HMP Lancaster Farms: A pointless Inspection Report by a Chief Inspector who doesn’t ‘Get’ the need for evidence

View Mark Leech’s: Analysis: Partially Achieved & Pointless.

HMP Lancaster Farms is a Cat C resettlement prison serving the North West of England.

Opened in 1993, the prison has an operational capacity of 560 and now holds adult male prisoners in a prison campus that contains six main accommodation units. The majority of those held were aged between 21 and 40, with most serving sentences of between two and 10 years. A smaller number of shorter-term prisoners and those serving life were also in residence. Most prisoners had arrived at the prison over the preceding 12 months.

We last inspected Lancaster Farms in 2015 when we found a prison that was reasonably safe and respectful but with more to do to improve outcomes in learning and skills as well as resettlement.

At this inspection the evidence pointed clearly to some improvement, but overall our healthy prison assessments remained the same. It was disappointing that only a third of our previous recommendations had been achieved.

Click to expand

The prison continued to be a reasonably safe place. Arrangements to receive new prisoners into the establishment were generally effective and we found a prison that was calm and ordered. Levels of violence broadly reflected those seen in similar prisons but most incidents, with some exceptions, were relatively less serious. There was some evidence of prisoners intimidating other prisoners and there were several individuals who sought sanctuary either through self-isolation or in segregation.

Support for these prisoners was better than before but remained insufficient. New CSIP (Challenge, Support and Intervention Plan)1 case management and multi-disciplinary initiatives to promote improved outcomes for victims and perpetrators were encouraging but embryonic.

The use of force had increased noticeably but was poorly documented, which meant there was inadequate assurance that it was used proportionately and legitimately. Segregation was usually full, although staff were supportive and living conditions reasonable. Reintegration planning for those segregated was too limited.

Security was managed competently and proportionately. There was a good flow of intelligence, although some was not prioritised or acted upon with sufficient rigour. There was considerable evidence of a drug problem within the prison, notwithstanding a series of initiatives to combat the problem. Many prisoners thought it was easy to get hold of illicit substances and testing suggested a high but reducing positive rate.

Care for those at risk of self-harm was reasonably good, but too many lived an isolated experience and levels of self-harm were now much higher than the previous inspection. Case management was, however, reasonable and efforts to include families, if possible, were a good thing. Prisoners in crisis told us they felt well supported by staff. The prison had met all previous recommendations made by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).

Staff-prisoner relationships in general were very good, with 84% of prisoners telling us they felt respected by staff. The lived environment was bright and spacious and outside areas were clean and well maintained. Cellular   accommodation was reasonable, as was the food, and there were reasonable attempts at formal consultation with prisoners.

Attempts to improve the way prisoners made applications were not yet, however, working effectively and the complaints process was undermined by delays. Work to improve the promotion of equality had started recently but it was too early to be sure whether this initiative would lead to substantive and sustained improvement.

Outcomes for differing groups with protected characteristics remained mixed. The provision of health care, like many other areas, was improving and was satisfactory overall, despite often long waits for access. Drug services, aided by a new well-being unit for those recovering from drug abuse, were very good.

Time out of cell was reasonable, as was access to the gym and library. There was good support for family ties and visits, thanks in considerable measure to the work of the Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) and Partners of Prisoners (PoPs), and there was sufficient activity for all prisoners following recent increases to the number of places available.

Despite this, many of the weaknesses identified at the previous inspection had still to be addressed. Too few prisoners attended education or work regularly or on time and cover for staff absences was insufficient, leading to the frequent cancellation of activities. Allocation to learning activity too often did not recognise a learner’s abilities or experience, and learning targets were of limited use.

Basic skills were not well supported in vocational training and shortcomings in teaching, learning and assessment all combined to limit learner progress. For those prisoners able to complete a course, however, the achievement of qualifications was high on most courses. Overall our partners in Ofsted judged the effectiveness of provision as ‘requires improvement’.

There was some improved collaborative work between departments to support rehabilitation and resettlement, but many weaknesses persisted. Many prisoners did not have an up-to-date offender assessment system (OASys) assessment or arrived at Lancaster Farms without one.

Contact with offender supervisors was too limited or reactive, and the shortage of probation staff was a concern regarding higher-risk cases and the overall quality of risk management. Some of the case work we inspected was poor. Public protection work had improved but remained insufficiently robust,  particularly concerning support for multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA).

Offending behaviour work was narrow but resettlement assessments and work with those about to be released were much better.

The evidence of this inspection confirmed to us that Lancaster Farms remained a competent prison enabled by a capable management team and a generally confident staff. There was a definite sense that if you were a motivated prisoner with a determination to improve your own life chances, there were opportunities and resources that were available for you in the prison.

In contrast, if you were less motivated, you could easily opt out with too little challenge from the institution. This was a missed opportunity. Lancaster Farms was a decent enough place in comparison to many similar prisons, but it can do more and do it better.


Mark Leech, writes:
Partially Achieved & Pointless

The above summary, written by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, reveals a seriously disturbing sleight of hand that has quietly taken place in the presentation of Prison Inspection reports since Clarke became Chief Inspector – concerning ‘Partially Achieved’ recommendations, that I will come to later.

First the facts: In the four years that have passed since HMP Lancaster Farms was last inspected and the Chief Inspector made 66 recommendations to improve the prison, less than a third of those recommendations have been implemented – a fact Peter Clarke casually waves away as ‘disappointing’.

It’s not ‘disappointing’ Mr Clarke, its an absolute disgrace – and in failing to see that, so are you.

Let’s face it:  if a prison can’t implement a recommendation of the Prisons Inspectorate in four years then it’s never going to do it, is it?

The reality, when you strip away the niceties in this report is that Lancaster Farms is a violent prison, where prisoners lock themselves away, where adjudications have rocketed, where use of force has spiralled – and where the appropriate paperwork is simply not completed.

The education delivery by Novus comes in for devastating criticism and rightly so – but that criticism is from Ofsted not the Prisons Inspectorate.,

The wait to see a GP regularly exceeds four weeks, a pharmacist attends just once a week, and 79 prisoners had been waiting for up to four months to see a dentist – Lancaster Farms is a prison where safety, respect, purposeful activity and preparation for release have all been subject to ignored – and repeatedly ignored – recommendations from the last inspection four years ago.

The figure of 32% achieved recommendations means that 68% of the Inspectorate recommendations were ignored. These figures are fairly meaningless in isolation until you see exactly what those ignored recommendations actually were; take a look.

A senior manager should identify and record the exceptional circumstances to justify a prisoner on an ACCT [suicide and self harm] document being held in segregation. (1.31)
Not achieved

Segregation reviews should be meaningful and should involve the prisoner in a forum consisting of staff from relevant departments and their unit, and reintegration plans should be actively promoted where possible. (1.72)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 1.32)

Prescribing regimes for drug dependency should be flexible and tailored to the individual and reflect national guidance. (1.81)
Not achieved

Searches should be carried out promptly once the need is identified. (1.45)
Not achieved

The disciplinary approach adopted should be proportionate to the seriousness of the alleged offence.
Not achieved

Segregated prisoners should be able to exercise in clean open areas. (1.71)
Not achieved

There should be arrangements to process prisoners arriving during the lunch period. (1.7)
Not achieved

The needs of prisoners with protected characteristics should be identified and met promptly through monitoring, regular and direct consultation, effective use of prisoner representatives, individual assessment and when needed effective care planning. (S38)
Not achieved

All showers should be screened, kept in good condition and supplied with constant water pressure and temperature. (2.8)
Not achieved

All cells should be provided with lockable cabinets. (2.9)
Not achieved

Cells designed to hold one prisoner should not be used to hold two. (2.10)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 2.7)

Prisoners should be able to receive clothing sent in through the post and have quicker access to their stored property. (2.11)
Not achieved

The application process should be efficiently tracked and managed. (2.12)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 2.26)

There should be a paid carer scheme for prisoners with disabilities and the role of carers should be clearly defined. (2.36)
Not achieved

Older prisoners and those with disabilities should, where necessary, have an up-to-date PEEP and a multidisciplinary support plan with which all unit staff, including those on night duty, should be familiar. (2.37)
Not achieved

Waiting times for primary care services including the GP should not exceed clinically acceptable waiting times in the community. (2.72)
Not achieved

Prisoners should have access to a complete pharmaceutical service, including pharmacy-led medicine use reviews and audits. (2.84)
Not achieved

Prisoners should have access to routine dental appointments within six weeks. (2.91)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 2.101)

Breakfast should be issued on the day it is to be eaten. (2.105)
Not achieved

Lunch should not be served before 12 noon and the evening meal not before 5pm. (2.106)
Not achieved

Serveries should be adequately supervised. (2.107)
Not achieved

The full prison regime should be provided, more prisoners should be unlocked during the working day and men should have at least an hour a day of outside exercise. (3.7)
Not achieved

The overall quality of individual learning plans should be improved to ensure targets are clear and meaningful. (3.28)
Not achieved

All areas of the OLASS provision identified for improvement through teaching and learning observations should be dealt with swiftly. (3.16)
Not achieved

A management and monitoring system should be introduced for the cardiovascular equipment in the units and all equipment should be kept in good repair. (3.45)
Not achieved

An appropriate area should be re-established for outdoor sports and games. (3.46)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 3.15)

Offender management work should ensure that all prisoners have a good quality and up-to-date assessment to inform sentence planning and risk reduction work. (S40)
Not achieved

Effective use should be made of ROTL for suitable prisoners. (4.9)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 4.18)

Offender supervisors should have regular contact with prisoners  proportionate to their level of risk and needs. (4.21)
Not achieved (recommendation repeated, 4.17)

‘Partially Achieved’

Once again this Report highlights the deeply concerning practice introduced by this Chief Inspector in which  he claims that some of the previous recommendations he has made have been ‘Partially Achieved’  – but they are claims he makes with nothing to back them up.

Certainly other Chief Inspectors of Prisons who went before Clarke also made Partially Achieved assessments, the difference is that, unlike all others, Clarke cannot provide a shred of evidence to support these Partially Achieved assessments; confirming to me that there exists no criteria against which Inspectors can judge such assessments; telling me: “there is no set criteria. Inspectors use their judgement based on the outcomes and evidence they observe.”

The reality is that Clarke’s partially achieved assessments are devoid of evidence and as a result are totally meaningless – worse than that they are misleading as they are open to being misconstrued.

What on earth does ‘Partially Achieved’ even mean anyway?

Is that 1% achieved, 50% achieved, or 99% achieved?

Without supplying a shred of evidence to support that assessment, or any published criteria to back it it up, we have no way of knowing – this is a new and worrying development introduced when Clarke became Chief Inspector.

Here are examples, totally devoid of explanation, of how Clarke presents his PA assessments – click to expand images

Now Look at this report (image on page 19) on Lancaster Farms from 2011, these show recommendations from 2008 that were subsequently assessed as being Partially Achieved in the report published in 2011 – but each one with solid published evidence to back up the assessment; something Clarke has completely removed from his reports.

Here are some of the recommendations Clarke claims to have been  ‘Partially Achieved’  in this report – but we have no way of knowing whether they are true or false; or how true, or how false, they actually are.

Assessments, including terms of reference and meeting minutes, should be revised to ensure all high risk cases are fully considered, record keeping is comprehensive and MAPPA risk levels are identified in a timely way pre-release. (4.28)
Partially achieved

The prison should introduce effective management oversight of all public protection procedures. All prisoners should be reviewed for MAPPA eligibility and their potential risks to children, and public protection issues should be correctly recorded on P-Nomis. (S41)
Partially achieved

The achievement of qualifications in under-performing courses should be improved. (3.32)
Partially achieved

Quality improvement arrangements should be developed for the non-OLASS provision particularly for the observation of teaching, learning and coaching. (3.17)
Partially achieved

Feedback from teachers should provide prisoners with clear information on what they need to do to progress. (3.29)
Partially achieved

Custody staff should be present when medicines are being dispensed to manage queues and ensure confidentiality. (2.85)
Partially achieved

Custody staff should all be trained in basic life support and the use of the automated defibrillator. (2.63)
Partially achieved

The prisoner consultation process should ensure that effective and timely action is taken to resolve prisoner concerns. (2.17)
Partially achieved

The prison should ensure there are sufficient prison work opportunities for the population and that work skills prisoners develop are recognised and recorded. The available activity places should be used fully. (S39)
Partially achieved

Prisoners subject to ACCT procedures should have a consistent case manager and care plans should contain specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound objectives. (1.30)
Partially achieved

The establishment should ensure that all administration of medication substance misuse treatment is adequately supervised by suitably trained officers. (1.82)
Partially achieved

The prisoner consultation process should ensure that effective and timely action is taken to resolve prisoner concerns. (2.17)
Partially achieved

Custody staff should all be trained in basic life support and the use of the automated defibrillator. (2.63)
Partially achieved

Custody staff should be present when medicines are being dispensed to manage queues and ensure confidentiality. (2.85)
Partially achieved

This isn’t just semantics.
Governors who work to implement HMIP recommendations shouldn’t have their efforts assessed as ‘partially achieved’ or ‘not achieved’ at all, solely dependant on the toss of a coin as to which Inspector they get.

That’s the danger Clarke cannot see.

Peter Clarke is due to retire as Chief Inspector of Prisons in 10 months time; as a former Police Officer with 32 years service in the Metropolitan Police and no prior prison experience at all, he was never the right person for this vital statutory Independent office.

The fact that Clarke only applied to become Chief Inspector of Prisons after being telephoned personally and invited to apply for the post by the then Secretary of State for Justice (the very person who then later appointed him to independently inspect his own prisons) demonstrated in Clarke from the outset  a worrying inability to recognise what ‘independent’ actually meant.

My hope is that the next incumbent as Chief Inspector will better understand prisons, will realise that independence means what it says, that its not just a form of words but a frame of mind – and that it will be someone who will immediately roll back Clarke’s seriously defective policy of failing to provide evidence for Partially Achieved assessments he makes in official reports.

After 32 years in the Police one might be forgiven for expecting that Peter Clarke, better than anyone, would have understood the vital need to provide evidence for statements that are made – but his failure to provide any basis for his partially achieved assessments shows it was, unexpectedly, an expectation too far.

Read The Report

Mark Leech is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales