of ten years or an indeterminate sentence. The process of transition had been managed well. The prison was calm and managers and staff were properly focused on the challenges of their new function, although the provision of work and education still had to be fully addressed. In most other respects, the outcomes inspectors observed were very good.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

·         Ashfield was safe, violent incidents and self-harm were low, but those in crisis were properly cared for;

·         security was proportionate;

·         prisoners lived in clean and decent conditions;

·         relationships between staff and prisoners were excellent;

·         prisoners were unlocked for long periods and there was sufficient activity for most;

·         resettlement services were developing and already provided reasonable outcomes for prisoners; and

·         sentence and risk management plans were reasonable, as was public protection work.


However, inspectors were concerned to find that: 

·         there was some disparity between the number of white prisoners who successfully recategorised to D and the small numbers of black prisoners who were successful;

·         most of the education, in particular English and maths, was too low level and the quality of teaching varied;

·         some teachers were not appropriately qualified and some classes were led by unsupervised peer supporters; and

·         the prison needed to do more to address the risks presented by the significant number of prisoners who were disengaged because they were in denial of their sexual offending.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Overall this is a very good report for a prison that has undergone a radical change of direction. Priorities going forward are to ensure work, training and education is fully fit for purpose, and that the prison has a more sophisticated and better coordinated approach to addressing the risks posed by a sex offender population. This seemed to us well within the competence of a prison that is well led and run by a capable and caring staff team.”

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

“Ashfield is a well-managed prison which has adapted well to its current role holding sex offenders.

“As the Chief Inspector has found, it is a safe and decent prison, where staff are protecting the public effectively from the risks presented by this type of offender.

“We will continue to support the prison to improve the quality of education and training opportunities, which will further underpin the rehabilitation of the prisoners held there.”


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


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


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.