HMP Dovegate’s Therapeutic Community was doing some good work with prisoners to reduce the risk they posed, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the facility at the Staffordshire jail.
The Dovegate Therapeutic Community (TC) is a distinct institution holding up to 200 men, contained within the larger HMP Dovegate. The main prison, a category B training prison, is inspected separately. Dovegate TC is based on the concept that democratic therapeutic communities, run by both staff and prisoners, should be central to the way the prison operates. Prisoners are given a real say in the day-to-day running of the prison and have far more influence over their experience of prison life than at normal prisons. This happens within the context of the usual security imperatives of a category B prison holding men on indeterminate or long sentences. Men arrive at Dovegate TC needing to be more open about their offending and related institutional behaviour and to being challenged by peers and staff within therapy and community groups. Often they have a history of serious violent offending, poor institutional behaviour and prolific self-harm.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
- Dovegate TC remained a safe prison, with very few incidents and most day-to-day safety problems dealt with by the communities rather than by more formal processes;
- support for the small number of men vulnerable to self-harm was good, as was support for men with substance misuse issues;
- staff-prisoner relationships were very good, which underpinned much of the work being done;
- time out of cells was good, but sometimes affected by problems in the main prison;
- leadership of learning and skills was developing, but some elements of quality improvement needed to be fully embedded;
- resettlement support was good and men were encouraged to address their risks of re-offending; and
- some very good work was being done during therapy, but problems in delivering some key aspects of therapy risked undermining effectiveness.
However, inspectors had some concerns:
- men spent their first few months on the assessment unit and they had little to do that was purposeful;
- the lack of experienced TC members in the unit was affecting the transfer of some key elements of the TC’s ethos;
- prisoners needed to feel confident enough to raise concerns in therapy about other prisoners’ behaviour, and this was not fully embedded, which needed to be addressed head on;
- the focus of learning skills as complementing therapy needed to be better understood and supported by staff; and
- the promise of the national integrated personality disorder pathways strategy had not yet been realised, which was a wasted opportunity to ensure men arrived at the prison at the right time, and that there was a structured plan for them to progress after completion of the programme.
Nick Hardwick said:
“Overall, Dovegate provided a safe, respectful but testing environment for the prisoners it held and the public as a whole benefited from its effective work to reduce the risk that they would reoffend after release. We identified some weaknesses, but we were reassured that management had already identified and begun to address most of them. This provided grounds for optimism that the good work of the prison would not just be continued but be enhanced.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the good work at Dovegate Therapeutic Community.
“It is a safe prison that is working well to rehabilitate a complex population and reduce their risk of reoffending.
“The director and his team will take forward the recommendations made in the report as they continue to build on their progress.”
A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 27 February 2014 at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/prison-and-yoi/dovegate