HMP & YOI New Hall: Continues to be a good and safe prison

HMP & YOI New Hall, a women’s prison near Wakefield, was found in its first inspection since 2015 to be an establishment which continued to be safe, respectful and purposeful, and where work to resettle and rehabilitate prisoners was improving.

Notable features from this inspection

  • According to the prison’s data, 48% of prisoners had committed their offence to support the drug use of someone else.
  • Of the prisoners using the counselling service, only 4% said they had not suffered some form of abuse and
  • 56% said they had experienced more than one kind of abuse. For example, 53% said they had suffered domestic violence and 44% said they had been raped.
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In our survey, far more prisoners (60%) than in other prisons for women (48%) described themselves as

being disabled and 78% of prisoners disclosed they had a mental health problem.

71% of the population were receiving services from the substance use psychosocial team.

39% of prisoners were serving long sentences of over four years.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that recorded violence in the prison was quite high, “but nearly all incidents were very minor and overall most prisoners felt safe.” Work to intervene and support those perpetrating threatening or antisocial behaviour, and the victims of such incidents, was effective.

There had been three self-inflicted deaths since 2015 and most recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following its investigations had been implemented. Prisoners at risk of self-harm and with complex needs received good oversight and case management and those inspectors spoke to were positive about the care they received.

Inspectors noted a seeming over-reliance on the use of formal disciplinary processes and some punishments seemed excessive. Use of force had also increased substantially and several women had been in ‘special accommodation’ conditions on the house units, although records failed to adequately justify these decisions. The segregation unit was a clean but austere facility with a basic regime.

The prison environment was good but the quality of accommodation was more variable, although reasonable overall. Staff-prisoner relationships were good although some prisoners expressed frustration at their inability to get some simple tasks done by staff.

Mr Clarke said: “The prison would have benefited from greater visibility and support from managers. It was also our observation that the proportion of female staff was too low and was something that was a very stark and particular feature of the senior team.”

Though work to promote equality was limited outcomes for prisoners from minorities remained broadly consistent with those for other prisoners. The mother and baby unit was excellent and health care was similarly good but mental health provision was undermined by staff shortages among the mental health team.

Women experienced good time out of their cells, including association on Friday evenings, which inspectors now rarely see. The provision of learning, skills and work was improving with plans for a new curriculum and evidence of strong partnership working “Our colleagues in Ofsted assessed the overall effectiveness of provision as ‘good’, but undermined in part by quite poor levels of attendance,” Mr Clarke said.

The coordination of resettlement work had improved greatly since 2015 and offender management was clearly focused on risk reduction.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:
“New Hall remains a good prison, delivering effective outcomes for those held there. At the time of our inspection the prison was experiencing something of an interregnum with a temporary governor in post and new permanent governor about to be appointed. Our report highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of this prison. We trust the findings we detail will help the new governor to ensure momentum is maintained and continuous improvement sustained.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons, said:
“Inspectors rightly recognise the effective work of staff and management in making New Hall a safe and respectful prison.
Since the inspection, a  recruitment drive has increased the proportion of female staff to within reach of the 60 per cent target, and staff have received training on rewarding good behaviour.
A new Governor is set to be appointed in the coming weeks, and will be focusing on the Inspectorate’s recommendations to oversee  further improvements at New Hall.”

 Read the Report