HMP Parc Young Persons Unit: Inspectors Commend Continuing Improvement – But CSIP and Catering Issues Must Be Addressed

Inspectors visited the Young Persons Unit at HMP Parc in South Wales last October and in their Report, published on 26th February 2019, said:

HMYOI Parc is a small juvenile facility comprising two wings and holding up to 60 boys aged under 18 located in the much larger Parc prison in South Wales. The unit and wider prison are operated by the private company G4S. At the time of this annual inspection there were 37 boys in residence.

At our last inspection we reported how good leadership and a re-energised staff group had contributed to significant improvement at the establishment. It was clear on this visit that the team had continued in their efforts to make the unit safer, more purposeful and more respectful. We had previously found high levels of violence, and boys with poor perceptions of their own safety. During this inspection, perceptions of safety were much better and recorded violence was on a consistent downward trajectory, with few serious incidents. Very few boys isolated themselves in their cells or were located in the segregation unit. The leadership team had established a reward-led culture that motivated most boys to behave, incorporating an evidence-based instant rewards scheme that we considered good practice.

Child protection procedures, an area in which we have previously been critical, were now much more effective and again evidenced good practice. Similarly, the multidisciplinary case management approach to managing the victims and perpetrators of violence through the application of a nationally sponsored process known as CSIP1 was an example to the many establishments that have struggled to grasp its potential.

Our highest assessments were in the areas of respect and purposeful activity. The units were clean and well maintained, relationships between boys and staff were good, and staff were tolerant but also displayed the confidence to challenge inappropriate behaviour when necessary. They balanced authority and care to create a supportive and disciplined environment.

The strategic approach to the management of equality and diversity had improved and health care services remained good. Time out of cell was impressive, even for those on the lowest level of the rewards scheme. There had been a progressive move to establishing a whole-unit approach to managing the boys at Parc. Departments worked together in a way we do not often see. Some experienced prison officers had been supported to undertake the postgraduate Certificate in Education training to work in education, which served to break down barriers between departments.

The education unit was exceeding the performance indicators set out in its contract and boys achieved a success rate of over 90% in most qualifications.

However, we made two main recommendations, one regarding the food and the other risk management. During our inspection, we spoke to most of the boys on both units. They were quick to praise staff and were very fair about their experiences at Parc, complaining about very little. This gave considerable credibility to their consistent complaints about food. Our own observations supported their negative perceptions and we would urge the prison to meet with the contractor at the earliest opportunity to address concerns in this important area.

Our second main recommendation concerned weaknesses in the establishment’s approach to risk management. Caseworkers worked well as part of multidisciplinary teams and were particularly effective in helping to manage boys on CSIP plans. The team knew the boys on their caseloads well and contact was good. However, despite significant information about risk being available to caseworkers, it was not always recognised or sufficiently investigated to inform sentence planning and management. This meant that planning for release did not adequately consider the vulnerabilities of or risks posed by some boys on their return to the community.

Given the energy and commitment put into addressing the concerns raised at previous inspections, we remain confident that leaders at Parc will make every effort to address our recommendations.

This was a good inspection and we found that the establishment was characterised by good relationships, excellent multidisciplinary work and strong leadership.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:

There is no getting away from it this is a good report on a small unit managed by G4S, the same company that six months ago saw the Ministry of Justice step-in to Birmingham Prison, which it also then operated, because of disastrous issues of management and control.

The young person population at Parc is minute by comparison, the report is silent on the resources made available to this Unit in terms of staff profiling, a constant defect in Inspection Reports that prevent effective comparability, but this is a good report, on an often difficult to manage, volatile and vulnerable population.

Parc overall is a huge prison, one of the largest in Europe and a research report last month showed that Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment in Western Europe – despite having one of the lowest crime rates.

The rewards-based focus identified in the report demonstrates once again that more carrot and less stick is often the most effective way to achieve behavioural change, and G4S are to be commended for putting rehabilitation and reducing reoffending at the heart of their work.

The two issues identified as defective in the report must be tackled.

The issue with catering, producing food that is often cold, unappetising and the source of constant complaints – confirmed by the Inspectorate – must be a major focus now for the prison’s management; we have seen too many times how complaints about food can lead to serious unrest if the issue is not tackled effectively.

But by far the more serious issue is with the weaknesses identified with the approach to CSIP, which must be addressed as a matter of urgency. [Challenge, Support and Intervention Planning, is a system used to manage the most violent prisoners and support the most vulnerable prisoners in the system. Prisoners who are identified as the perpetrator of serious or repeated violence, or who are vulnerable due to being the victim of violence or bullying behaviour, are managed and intended to be supported on a plan with individualised targets and regular reviews.] 

My one point of caution would be that all the good work that is being achieved at this small unit at Parc risks being undone if the issue with CSIP is not addressed properly – and this takes on an even greater significance if, as seems likely at the end of their sentence, these young people are simply tossed back into the same toxic inner-city, high-crime, poor opportunity environments that they were first taken out of – but that is a societal issue for the Welsh and UK Governments as a whole to tackle, and in respect of which G4S to be fair can itself have little effect.

Read the Report