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.”

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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:
  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 –


  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 –


  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, if you would like more information.

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



HMP The Mount – performing well say inspectors

themountHMP The Mount was performing well and was better than many similar prisons, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training and resettlement prison in Hertfordshire.

HMP The Mount had recently opened a new 250-bed resettlement wing which was being filled as the inspection took place. The Mount was achieving better outcomes for the men it held than most prisons inspected recently, despite facing similar challenges and despite the disruption caused by its expansion and the imminent transfer of much of its resettlement function to a new Community Rehabilitation Company. Outcomes for prisoners were reasonably good in all the main areas inspected and there were credible plans for further improvement.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the prison was reasonably safe and felt calm and well ordered, even when large numbers of prisoners were moving back and forth to activities;
  • security was rigorous and intelligence about gang membership, and cooperation with the local police, were impressive;
  • reception and early days arrangements were generally good;
  • use of force was high but the incidents examined by inspectors were proportionate and well managed;
  • the environment was good and the prison was clean;
  • staff were stretched and busy but relationships were good;
  • equality and diversity work was led from the top and prisoners from black and minority ethnic backgrounds reported similarly to other prisoners about their experiences in the prison, while Muslim prisoners’ perceptions had improved since the last inspection;
  • despite staff shortages and a restricted regime, time out of cell was reasonable and consistent;
  • Ofsted assessed the overall effectiveness of learning and skills and work as good; and
  • public protection arrangements were very good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • care for men at risk of suicide or self-harm was generally adequate but some lessons from previous deaths in custody had not been fully embedded;
  • the lack of telephone interpreting for new arrivals who did not speak English created significant risks;
  • too many victims of bullying sought sanctuary in the segregation unit and most were then moved out to prisons with insufficient effort to resolve their concerns;
  • prisoners said drugs and alcohol were easily available despite determined efforts by the prison to prevent this;
  • existing practical resettlement services were reasonably good but new resettlement arrangements were due to start two weeks after the inspection ended and a new community resettlement company (CRC) would take over most of the prison’s resettlement services. There was still uncertainty about how they would work; and
  • family work, which played a crucial role in resettlement, was weak.

Nick Hardwick said:

“There is room for improvement at The Mount and we are confident the prison has the capacity to make it, but even now the prison is doing better than comparable prisons. There are some key reasons for this: the prison is very well led with a stable senior management team, the regime and staff are consistent – prisoners know what to expect; and there is excellent use made of peer workers. There is much that other prisons can learn from The Mount.”

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

“I’m pleased that the Chief Inspector has found The Mount to be a stable, safe and well-ordered prison which is working effectively with prisoners to support their rehabilitation.

“The Governor and his staff have worked hard to achieve a very positive inspection report. We will now use the recommendations in this report to further improve the prison, including looking at what more we can do to help prisoners to maintain contact with their children.”   

  1. Read the report.