“I want offenders to feel terror” – new Home Secretary declares

Priti Patel has said she wants criminals to “feel terror” at the thought of offending, as she distanced herself from her comments in support of the death penalty.

In her first interview as Home Secretary, she pledged to get a grip on violent crime after Boris Johnson committed to recruiting 20,000 more police officers.

“I’ve always felt the Conservative Party is the party of the police and police officers,” she told the Daily Mail.

“Quite frankly, with more police officers out there and greater police presence, I want (criminals) to literally feel terror at the thought of committing offences.”

Ms Patel previously said in 2006 she was in favour of the “ultimate punishment” for the worst of crimes, and supported the death penalty during a Question Time debate on the subject in 2011.

Asked about the death penalty, she told the Mail: “I have never said I’m an active supporter of it and (what I said) is constantly taken out of context.”

Her comments on the BBC show were: “I do actually think when we have a criminal justice system that continuously fails in this country and where we have seen murderers, rapists and people who have committed the most abhorrent crimes in society, go into prison and then are released from prison to go out into the community to then re-offend and do the types of crime they have committed again and again.

“I think that’s appalling. And actually on that basis alone I would actually support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent.”

Ms Patel was one of the greatest beneficiaries of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle after he became Prime Minister.

She was elevated from the backbenches having been sacked as Secretary of State for International Development by Theresa May in 2017 for holding secret meetings with members of the Israeli government.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook, the definitive 1,600-page annual guide to the prison system of England and Wales, writes:

First of all offenders are the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, not the Home Secretary; this isn’t her brief.

Secondly the very reason why so many young people carry knives and guns is precisely because they already feel terror – terror at the thought that if they do not have one their life is on the line – and the staggering number of deaths on our streets proves they are right.

Thirdly, she needs to understand that policing is not simply a numerical issue – you can have 200,000 extra police on the streets and still not make a difference – indeed if you deploy them in a way that does not have the consent of the communities they police, then the danger is you will make things worse not better.

Finally, it is clear that Ms Patel has little understanding of the real issues surrounding crime. Offenders are far more terrified of gangs on the streets who can kill them, than they ever are of the police who, at worst, can only arrest them; it is deeply concerning that, as Home Secretary, she obviously just doesn’t get it.

Police Terrorism Act (Tact) Custody – Many Positive Features With Recommended Improvements Focusing On Governance

The first independent inspection of the treatment and conditions for detainees in specialist police Terrorism Act (TACT) custody suites found good care for those held.

Inspectors reported that the environment and conditions in which detainees were held in five suites in England and Wales were generally of a good standard. Detainees were treated respectfully.

The inspection, in January and February 2019, was conducted jointly by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. It focused on the experience of the detainee in relation to custody and did not cover criminal investigations or their outcomes. Among positive features, inspectors noted that:

  • Custody staff spoke to and treated detainees respectfully, and considered and maintained their dignity during their detention. Their interactions with detainees were professional and courteous throughout.
  • There was good attention to meeting detainees’ individual and diverse needs. Female detainees generally received good support and care, and custody staff were sensitive to detainees’ religious and cultural needs and took care to ensure these were met.
  • Physical conditions in TACT custody suites were very good. Most cells were slightly larger than standard custody cells and had additional facilities to reflect the much longer periods that TACT detainees can be held. There was a focus on diverting children from custody, where possible. Very few children were detained but those who had been received good care.

Overall, the report made clear there were good outcomes for detainees despite some weaknesses in governance and leadership. The inspection found some areas of concern in the provision of TACT custody – a collaboration between Counter Terrorism Policing nationally and the forces in England and Wales which host the five TACT custody suites.

These areas included:

  • There was no national framework or guidance within which forces could operate, resulting in inconsistent approaches to delivering TACT custody and different practices across the forces. The report recommended that Counter Terrorism Policing should provide a clear framework for delivering TACT custody, supported by national policies and guidance, within which all forces can operate.
  • There was a lack of governance and oversight by senior officers in each of the forces, and the lines of accountability for TACT custody were unclear. The report recommended that each force should strengthen its governance arrangements with senior officers taking clear accountability for the delivery of TACT custody in their force.
  • Not enough information was collected or monitored at national or force level to show how well custody services were performing and whether the required standards for detainees were met. It was recommended that each force should gather and monitor comprehensive and accurate information on TACT custody to assess how well the services are performing. Counter Terrorism Policing should develop a performance framework to assess performance at a national level.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector or Prisons, and Wendy Williams, HM Inspector of Constabulary, said:

“Overall this was a good inspection with many positive features. Custody staff provided good care for detainees, meeting and, in some cases, exceeding required standards. The environments and conditions in which detainees were held were generally of a good standard. The main areas we identified for improvement related to governance, oversight and consistency of approaches and procedures. The network and individual forces were open to external scrutiny and, during the inspection, had already recognised and started to address some of our concerns. We were confident that the required improvements would be delivered.”

Read the Report


This report sets out the findings from an inspection of Terrorism Act (TACT) custody facilities in England and Wales in January and February 2019. This inspection, conducted by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), was the first one of custody facilities holding people detained for terrorism offences or terrorism-related offences. Individuals arrested for terrorism offences are detained at one of five TACT custody suites situated across the country. These detainees can be held in custody for up to 14 days, significantly longer than detainees held in mainstream custody.  Because of this, there are different arrangements under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) for the detention, treatment and questioning of detainees. We set out the legal background to TACT detention in the section in the report on Context. Responsibility for the safe and respectful delivery of custody in the TACT suites rests with the chief constable of the force in which the TACT custody suite is situated. Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) oversees the provision of TACT custody and has a national strategic role in directing, coordinating and supporting TACT custody.

This inspection assessed the effectiveness of custody services and outcomes for people detained on suspicion of terrorism offences or terrorism-related offences throughout the different stages of detention. It forms part of our wider work to inspect all police custody suites in England and Wales on a rolling programme. These inspections focus on the experience of the detainee in relation to custody and do not cover the criminal investigation or outcome of this. We examined the national framework for TACT detention suites provided through, and overseen, by CTP. There are five police forces that host a TACT custody suite, and the inspection also examined their approach to custody provision in relation to safe detention and the respectful treatment of detainees, with a particular focus on vulnerable people and children,

Prison: Mission Impossible?

By Mark Leech

On my desk today have landed two Reports, both from the Prisons Inspectorate, and both published today.

The first, on High Down prison is Surrey, speaks of an ‘Energetic Management’ that has really improved safety in the prison while the second, on HMYOI Feltham A (that part of the Young Offender Institution that holds a volatile mix of 15-17 year olds) reveals a prison where safety is in such total chaos the Chief Inspector has issued his sixth-ever Urgent Notification demanding action.

In a nutshell what is the problem with our prison system?

I will tell you what I think.

It is about competing views, and the priority which those who can make decisions attach to each.

On one side you have Joe Bloggs, the man on the Clapham Omnibus, Joe reads The Sun and, in the immortal words of Yes Prime Minister, Joe doesn’t care who runs the country as long as she has big tits.

Joe believes that punishment, hard work, austere conditions, and long sentences are the right response to crime – teach ’em a lesson they won’t forget.

Joe Bloggs can vote – so he is fluent in the language that politicians speak.

On the other side you have The Guardian reading (and often writing) academic experts; they point to the evidence and say – well, yes OK Joe, but we’ve tried all of that for 150 years and it doesn’t work.

Of course it doesn’t work – why should it?

Our prisons today are filled with people who come from high-crime inner-city housing estates, with their school exclusions, poor parenting, lack of opportunities, unemployment, gang, guns, drugs, alcohol and knife cultures.

It’s madness to think you can take someone out of that environment, put them in prison – where they are with people they have grown up with – and at the end of their sentence toss them back into exactly the same toxic environment you took them out of, and expect their time in prison to have changed anything.

It won’t – well rarely anyway and more by luck than design if it does.

In many ways in expecting our prisons to reform people we are asking the impossible – crime is a problem society must solve; prisons cannot do it in a vacuum.

Expecting our prisons to deliver reform by themselves is like the hamster on its wheel; utterly convinced that if they just keep going they’ll get there in the end.

And making prisons harder isn’t the answer either – it’s full of people who have spent a lifetime telling authority to f*!k off, they aren’t afraid of prison either as an institution or any one individual within it – many first went to prison holding their mother’s hand while visiting their father.

And then, in the middle of Joe and the academic experts, you have a bewildered population consisting of 83,000 prisoners, 40,000 staff, and a Prison and Probation Service that is completely disorientated by abrupt policy changes, savage budget cuts, reorganisations (we have had five of those in the last ten years) and constant changes of Justice Secretary – ironically as I write, given the election of Boris Johnson yesterday, we will today have our sixth Justice Secretary in as many years – Grayling, Gove, Truss, Lidington and Gauke.

This was all summed up neatly a century ago.

In 1922 George Bernard Shaw wrote the ‘Retribution Muddle’ in which he wrote:

“Now if you are to punish a man retributively, you must injure him. If you are to reform him, you must improve him. And men are not improved by injuries.” (English Prisons Under Local Government, 1922, Sydney & Beatrice Webb; preface page xiv)

Added to this we have the debate about public or private prisons, and privatised Probation too and the chaos caused by the so-called Through The Gate (and Right Back In Again) ideology.

On the other side of that Gate there is the rise to constantly breaking records of violence in prisons, drugs, suicides, self-harm and a Prisons Inspectorate that, as we have seen, has today issued its sixth Urgent Notification publicly demanding action.

So how do we sort out this mess?

How do we take politics out of it and put evidence in its place?

We need something we have never, ever, had: a Public Inquiry into our Prison System.

We have had many ad hoc private inquiries, Woolf, May, Mountbatten, Learmont, Woodcock – and half a dozen of others too whose Reports are languishing on a shelf somewhere in the Ministry of Justice library – I suspect they’re to be found in the ‘fiction’ section.

We have had a plethora of reports, on different subjects, but none that pulls it all together.

That is what we need.

We need a Public Inquiry that, based on evidence, can define the ‘Mission’: what it is that we want our prison system to deliver; in terms of punishment, retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, and reducing reoffending.

And how we dovetail that with real support services for those that leave prison – and just as importantly, how we deliver support for those who need it, long before they ever go near a prison at all.

Once we have the evidence-based ‘Mission’ clear – then all we have to do is resource it to deliver exactly that.

Simple eh?

I wish!

Mark Leech is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, he tweets under the name @prisonsorguk

HMPPS Annual Digest 2018-19

HMPPS Annual Digest 2018/19

  • The number of escapes has fallen
    When compared with the previous year: the number of escapes in the year ending March 2019 went down by 4, to 9.
  • The number of absconds decreased, while the number of temporary release failures increased
    In the year ending March 2019, there were 120 absconds – a decrease of 19 absconds compared with the previous 12-month period. There was a 55% increase in temporary release failures, 56 of which were failures to return. 69% of unlawfully at large prisoners returned to custody within 30 days, up from 65% in the 12 months to March 2018.
  • Percentage of prisoners in crowded conditions has fallen
    In the year ending March 2019, 22.5% of prisoners were held in crowded conditions, lower than in the previous year. During the last ten years, crowding levels have fluctuated between 22.5% in the latest year and 25.5% in 2015.
  • 90.5% of Foreign National Offenders referred in 10 working days
    90.5% or 7,252 of the 8,009 total referrals of Foreign National Offenders made to the Home Office in the year ending March 2019, were made within the required 10 working days.
  • Slight decrease in the average number of prisoners working in custody
    In the year ending March 2019, on average, around 12,100 prisoners and detainees were working in custody at any one time across public sector prisons, privately managed prisons and Immigration Removal Centres. They delivered around 17.1 million hours of work during the course of a year.
  • The amount raised through the PEA levy has increased
    £1.6 million was raised from the imposition of the levy on prisoners’ earnings to be paid to Victim Support. On average, 572 prisoners per month were working out of the prison on licence and subject to the Prisoners’ Earnings Act levy and had average net earnings of £846 per month.
  • The percentage of positive drug tests decreased by 0.5 percentage points
    Excluding psychoactive substances, 10.4% of random mandatory drug tests were positive in the 12 months to March 2019. Including the psychoactive substances, the rate was 17.7%.
  • Barricade/prevention of access incidents and incidents at height continue to rise
    In the 12 months to March 2019, the number of barricade/prevention of access incidents went up by 24% when compared with the previous year. The number of incidents at height rose by 15% in the same time period.
  • Finds of drugs and SIM cards have increased, while finds of mobile phones has fallen
    There were increases of 41%, 8% and 14% in finds incidents of drugs, mobile phones and SIM cards, respectively, between the year ending March 2018 and the year ending March 2019.
  • The number of prisoners with an enhanced IEP status increased, while those with a standard IEP status decreased
    In the 12 months to March 2019, there were, on average 34,395 prisoners with an enhanced IEP status; an increase of 4% from the previous year. The average number of prisoners with a standard IEP status fell by 5% this year, compared with the 12 months ending March 2018. At the same time, there was a fall in the total prison population.
  • The number of women and babies received into Mother and Baby Units dropped
    In the year ending March 2019, 60 women were received and 57 babies were received into MBUs; compared with 70 women and 60 babies in the previous reporting year.
  • The number of subjects actively monitored with an EM device decreased by 4%
    At 31 March 2019, the total number of subjects actively monitored with an Electronic Monitoring (EM) device and open EM order was 10,772. There has been a general downward trend in the number of subjects actively monitored.
  • The number of BASS referrals increased by 2% in the last year
    There were 4,522 referrals for Bail Accommodation and Support Services in in the year ending March 2019, an increase of 2% on the 4,436 made in the previous year. The rise is as a result of an increase in HDC referrals.
  • 9.6% of HMPPS Staff who declared their race, were classified as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic
    Of all HMPPS staff, public sector prison staff had the lowest BAME representation rates with 7.2% of staff who declared their race as BAME, compared with 15.3% of staff in the National Probation Service.
  • HMPPS staff lost an average of 9.3 working days to sickness absence
    In 2018/19, YCS staff had the highest sickness absence rate at 12.5 Average Working Days Lost (AWDL), followed by NPS (10.5 AWDL), PSPs (9.3 AWDL). Absence rates are substantially lower in HMPPS HQ and area services overall compared with the operational parts of NOMS (5.0 AWDL).

Read the full Report

Read a Summary

Visit our main web site

New Safer Custody Figures show continuing rise in suicides, assaults, violence and self-harm

Click to Enlarge

New safer custody figures just published – when we thought three months ago that we might have reached the top of the suicide, violence, and self-harm trend, sadly we were wrong – they have all risen once again.

  • Self-harm incidents continue to rise, reaching new record high. 

The number of individuals self harming increased Self-harm incidents reached a record high of 57,968 incidents in the 12 months to March 2019, up 24% from the previous 12 months. In the most recent quarter, self-harm incidents increased by 1% to 14,415 incidents.

The number of individuals self-harming increased by 6% in the 12 months to March 2019, to 12,539, and the number of self harm incidents per individual increased by 15% from 4.0 to 4.6.

  • Assaults continue to rise, reaching record highs

There was a record high of 34,425 assault incidents in the 12 months to March 2019, up 11% from the previous year. In the most recent quarter, assaults increased by 4% to 8,445 incidents.

  • Assaults on staff continue to rise, reaching record highs

There were 10,311 assaults on staff in the 12 months to March 2019, up 15% from the previous year, and a record high figure. In the latest quarter the number of assaults on staff increased by 4% to 2,525 incidents.

Of the 34,425 assault incidents, 3,949 (11%) were serious

In the 12 months to March 2019, there were 3,949 serious assault incidents, up 1% from the previous year. Serious prisoner-onprisoner assaults decreased by 2% to 3,017 in the 12 months to  March 2019, whereas serious assaults on staff increased by 12% to 1,002.

  • Number of deaths decreased from the previous 12 month period – but the number of suicides has increased

In the 12 months to June 2019, there were 309 deaths in prison custody, a decrease from 311 deaths the previous year. Of these, 86 deaths were self-inflicted, up from 81 the previous year.

Read the full Report

Visit our main web site

Minister for Incompetence, ‘Failing Grayling’, Born on April Fools Day, Leaves Government

For many, Chris Grayling’s name was a byword for incompetence – and he left Government wedded to the unflattering moniker “Failing Grayling”.

His record for mistakes was long and notorious.

As transport secretary, his decision to award Seaborne Freight a contract worth £13.8 million to run services between Ramsgate and Ostend in Belgium – despite having no ships – attracted widespread criticism.

He faced a vote of no confidence – but survived – over Northern Rail’s chaotic timetable collapse which resulted in widespread disruption and thousands of furious passengers.

And the minister – born on April Fool’s Day – faced ire when he controversially ditched plans to make the railway network faster, greener and cleaner by electrifying lines.

His reputation for blunders was forged long before he stepped into the role of transport secretary in 2016, his reward for masterminding Theresa May’s leadership campaign.

As justice secretary before that, he introduced new fees for employment tribunals, banned people from sending books to prisoners, and brought forward court fees which the then chairman of the Bar Council warned could incentivise innocent people to plead guilty.

All of the moves were subsequently overturned.

He also triggered an angry campaign from musicians such as Johnny Marr, Dave Gilmour and Billy Bragg when he banned steel-string guitars from prisons.

Other failures included Mr Grayling’s decision to bring forward legal aid restrictions for domestic violence victims, cut legal aid for prisoners and set up a body which won a £6 million contract to train prison staff in Saudi Arabia.

Before entering government in 2010 as employment minister, Mr Grayling held a series of shadow cabinet positions and was also caught up in controversy then.

While in opposition he claimed parts of Britain were so blighted by crime they resembled the streets of Baltimore in cult TV show The Wire.

In 2010 he faced calls to quit when he said bed and breakfast guest houses run by Christians should be allowed to turn away gay couples because of their sexuality.

He told a meeting of the Centre for Policy Studies think tank that hotels should not be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals, but individuals should have the right to decide who stayed in their home.

But he was also seen as “the jackal” of the Tory Party, ruthlessly and persistently pursuing what he considered breaches of ethics and the collapse of standards.

Some believed his unrelenting campaign against David Blunkett’s alleged breaches of the ministerial code played at least some part in the then work and pensions secretary’s second resignation from the cabinet.

Until then, Mr Grayling was virtually unknown outside political circles, having entered Parliament only in 2001.

As a former quiet man of Westminster, he then began making ripples as the custodian of political morals.

Born in 1962, he grew up in Buckinghamshire but his parents moved to Cheshire when he was 19 and he has extensive family links in the North West.

He was educated at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe before going to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, to read history.

After university, Mr Grayling joined the BBC’s news training scheme and worked as a producer on BBC News and Channel 4’s Business Daily.

Later he moved to the business side of the media industry and worked for a number of small and medium-sized production businesses before going to international communications firm Burson-Marsteller, where he completed his time as European marketing director.

HMP HIGH DOWN – Energetic management has improved safety but training and education remain a weakness

HMP High Down, a category B prison in Surrey holding about 1,200 prisoners, was found by inspectors to have made good or reasonable progress in some key areas of concern at its last full inspection, including safety and care for vulnerable prisoners.

However, it still struggled to address weaknesses in the provision of purposeful activity, including training and education.

Publishing an Independent Review of Progress (IRP), Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that at the inspection in May 2018 inspectors had found that “arrival and early days procedures were a significant concern. The prison was failing to support prisoners at the time when they were likely to be at their most vulnerable.

“The management of the segregation unit was poor and levels of violence in the prison had increased.” There were also significant weaknesses in public protection work. Purposeful activity was judged as ‘poor’, the lowest possible rating. In May 2018, High Down had been told its function would change and uncertainty about its future role was hindering the prison’s ability to plan and progress.

At the time of the IRP in June 2019, however, Mr Clarke said High Down “had finally decided to focus on the local prison population it held and was no longer allowing itself to be distracted by the prospect of a change in function”.

Click to Enlarge

In the test for safety, the reception process was now far better organised. “We saw prisoners being screened thoroughly for vulnerabilities on arrival, and first night accommodation was generally well prepared.” Violence had continued to rise in line with other establishments, but a well-considered violence reduction strategy had now been implemented “and time would tell if it was fit for purpose.”

Attempts to understand and address the continuing disproportionate use of force against black and minority ethnic prisoners had been too slow, although a prisoner survey had recently been completed and was awaiting analysis. In the six months before the IRP 47% of use of force incidents involved black and minority ethnic men, who represented 35% of the population. The prison knew that disproportionate use of restraint was particularly an issue with black men aged 21–29 but had made little progress in addressing this problem.

Inspectors’ concerns in May 2018 about the arbitrary management of prisoners in the segregation unit had been addressed effectively and there was good progress against a 2018 recommendation about the need for drug- and alcohol-dependent prisoners to receive medication swiftly after arrival.

In rehabilitation and release planning, inspectors found more efficient and improving risk management planning before release, and better analysis of needs, although this work had also been affected by the uncertainty surrounding the role of the prison. Public protection monitoring had improved, though it was still not sufficiently rigorous.

However, purposeful activity remained a weakness and a concern for inspectors. While there had been reasonable progress in activity induction processes, in two of the three themes assessed under Ofsted’s methodology, the prison was judged to have made insufficient progress.

“Attendance and punctuality were still poor, the number of activity places had not increased and nearly half the population was unemployed,” Mr Clarke added.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“At this IRP, we found a focused and motivated management team, and staff who were keen to demonstrate that they were addressing the concerns raised at the inspection. Their efforts had resulted in reasonable or good scores in seven of the 12 recommendations and Ofsted themes, but there were considerable challenges ahead, not least in improving purposeful activity outcomes. Although the uncertainty about the prison’s future had yet to be fully resolved by HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), we saw considerable local energy behind the challenge to turn progress into tangible outcomes.”

Read the Report



HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has called on the Secretary of State for Justice to intervene urgently in Feltham A Young Offender Institution (YOI) after an inspection last week disclosed an “extraordinary” decline in safety, care and activity for the children held there.

Inspectors found very high levels of violence, between boys and against staff, high use of staff force, poor care, long periods of lock-up in cells and escalating self-harm.

Peter Clarke invoked the rarely-used Urgent Notification (UN) process because of disturbing inspection findings at the unit holding boys aged under 18 in West London. The Secretary of State must respond within 28 days, in public, with action to improve conditions.

Feltham A had previously been subject to a full inspection in January 2019. The report on that inspection, published in early June 2019, warned of deterioration in safety and care after a period of drift. Mr Clarke also took the unusual step, based on intelligence from a number of sources about Feltham A, of announcing that the Inspectorate would return to the children’s unit in early July to inspect both Feltham A and Feltham B, the linked prison for 18–21-year-olds.

The Urgent Notification relates only to Feltham A which, Mr Clarke said, “has for many years been recognised as a challenging and complicated establishment.”

Mr Clarke added: “We found that in the six months since the last inspection there had been what can only be described as a collapse in performance and outcomes for the children being held in Feltham A… The speed of this decline has been extraordinary.”

In his UN letter to David Gauke, sent on 22 July, Mr Clarke set out his key findings:

 40% of children said they had felt unsafe at some point during their stay at Feltham A

  • the number of violent incidents had risen by 45% since January 2019, though the number of children held had fallen
  • the number of assaults against staff, some of which were very serious, had risen by around 150% since January
  • levels of self-harm had tripled since the previous inspection and were 14 times higher than in January 2017
  • use of force by staff had risen to very high levels: 74% of children reported they had been physically restrained at Feltham A and there had been over 700 incidents in the last six months
  • fewer than one in five children felt cared for by staff, less than half felt most staff treated them with respect, and only 45% reported there was a member of staff they could turn to for help
  • frontline staff were working in an extremely challenging environment and were frequently victims of antisocial behaviour and violence
  • a third of children said they were out of their cells for fewer than two hours during the week; at the weekend this figure rose to nearly three- quarters
  • resources were being wasted as health care staff, education facilities and resettlement intervention services stood idle waiting for children to arrive
  • many children were being released from Feltham A without stable accommodation, without education, training or employment being in place, and without support from family or friends.

Mr Clarke wrote to Mr Gauke: “I do not for one moment underestimate the challenges facing the leaders and staff at HMYOI Feltham A. During recent months they have often faced violence, some of it very serious. The atmosphere feels tense, and I could sense that many staff were anxious. Some were clearly frustrated about the situation in which they found themselves. They wanted to do their best for the children in their care.

“The overriding issue behind the extraordinary decline in performance over the past 18 months is the approach to dealing with violence and managing the behaviour of children. Of course, there is a need to keep children safe from each other, and for staff themselves to be safe in their workplace. However, the response at Feltham A, for many years, has been to focus too heavily on containing the problems rather than addressing them. As a result, ‘keep apart’ policies – developed so that children from rival gangs, or who for other reasons are likely to be violent to each other, are kept separate – have come to dominate.

“This has led to a collapse of any reasonable regime, has prevented many children from getting to education or training, delayed their access to health care, isolated them from meaningful human interaction and frustrated them to the point where violence and self-harm have become the means to express themselves or gain attention.

“There clearly needs to be a new approach which looks fundamentally to change behaviour and goes beyond merely trying to contain violence through ever more restrictive security and separation.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook, the definitive 1,600-page annual guide to prisons in England and Wales – the new 21st annual edition of which is published on 1st August 2019 – said the report was “shocking”.

Mr Leech said: “This is a shocking report where an increasing number of children in this establishment, unable to cope, have flipped into self-destruct.

“Levels of self-harm have tripled since the previous inspection – and they are now 14 times higher than they were in January 2017.

“Today we will have a new Justice Secretary after the resignation of David Gauke following Boris Johnson’s election as Prime Minister – to them I say: ‘welcome to the real world of prisons’ – and please deal with this urgently as the Notification requires.”

Read the Urgent Notification Letter

Read the Urgent Notification Letter & Full Notice

HMYOI WETHERBY & KEPPEL – Reasonably good or better in all inspection assessments

HMYOI Wetherby – a young offender institution (YOI) in Yorkshire, including the specialist Keppel unit for the most challenging children – continued to be a well-led establishment, inspectors found.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that in 2018 inspectors had “found an institution that was progressing well, and was achieving reasonably good or better outcomes in nearly all the healthy prison tests we assessed.”

The inspection in March 2019 was equally good. Indeed, Mr Clarke said, “safety had improved on the Wetherby side of the institution to the extent that all eight of our assessments (four each for Wetherby and Keppel) were now at least reasonably good or better.

“Keppel in particular should be commended for the good outcomes it was achieving for some very vulnerable and challenging children.”

Click to Enlarge

Levels of self-harm were comparable with other YOIs but higher on Keppel and reflected the vulnerabilities of the children on the unit. The care children in self-harm crisis received was generally well integrated and very good, though there was too-frequent use of strip clothing with seemingly insufficient justification.

The amount of violence in Wetherby had fallen slightly and was now lower than comparable prisons, with some good robust initiatives to hopefully reduce it further.

“There were also several schemes in place to incentivise young people but they were undermined by too great an emphasis on punishment over reward.” Use of force by staff remained high, Mr Clarke added, “and although it was now better supervised, in our view there needed to be greater evidence of de-escalation and a further reduction in last-resort, pain-inducing techniques.”

Relationships between staff and young people remained a real strength of the institution. Staff expressed pride in their work and knew the children well. Children also spoke positively about the influence of the Governor. Inspectors identified as good practice the issuing of a free MP3 player with a recording of the induction so new arrivals could learn about the establishment in their own time.

Time out of cell had improved since 2018 and PE provision was very good. The delivery of learning and skills was well led, and priority had been given to maintaining high levels of attendance. Across both sites there was enough activity for all. Ofsted inspectors judged the overall effectiveness of learning and skills to be ‘good’.

Both Wetherby and Keppel had up-to-date strategies to reduce reoffending and resettlement needs were supported by some good casework. Public protection measures were effective.

Mr Clarke said:

“Overall Wetherby continues to be a well-led institution, run by a confident staff group delivering useful outcomes for children. We observed considerable initiative and energy and a very evident commitment to ongoing improvement.   We have made a small number of recommendations which we hope will assist this process.”

Helga Swidenback, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Executive Director of the Youth Custody Service, said:

“It is extremely encouraging that Wetherby and Keppel have improved on safety and significantly reduced violence given they are managing a very vulnerable and challenging group of young people. I’d like to reiterate the comments made by the Chief Inspector and thank the governor and his team for their commendable work which has had such a positive influence on these children’s lives.”

Read the Report

Separating Extremist Prisoners:
A process study of separation centres in England and Wales
from a staff perspective

This report presents findings of a process study of the set up and early implementation of two Separation Centres (SCs) within the high security prison estate in England and Wales. 

The centres allow greater separation and specialist management of influential extremists who wield the greatest influence over other prisoners. The process study used qualitative methods to obtain staff and stakeholder views of how the centres had been set up and were operating and whether there were any early indicators that the centres were achieving their intended outcome of containing the risk of ‘radicalisation’ and reducing risk in the main prison population.

Five fieldwork visits were carried out to the centres at different time points in their implementation and a total of 92 interviews with staff members involved in the development and/or delivery of SCs or key stakeholders were conducted.  In addition, 36 interviews were carried out with staff at establishments from where the men had been removed to explore any impact of their removal.  Detailed field notes were taken that were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis.

There were a number of limitations to the study and these should be noted when interpreting findings. As with all qualitative research, the views of those interviewed were subjective and may not be representative of all staff at the establishments and all key stakeholders. However, as sample sizes were large and drawn from a range of staff and stakeholder disciplines, a wide range of viewpoints were gathered. The SCs had only been established and running for a relatively short period of time during fieldwork and this should be considered when interpreting findings, especially perceived impact. Finally, it is important to note that the men who had been separated declined to engage in interviews or surveys for the study, so the researchers were unable to obtain their views on the centres.

Key Findings

Respondents reported that two well-run centres had been successfully set up, despite some early teething problems.

The key successes of the implementation included the recruitment and retention of highly competent, motivated and experienced officers and multi-disciplinary teams to work on the centres; a comprehensive regime; structured and effective communication systems and the development of a system for monitoring progression. It was widely viewed, by those interviewed, that the centres had successfully separated some of the most influential extremist offenders from the mainstream prison population.

There was some suggestion that this had helped to reduce disruption at their previous locations, although it is challenging to empirically measure the direct impact of removing these individuals.

The lack of engagement by the men, especially in rehabilitation and disengagement interventions, was identified as a significant challenge in the running of the centres.

Areas for improvement and lessons learned were also identified from the staff interviews; some of which have now been addressed by the centres.

These included the need for a review and refinement of the referral process (including examination of lower than expected numbers of referrals); greater support for Imams working on the centres; the importance of a standard and consistent regime to be delivered across all centres; a clearer progression and/or deselection route identified (including where an individual does not engage); consideration of the possible long term impact of separation on mental health.

Consideration should also be given to those who are separated, including the separation of gang affiliated offenders and those supporting other causes, such as Extreme Right Wing.

This qualitative study provides insight from staff and stakeholders into the set up and early implementation of SCs. Further work would need to be considered to assess delivery once sufficient time has passed to allow sustainable practices to embed into the operation of the centres.

Read the Report