HMP & YOI Hollesley Bay: A successful and effective open prison

HMP & YOI Hollesley Bay, an open prison in Suffolk holding up to 485 adult  prisoners, was found to be a “very safe” jail with good or reasonably good outcomes for those detained. 

Many of those held are serving relatively long sentences of more than four years, with just over 100 serving over ten years or life. More than 100 were violent offenders. The prison was making plans to hold sex offenders, although there was much more work to do on this development.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “We last inspected the prison in 2014, when we reported on an impressive institution. Following this inspection, we can report that the prison 

Most prisoners said they felt safe and violence and use of force by staff were relatively rare. However, there had been a “disappointing increase in the use of drugs.” The report noted: “A local analysis…had identified that prisoners had moved away from using the harmful new psychoactive substances (NPS) and that cannabis was now the preferred drug. We calculated that about 59% of all positive drug test results in the previous year had been for cannabis, with no positive results for NPS in the previous six months. The use of cocaine and steroids was an emerging problem.”

The prison, Mr Clarke added, was an overwhelmingly respectful place, underpinned by some very supportive staff-prisoner relationships, though some prisoners felt intimidated by staff and feared that they could be arbitrarily returned to closed conditions. “This was a perception that the prison needed to do more to understand and remedy.”

Prisoners had significant amounts of time out of their cells and the prison offered a wide range of educational and vocational training programmes. The prison had good relationships with regional employers and this had led to many unpaid and community positions for prisoners on release on temporary licence (ROTL).

Inspectors had one significant concern. Mr Clarke said: “In contrast to much that was happening in the prison, public protection work was not good enough. We have made this very significant failing the subject of our one main recommendation.”

The report noted: “About 10% of the prison population presented a medium or high risk of harm to children. Assessments of the risks were not always undertaken promptly enough following arrival at the prison, and contact restrictions were not always applied in the interim. The monitoring of mail and telephone contact was poor.” MAPPA management levels were not always confirmed with the National Probation Service offender manager.” Multi-Agency Protection Arrangements are designed to manage the risk from offenders released into the community.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“Hollesley Bay remained a successful and effective prison. The establishment was, at the time of our inspection, experiencing a time of change, with a new governor about to be appointed and plans to develop the prison’s role to hold sex offenders. Outcomes were, however, reasonably good or better and those detained were treated well. We leave the prison with several recommendations which we hope will assist further improvement.”

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

“I welcome the Inspectorate’s positive assessment of Hollesley Bay as an effective open prison, doing impressive work to prepare men for resettlement, often after lengthy periods in custody. The new Governor will develop this work further and the prison has already taken steps to improve public protection and implement the report’s recommendations.”

 A copy of the full report, published on 5 March 2019, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: