HMP Leyhill: A Safe & Decent open Prison, But Prisoners Are Not Being Discharged By A Lack of Approved Premises


HMP Leyhill was a safe and decent prison which helped to prepare prisoners for release, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons – but where he also found untrained, unsupervised, prisoners were expected to mentor other prisoners, where there were problems with the release on temporary licence system (ROTL) and where a lack of approved premises was delaying the release of prisoners cleared for discharge by the Parole Board.

Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the open prison in Gloucestershire.

HMP Leyhill currently holds around 500 men. A major element of its role is the preparation of many men being held there for release back into the community. Given the serious nature of the offences committed by some of the men, the long sentences they have served and the changing nature of the prison population, this is a complex and challenging task. Since its last inspection in 2012, the population of the prison had changed. In 2012, sex offenders accounted for about 20% of the prisoners at Leyhill. On this more recent inspection, it was around 60%.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • violent incidents were rare and low-level victimisation, including that directed towards sex offenders, was managed well;
  • the number of self-harm incidents was very low and prisoners at risk of self-harm were supported well;
  • security was proportionate and the number of absconds had reduced year on year;
  • the prison was proactively addressing the supply and demand of illicit drugs and the use of new psychoactive substances had declined;
  • staff-prisoner relationships were good;
  • the management of learning and skills was good and the quality of teaching and learning was outstanding;
  • public protection measures were mostly sound and release on temporary licence (ROTL) assessments were high quality; and
  • the offender management unit was appropriately focused on reducing risk and the quality of risk (OASys) assessments was good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:


  • although inspectors commended the use of prisoners as orderlies, mentors and advice workers, they needed to be properly trained and supervised;
  • access to ROTL was problematic and too few placements were available; and
  • the lack of approved premises delayed the release of some men who had been deemed ready for release by the Parole Board.


Peter Clarke said:

“HMP Leyhill was a safe and decent prison. The high standards inspectors saw in 2012 had not only been maintained, but improved upon. The outcome of this inspection is a credit to all of the staff at Leyhill and the way they have responded to the energetic and committed leadership given by the senior management of the prison.”


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

‘I am pleased that the excellent work being undertaken at Leyhill has been recognised in this report.

“The quality of skills training, work and education are impressive, providing prisoners with the skills they need to secure new jobs and prevent re-offending on release.

“The Governor and her staff can be very proud of the quality of work they are doing on behalf of the public. They will use the recommendations in this report to further improve the prison.”


Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said: “Overall this is a very positive report but, just like NHS bed blocking, the prison is also being required to detain people beyond the time when they are cleared for release due to a shortage of approved premises places.

“At a time when we have serious problems in our prison system with overcrowding, this needs to be a top priority for the Ministry of Justice”

A copy of the full report, published on 25 January, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: