HMP SEND – Excellent women’s prison but it must address the deterioration in education, work and training.

HMP Send, a closed training prison for women, including many high-risk offenders, was found by inspectors to have kept up high standards of safety, respectful treatment and rehabilitation and release planning.

The Surrey jail had, however, undergone a disappointing deterioration in its provision of ‘purposeful activity’ – education, work and training.

Overall, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, described Send as an “excellent” prison dealing with a “highly complex population” of up to 282 often high-risk offenders.

Three-quarters of those held at the time of the inspection in June 2018 were serving over four years and 67 were serving indeterminate sentences, including life. A substantial number, although not all, lived on one of three therapeutic or specialist facilities which “sought to address the needs of women as part of a structured personality disorder pathway.”

In 2014, inspectors assessed Send as ‘good’ in all four healthy prison tests, the highest assessment. Only purposeful activity dropped, to ‘not sufficiently good’, in 2018.

Send remained was a very safe prison, with very little violence. Though the HMIP survey raised some concerns about issues of bullying and victimisation, inspectors found the prison’s response to such behaviour had improved. Recorded self-harm had almost doubled but it remained much lower than comparable prisons. Force was rarely used and the prison, commendably, was able to operate without the need for a segregation unit.

Living conditions were clean and decent and most women reported very positively about many aspects of daily living. Relationships between staff and women were excellent and, Mr Clarke said, “were at the heart of the prison’s success.” Work to promote equality had improved and was generally very good, although more could have been done to support some groups, notably younger women and foreign nationals.

The management of resettlement was strong and offender management was at the heart of a prisoner’s experience.

Inspectors’ principal concern, Mr Clarke said, related to purposeful activity. Most women had more than 10 hours out of their cells and inspectors found very few locked up during the working day. “That said, the management of learning and skills was not robust and quality improvement lacked challenge. The range of education on offer was good but opportunities in work and vocational training were more limited.” Allocations to activity needed improvement and employer engagement was insufficient. Attendance and retention in education and vocational training were mixed and in some vocation and work settings women were insufficiently productive.

Overall, though, Mr Clarke said:

“HMP Send was an excellent prison run by a very effective governor and caring staff.  The women at the prison were treated with decency and care, being kept safe and treated with respect. The prison provided services for some very difficult and potentially dangerous women, yet did so with confidence and competence. There was work to do to improve education, vocational training and work, so we have left the prison with a few recommendations which we hope will assist in this process.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, said:

“As the Chief Inspector says, Send does excellent work with a complex and challenging population. The Governor and her team are committed to maximising opportunities for the women in their care and will use the recommendations in this report, along with the measures outlined in the government’s Education and Employment Strategy, to improve the quality of training available to support women into employment on release.”

Read the Report