HMP Blantyre House had many strengths but needed to adjust to its changed population, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the resettlement prison in Kent.
Blantyre House is a small, semi-open prison which holds prisoners who are coming to the end of long or indeterminate sentences and are being prepared for release. Its last inspection in 2010 found that outcomes for prisoners were good in all areas. Outcomes in this recent inspection were less good, although the prison still compared well with similar establishments. In 2010 the prison had been able to select the prisoners it held and was able to tailor its services to meet a significant but narrow range of needs. At the time of this inspection, a central unit made the allocations and Blantyre House could no longer select who it held. As a consequence the prison was holding men who presented a wider range of needs and risks than before but its work and resources had not been sufficiently adjusted to meet these new requirements.
Inspectors were concerned to find that:
- the primary purpose of the prison was resettlement, but the prison had not assessed how the needs of its new population had changed;
- contact between offender supervisors and prisoners was good, but not sufficiently focused on reducing reoffending;
- public protection work was insufficiently robust;
- there were too few places available for paid or unpaid work in the community and efforts to assist prisoners in finding something suitable were lacklustre;
- there were insufficient training and employment opportunities inside the prison;
- there had been two recent serious assaults, which appeared, in part, to be due to the availability of ‘Spice’ – a synthetic cannabinoid – and associated debt and bullying; and
- there was very little self-harm but a self-inflicted death shortly before the inspection, the first at the prison, underlined that there was no room for complacency.
Despite these shortcomings, most prisoners still had a safe, respectful and productive experience at Blantyre House. Inspectors were pleased to find that:
- staff-prisoner relationships were excellent and underpinned much of the work of the prison and made good its procedural deficiencies;
- the environment was decent and most prisoners had very good time out of their rooms;
- most practical resettlement arrangements were effective;
- release on temporary licence, a critical part of the rehabilitation process, was well used for most purposes and overall the risks were properly assessed, though there was insufficient multi-agency engagement in managing the risks of those released;
- few prisoners felt unsafe; and
- there was very little use of force or formal disciplinary processes, but prisoners whose behaviour was concerning were quickly sent back to closed conditions.
Nick Hardwick said:
“Blantyre House still retains many of the strengths we have identified in the past. In particular, its small size means there is an opportunity for its experienced staff to get to know prisoners well and address their needs and behaviour in a personalised way that is simply not possible in larger establishments. Those strengths should be advantages in dealing with the wider and more complex range of needs among the prisoners Blantyre House now holds – but neither the prison nor the wider prison service have yet got to grips with the changes required to meet these needs or the resources necessary to make them.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted Blantyre House as a good resettlement prison with safe and productive conditions – this is a credit to the hard work of the Governor and his staff.
“We recognise that the population at Blantyre House is more complex and challenging than previously and the Governor and his team will continue to have the support needed to take forward the recommendations in the report.”
A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/prison-and-yoi/blantyre-house