Prison Officer stabbed at HMYOI Swinfen Hall

A prison officer has been stabbed in an incident at a jail for young offenders.

The staff member at HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall was attacked on Friday, but it is understood the injuries were not serious and they were able to leave hospital later that day.

Security has been increased as well as searches, since the incident, and police are investigating.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said it would be seeking “the strongest possible punishment”, adding the Government had already introduced tougher sentences for those convicted of assaults on prison officers.

The incident came as a report published on Tuesday by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIC) found the jail had “made progress” on safety but still needed to make improvements, after concerns were identified in a 2018 inspection.

The site houses 570 young male long-term inmates and was inspected across three days, in July.

Carrying out an interim independent review at the jail, the chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke described “mixed” findings.

He said management at the prison near Lichfield, Staffordshire, had “made progress” on safety and activities for inmates, but progress in other areas had started “too late to have an impact” when inspectors visited.

Inspectors said: “In 2018, the fundamental issue requiring attention was the poor regime, which had a negative impact on every aspect of prison life.

“We found that it was disrupted about 60% of the time, limiting prisoner access to work and education.”

Last year’s visit highlighted a lack of time out of cells, having “an acute effect on younger prisoners” and inmates “vulnerable or prone to committing acts of self-harm”.

“It also prevented the development of prisoners’ constructive relationships with staff, family contact and basic living conditions,” said Mr Clarke.

“All of this inevitably had a negative impact on prisoners’ feelings of wellbeing and prevented the prison from fulfilling its objectives as a training prison.

During the recent interim visit, inspectors found the prison’s regime had made progress against half of a selection of key recommendations, set following last year’s visit.

There had been “insufficient” or “no meaningful progress” in the other markers.

Mr Clarke said: “This mixed picture masks the important work to improve safety and purposeful activity that had taken place.”

On safety, the report found the prison “faced significant external challenges” since last year, after receiving a transfer of prisoners from Aylesbury after that jail’s capacity was cut.

“This contributed to a spike in violence earlier in 2019,” the report concluded, but management had made “tangible progress”.

It added that levels of self harm “remain a concern”.

Despite improvements in staff-prisoner relationships, inspectors also found “overall too few prisoners thought they were treated with respect or had a member of staff to turn to with a problem”.

Responding to the stabbing, a Prison Service spokeswoman said: “A prison officer received hospital treatment after an incident at HMP Swinfen Hall and was discharged the same day.

“The police are investigating and we will push for the strongest possible punishment.

“This Government has doubled the maximum sentence for those who assault prison officers and last month committed an extra £100 million on airport-style security to crack down on crime in prisons.”

As well as equipping prison officers with body-worn video, Pava spray and police-type restraints, tougher sentences for those assaulting staff have been brought in.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers Act doubled the maximum jail term for assaults on prison officers from six to 12 months.

HMP/YOI SWINFEN HALL – Improved safety and activity, but progress slow in other areas

Progress toward improvement in HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall, after a troubling inspection in 2018, was found to be mixed when inspectors revisited the prison in July 2019.

However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that the mixed overall picture masked the prison’s important work to improve safety and purposeful activity, including training and education.

In 2018, Swinfen Hall – near Lichfield and holding around 570 young male offenders serving sentences of four years or more – was assessed as not sufficiently good for safety and poor for purposeful activity.

Mr Clarke said that in 2018 the poor regime had a negative impact on every aspect of prison life. “We found that it was disrupted about 60% of the time, limiting prisoner access to work and education. The lack of time out of cell had an acute effect on younger prisoners and those who were vulnerable or prone to committing acts of self-harm.”

In 2019, in an independent review of progress, inspectors found that the prison had recently implemented a new “domestic period” ensuring that all prisoners were offered a daily shower and a telephone call, and evening association was now far more predictable than at the time of the inspection.

Managers had increased the number of activity places and the allocation process had improved, halving the number of prisoners who were unemployed. However, Mr Clarke added, “the population had also increased in this time and the prison was still some way off being able to ensure that every prisoner could access full-time employment. This was a significant deficiency in a training prison holding a long-term young population.”

Swinfen Hall had received prisoners from the long-term young offender institution at Aylesbury, contributing to a spike in violence earlier in 2019. “Despite these challenges, managers had made tangible progress. A dedicated team of supervising officers now investigated all violent incidents swiftly, and managers used data better to understand the causes of violence and take action.” The report highlighted positive action in introducing metal detector wands on all prisoners leaving two residential units and the prison looked at the ‘Viper’ scores – Violence in prison estimator, a calculation based on an estimation of how violent a person may be – of all new arrivals. “This was impressive. It afforded an early opportunity to identify prisoners who might perpetrate violence.”

Care for prisoners at risk of self-harm had also improved, though overall levels of self-harm remained a concern. The introduction of key workers and a more predictable regime had led to improvements in staff-prisoner relationships but there had been little or no progress in improving the complaints system. The pace of work to understand and meet the needs of the younger prisoners was too slow.

Progress was the least well developed for rehabilitation and release planning. Despite some work to improve the punctuality of visits, their provision was not sufficient to meet demand, particularly at weekends. Some prisoners could come into the prison, serve their time and be released without doing any focused offence-related work.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“This was a mixed review. Managers had understandably prioritised the areas of safety and activity and had made progress here. However, progress in other areas had started too late to have an impact, and in several areas senior managers needed to ensure that the quality assurance processes they had introduced were effective in improving outcomes for prisoners.”

Read the Report

HMP/YOI SWINFEN HALL – Positive work undermined by continuing poor regime

HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall in Staffordshire, holding 530 males aged between 18 and 28, was found by inspectors to have improved in some respects, and to have committed and hard-working staff. However, all areas of prison life were adversely affected by a poor regime.

Many prisoners were locked up for 22 hours a day, which meant they did not attend training and education or get access to telephones or showers, and often had to eat in their cells, on or near cell toilets.

Swinfen Hall was last inspected in 2016. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “While there had been noticeable improvements in some areas, none of them had been sufficient to raise any of our healthy prison assessments.

“There had been improvements in the provision of education and skills, and some of the residential accommodation had benefitted from refurbishment…But the simple fact was that, despite the improvements, too many fundamental issues still needed to be resolved.

“First and foremost among these was the poor regime, which had a negative impact on so much else in the prison. We found that it was disrupted about 60% of the time, limiting access to work and education. Thirty-nine per cent of prisoners told us they were locked in their cells for more than 22 hours each day during the week, a figure that rose to 65% at weekends. This meant that only 27% had daily access to telephones, limiting their ability to maintain family contact or to complete domestic tasks such as cleaning their cells.

“Only a quarter of prisoners were able to have a daily shower, which compared very poorly with the 89% who were able to do so in other similar prisons…The quality of relationships between staff and prisoners was also clearly adversely affected by the poor regime and the long periods of lock up.

Mr Clarke added: “It was our clear view that if the regime could be improved, Swinfen Hall could become a quite different prison.”

Inspectors noted that health care provision was generally good, and prisoners held positive views about it. The prison also had a robust approach to dealing with violence, and the fairly new violence reduction strategy had much to commend it, although there needed to be a sharper focus on violence reduction. However, Mr Clarke said, “we were particularly concerned by the very high levels of self-harm, and the fact that this was disproportionately high among younger prisoners…A significant amount of this total was attributable to a small number of prisoners, but this was nevertheless extremely worrying.

“The poor regime undoubtedly affected many areas of prison life, but clearly had a particularly acute impact on younger prisoners and those who were vulnerable or prone to committing acts of self-harm.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There was much good work being carried out at Swinfen Hall by a committed and hard-working staff group, but the prison will not fulfil its potential to provide a consistently purposeful and caring environment for the young prisoners held there unless and until the poor regime is improved.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, said:

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has recognised the improvements in living conditions and education and skills training which are crucial to successful rehabilitation. However, we realise that more needs to be done to tackle self-harm in the prison, so we have hired additional psychology and mental health resources to support vulnerable prisoners. We are also improving the daily regime by increasing purposeful activity.”

Read the Report here

Four prisoners injured after riot at young offender institution

swinfen-hallFour prisoners have been injured in an incident at a young offenders prison in Staffordshire.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said specially trained officers were sent in to deal with “an incident of indiscipline” at HMP & YOI Swinfen Hall near Lichfield.

The disturbance involved a single wing of the jail.

During the fracas four prisoners received minor injuries but no prison officers were hurt.

A small fire on the wing was dealt with by firefighters.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Specially trained prison officers dealt with an incident of indiscipline at YOI Swinfen Hall on Thursday.

“The incident was resolved and the prison is operating as normal.”

Notes: Following factual information about HMP / YOI Swinfen Hall is taken from The Prisons Handbook 2015

Task of the establishment: Young adult male long-term training and adult male category C prison.
Prison status: Public
Region: West Midlands
Number held: 585
Certified normal accommodation: 604, reduced to 544 for Crown Premises Inspection Group (CPIG) work.
Operational capacity: 654, reduced to 594 for CPIG work (G wing closure)
Date of last full inspection: 2014
Brief history
Swinfen Hall opened as a borstal in 1963 and, following a short period as a youth custody centre, in
1988-89 it became a long-term closed young offender institution. Two new wings were built in 1998,
increasing the capacity to 320 places. The establishment has gone through a major expansion
programme that has increased prisoner places from 320 to 654. It takes young men aged between 18
and 25 serving 3.5 years up to and including life.
Short description of residential units
Wing Number held
A 64
B 60 – induction / first night
C 60
D 64
E 68
F 90
G 90
I 82
J 80
Care and separation unit (segregation) 17
Name of governor: Teresa Clarke
Escort contractor: GEOAmey
Health service provider: Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust

Learning and skills providers: Milton Keynes College
Bournville College South and City College Birmingham
Quality Transport Training N-ergy
South Staffordshire Library
Shannon Trust Reading Plan
Independent Monitoring Board chair: Jane Calloway

Purchase The Prisons Handbook 2015 here