HMP & YOI Foston Hall – Well-Led Women’s Prison With Inspectors Confident Of Further Improvement

HMP & YOI Foston Hall, a women’s prison situated between Derby and Uttoxeter, was found to be a “very positive institution” with reasonably good outcomes across all four HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ healthy prison tests.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said most women in Foston Hall felt safe. “Violence was rare and incidents minor. Work to investigate incidents when they did occur and the support offered to victims and perpetrators did, however, need to be better.” The incentives scheme was not very effective, and the number of adjudications and the use of force by staff were both higher than expected, although incidents when force was used were not normally very serious.

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A dedicated social worker led work to support adult safeguarding effectively, but needed better support from other staff. “Support for those with needs was not sufficiently proactive or always in line with prisoner care plans. The case management of those at risk of self-harm was variable,” Mr Clarke said. Self-harm incidents were very high and despite two self-inflicted deaths since 2016, when the prison was last inspected, not all the recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, who investigated these incidents, had been implemented.

Inspectors found the general environment to be excellent and most accommodation was good. Most women were positive about their relationships with staff. New work to promote equality and diversity had begun and was encouraging, with new arrangements for consultation now in place. Health care had improved considerably since 2016.

Most prisoners experienced very good time out of cell and some good joint working between education providers and the prison had led to improvements to the curriculum on offer.

The management of resettlement was improving, but would have benefited further from a better analysis of the distinct needs of women in the prison. Mr Clarke said: “Work to support offender management was good but more could have been done for the many prisoners serving indeterminate sentences.”

Inspectors noted some impressive initiatives, such as the Family Bonding Unit established  to encourage stronger family ties.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“This is a good report about a good prison. Foston Hall is well led, with energy and creativity evident among the senior team. Themes that emerged from our inspection were the need to refine strategies so that initiatives were better coordinated and delivered more effectively, and to ensure that the staff group was more proactive in focusing on the needs of prisoners and their well-being. We were, however, confident that managers could use the platform they had created for further improvement and we leave the prison with several recommendations which we hope will assist this process.”

Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service Director General of Prisons, said:

“I am pleased that inspectors have found Foston Hall to be a good and improving prison. Staff and managers have worked hard to implement the recommendations from the previous inspection in 2016, and raise the establishment’s performance. Further work to tackle the high levels of self-harm and improve support for those at risk of harming themselves is underway, with the prison implementing a new model to do this. I know that the Governor and her management team will use the inspectors’ recommendations to build on this excellent progress.”


Task of the establishment – A women’s resettlement and local prison

Certified normal accommodation and operational capacity – Prisoners held at the time of inspection: 263

Baseline certified normal capacity: 264

In-use certified normal capacity: 264

Operational capacity: 286

Notable features from this inspection

  • In our survey, almost all prisoners reported having problems on arrival, including depression and feeling suicidal. Three quarters of the population said they suffered from a mental health problem.
  • Thirty-six per cent of prisoners were involved with psychosocial services.
  • Foston Hall was the first women’s prison to introduce digital visits to promote contact with children and families.
  • On average 70 prisoners were released each month.
  • An unusually high proportion of prisoners, almost 20%, at Foston Hall were serving indeterminate sentences.

Prison status and key providers – Public

Physical and mental health provider: Care UK

Substance use provider: Inclusion

Learning and skills provider: Milton Keynes College

Community rehabilitation company (CRC): Derbyshire, Leicester, Nottinghamshire and Rutland CRC

Escort contractor: GEOAmey

Prison department – Women’s estate

Short description of residential units

  • First night and induction unit for 63 prisoners
  • A wing – Cameo Unit accommodation for 42 prisoners with personality disorders
  • B wing – mainstream accommodation for 42 prisoners
  • C wing – mainstream accommodation for 41 prisoners
  • D wing – mainstream accommodation for 29 prisoners
  • E wing – unit for 11 long-term and enhanced regime prisoners
  • F wing – mainstream accommodation for 63 prisoners (closed for refurbishment)
  • T wing – mainstream accommodation for 58 prisoners.

Name of governor and date in post – Andrea Black – February 2017

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HMP SWALESIDE – Safer and more respectful, but weaker on activity and rehabilitation

Published 8th May 2019

The Chief Inspector of Prisons has said that HMP Swaleside, a training prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent holding many men serving long sentences for violent offences, had ‘become safer and more respectful over two years’ – despite the fact that outcomes for prisoners against the safety prison test ‘were not sufficiently good.”

Swaleside prison, which opened in 1988, is located on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. Covering mainly London and the South-East, the South-West as well as Wales, the prison first opened with four wings, adding four further wings between 1998 and 2010. In 2010, a psychologically informed planned environment (PIPE) unit was built, along with a pre-PIPE unit for prisoners with personality disorders and very challenging behaviour.

The prison held a complex population, including a psychologically informed planned environment unit, a wing holding prisoners seeking protection, a wing for prisoners convicted of sexual offences and a lifer wing. About a third of prisoners were serving an indeterminate sentence. Eighty-five per cent of prisoners potentially needed multi-agency supervision on release. Seventy-five per cent of the population had been assessed as presenting a high risk of harm. About 60% of prisoners had committed a violent offence. Thirty-five per cent of prison officers had been in the Prison Service for less than 12 months. One hundred and eighty-eight prisoners were employed as wing workers. Two hundred and eight-seven prisoners, about a quarter of the population, were unemployed.

Safety: Early days arrangements were generally good and prisoners were kept safe. The number of violent incidents was high. Innovative work to combat violence was promising but not yet fully productive and required more coordination. Too many prisoners in our survey said that they felt unsafe.

The number of adjudication charges had increased but processes were fair. Levels of use of force were high but oversight was generally good. Prisoners were routinely stripped of their clothing on entering the special cell, which was sometimes used without sufficient justification. The use of segregation was high and some prisoners spent a long time on the unit. Some of the work to help these individuals was impressive.

Security arrangements were generally  proportionate. Levels of self-harm were comparatively low but five prisoners had killed themselves since the previous inspection. there was some good, innovative work to help those with complex needs. The mandatory drug testing positive rate was high, at 25%, but work to reduce the supply of drugs was having some success.  

Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were not sufficiently good.”

At the last inspection in 2016 we found that outcomes for prisoners in Swaleside were poor against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations in the area of safety At this inspection we found that nine of the recommendations had been achieved, one had been partially achieved and two had not been achieved.

However, progress was assessed as “lop-sided” because the quality of purposeful activity remained insufficiently good since the previous inspection in 2016 and rehabilitation and resettlement work was now assessed as poor, the lowest assessment.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that although the population was comparatively settled “Swaleside is unquestionably a difficult place to run and an institution that presents many risks.”

In 2016, it was found to be “dangerous” and safety was assessed as poor. In December 2018, it still suffered high levels of violence and too many men felt unsafe. But inspectors also found very good work to reduce the supply of drugs, a significant effort to improve safety and some impressive care for those at risk of self-harm. The overall assessment of safety rose from poor to ‘not sufficiently good.’

Relationships between staff and prisoners were generally very good, with over 70% of men saying they thought staff treated them with respect. Many staff were, however, quite inexperienced and some lacked the confidence to challenge poor behaviour.

Most cells were well maintained but the standard of cleanliness “did not correlate with the plethora of supposed prisoner cleaners.” The report noted: “During our night visit, we saw rats in corridors near rubbish bags that had not been disposed of correctly. There was an excessive number of prisoners supposedly employed to clean but the lack of effective staff supervision resulted in little cleaning actually taking place.”

Inspectors found 32% of men locked in their cell during the working day – an improvement on 2016 but still poor. Good standards of work were evident in many aspects of education, skills and work and, for those engaged, the achievement of qualifications was high. This was undermined, however, by poor allocation to activity, under-employment, poor attendance and poor punctuality.

Mr Clarke added: “Core tasks of a prison that manages the type of prisoner held at Swaleside are meaningful sentence management, the reduction of risk of harm and ultimately the protection of the public. In these tasks Swaleside was failing badly.”

Public protection arrangements were weak and offending behaviour interventions were limited, especially for the prison’s population of sexual offenders. More than 160 men convicted of sex offences were moved to Swaleside at the end of 2016 in an attempt to stabilise the jail.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There was much to commend at Swaleside. Managers were energetic, caring and innovative, and staff, though inexperienced, were proactive and helpful. Improvements were clearly to be seen, as reflected in our assessments. That said, many improvements were undermined by failings elsewhere…While there had been some incremental improvements in safety, many prisoners were not fully engaged in the regime and some prisoners’ rehabilitation needs were not being met. Managers need to take a step back and think carefully about how they will not only sustain and integrate their achievements but also take a holistic approach to improving outcomes across all four of our healthy prison assessments.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons at HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), said:

“I am pleased that inspectors recognise the improvements that have been made, along with the energy and care that Swaleside staff put into what is acknowledged as their particularly challenging work. Clearly more still needs to be done to address violence and give prisoners more time out of their cells in education and training. Improved safety procedures have been introduced and the prison will also benefit from the new education framework we have implemented across the country to help offenders use their time in custody constructively.”

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

Swaleside has a complex and difficult prison to manage population, the improvement in safety and respect is very welcome  but the stalling of purposeful activity and the fall in release planning shows a prison where far too much focus is set around getting basic control.

Swaleside demonstrates a prison that sees itself as a destination and not a journey, its focus is on getting through each day and with the reality of release for many some years away, the end of sentence planning is not in sharp enough focus and it needs to be – focus on release planning should begin right at the start of the sentence, tentatively in these cases but it must be there if light is to seen at the end of each tunnel,

Purposeful Activity: Too many prisoners were locked in their cells during the working day, and prisoners spent far too long in their cells at weekends. The library and gym facilities were good. The leadership and management of education, work and skills required improvement. Too many prisoners were not allocated to activities. The quality of most teaching and instructing was good but there was too little accredited training in workshops. Not enough prisoners improved their employment skills. Prisoners’ attendance and punctuality were not good enough. Outcomes and achievements for prisoners were reasonably good. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were not sufficiently good.

Release Planning: Prisoners now had telephones in their cells, which was appreciated and helped them to maintain contact with families. Visits arrangements were generally good but sessions did not always start on time. The strategic management of reducing reoffending was poor. Too many prisoners did not have an up-to-date assessment of their risks and needs. Offender supervisors had little contact with prisoners, most of which was reactive. Arrangements to protect the public were weak. Categorisation processes were adequate. There were too few places on offending behaviour programmes to meet the needs of the population, and none specifically for prisoners convicted of sexual offences. Not all prisoners were moved to a resettlement prisons before release. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were poor.

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HMP GARTH – high levels of violence and a daunting drugs problem found at this announced inspection

Published 9th May 2019
Leaders and staff at HMP Garth, a training prison in Lancashire, were commended for their work to reduce drugs and violence since inspectors found it in 2017 to be one of the most unsafe they had seen.

  • Note: For this Inspection, unusually, the prison had been given prior warning of the Inspection and had the been able to prepare for it in advance.

HMP Garth opened in 1988. A category B men’s establishment, it is part of the newly formed long-term and high-security estate directorate, holding a complex population. The population was predominantly made up of convicted adults serving more than four years and those serving indeterminate sentences. In addition to the mainstream residential accommodation, the prison had a number of specialist units: The Beacon Unit, offering the offender personality disorder pathway service; The Building Hope Unit, a psychologically informed therapeutic environment; a substance misuse therapeutic community and a residential support unit.

Almost all prisoners in HMP Garth were serving prison sentences of longer than 10 years and 89% presented a high risk of harm to others. Sixty-three per cent of prisoners had been convicted of serious violent offences and almost a quarter had been convicted of sexual offences. Just over a third of prisoners were serving an indeterminate sentence. In our survey, 60% of prisoners said it was easy to get hold of illicit drugs, and about one in four said they had developed a drug problem while being at HMP Garth. HMP Garth had a nationally resourced offender personality disorder pathway (OPDP) service operating from The Beacon Unit.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said: “It is pleasing to be able to report that in the space of two years [since January 2017] there had been significant improvements at the prison.

  • High levels of violence but slowing

“Although there was still too much violence, it had not risen in line with the overall trend across the prison estate, and credit is due to the staff at Garth for working hard to understand and contain it. There is absolutely no room for complacency, but there were some early encouraging signs of improvement.

  • Drugs: the scale of this problem was daunting

“As with many other prisons, the ready availability of illicit drugs drove much of the violence, and the scale of the challenge in this respect at Garth was daunting. Sixty per cent of prisoners told us it was easy to obtain drugs, 30% were testing positive for drugs and around a quarter had developed a drug habit since entering the prison.” Drugs and violence reduction strategies must be kept under constant review to maintain the progress.

  • Long-term, high risk population,

Garth held just over 800 prisoners, the vast majority serving sentences of more than 10 years and presenting a high risk of harm. Around two-thirds had been convicted of serious violence and a quarter were convicted of sexual offences.

  • Slight improvements in safety and respect

The poor safety assessment in 2017, in a jail in which drugs and violence then dominated the men’s lives, led inspectors to make it subject to one of only a handful of announced inspections. By late 2018, safety had risen from a poor assessment to not sufficiently good. Respect rose to reasonably good and purposeful activity and rehabilitation and resettlement remained at that level.

Mr Clarke said: “My confidence that the prison can continue to make progress was strengthened by what I saw and heard during my meeting with the senior management team. It was very clear to me that they worked together in a highly collaborative way to address the serious challenges faced by the establishment.

Members of the team, from whatever specialised function, were eager to contribute to what their colleagues were trying to achieve in their particular areas of responsibility. It was heartening to see this approach and to experience the obvious enthusiasm.”

  • Serious concerns about cancelled hospital appointments and Public Protection

Although the assessment of respect had improved, there was serious concern about the high cancellation rate for external hospital appointments. Inspectors were also concerned about some weaknesses in managing the potential risks to the public posed by those few prisoners who were released from Garth.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“The leadership of HMP Garth were keen to point out to me that there were early signs of improvement, and it was to their credit that what had been achieved was sufficient to raise our assessments in two of our healthy prison tests. Given the overall context in which establishments such as Garth have been operating over the past few years, this is an achievement that should not be underestimated.

For the future, dealing with the twin scourges of drugs and violence will be the key to making further progress, and I hope that when we next inspect HMP Garth we will be able to report that the momentum we saw on this occasion will have been maintained.”

Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Director General of Prisons, said:

“It is extremely encouraging to see significant progress being made at HMP Garth, and I echo the Chief Inspector’s confidence that the hard work of the prison officers in the establishment will maintain this going forward. The prison continues to tackle drugs and violence head on, ensuring that prisoners can focus on rehabilitation, and I’m delighted to see that their efforts are leading to real improvements.”

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

I’m the first to give governors and staff a pat on the back for progress, encouragement is vital, but so too is reality.

To talk about ‘commendable improvements’ in a prison that still has serious problems with drugs and violence, where self-harm is very high and where less than half of the safety recommendations  made two years ago have still not been implemented, to me is is premature and to value its progress too highly.

Inspectors said:

“At the last inspection in 2017 we found that outcomes for prisoners in Garth were poor against this [Safety] healthy prison test. We made 13 recommendations in the area of safety. At this inspection we found that six of the recommendations had been achieved and seven had not been achieved.”

This was an average report, and I would have expected more progress given that the prison knew of the Inspection months in advance and were able to prepare for it – the fact that they could not do better suggests the prison is fighting a losing losing battle on a number of serious fronts.”

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HMP/YOI SWINFEN HALL – Positive work undermined by continuing poor regime

HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall in Staffordshire, holding 530 males aged between 18 and 28, was found by inspectors to have improved in some respects, and to have committed and hard-working staff. However, all areas of prison life were adversely affected by a poor regime.

Many prisoners were locked up for 22 hours a day, which meant they did not attend training and education or get access to telephones or showers, and often had to eat in their cells, on or near cell toilets.

Swinfen Hall was last inspected in 2016. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “While there had been noticeable improvements in some areas, none of them had been sufficient to raise any of our healthy prison assessments.

“There had been improvements in the provision of education and skills, and some of the residential accommodation had benefitted from refurbishment…But the simple fact was that, despite the improvements, too many fundamental issues still needed to be resolved.

“First and foremost among these was the poor regime, which had a negative impact on so much else in the prison. We found that it was disrupted about 60% of the time, limiting access to work and education. Thirty-nine per cent of prisoners told us they were locked in their cells for more than 22 hours each day during the week, a figure that rose to 65% at weekends. This meant that only 27% had daily access to telephones, limiting their ability to maintain family contact or to complete domestic tasks such as cleaning their cells.

“Only a quarter of prisoners were able to have a daily shower, which compared very poorly with the 89% who were able to do so in other similar prisons…The quality of relationships between staff and prisoners was also clearly adversely affected by the poor regime and the long periods of lock up.

Mr Clarke added: “It was our clear view that if the regime could be improved, Swinfen Hall could become a quite different prison.”

Inspectors noted that health care provision was generally good, and prisoners held positive views about it. The prison also had a robust approach to dealing with violence, and the fairly new violence reduction strategy had much to commend it, although there needed to be a sharper focus on violence reduction. However, Mr Clarke said, “we were particularly concerned by the very high levels of self-harm, and the fact that this was disproportionately high among younger prisoners…A significant amount of this total was attributable to a small number of prisoners, but this was nevertheless extremely worrying.

“The poor regime undoubtedly affected many areas of prison life, but clearly had a particularly acute impact on younger prisoners and those who were vulnerable or prone to committing acts of self-harm.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There was much good work being carried out at Swinfen Hall by a committed and hard-working staff group, but the prison will not fulfil its potential to provide a consistently purposeful and caring environment for the young prisoners held there unless and until the poor regime is improved.”

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

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has recognised the improvements in living conditions and education and skills training which are crucial to successful rehabilitation. However, we realise that more needs to be done to tackle self-harm in the prison, so we have hired additional psychology and mental health resources to support vulnerable prisoners. We are also improving the daily regime by increasing purposeful activity.”

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HMP & YOI rochester – Commendable Progress Despite Disruption From A Rescinded Decision To Close The Prison

HMP & YOI rochester, a training and resettlement prison in Kent holding adult and young adult male prisoners, had shown encouraging progress despite the “significant disruption” of a period in which it was told it would close but was then kept open, according to a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

The leadership at rochester was commended for guiding the prison through this difficult period, coping with the loss of key staff after the closure announcement and some very poor accommodation, with one wing resembling a “derelict building”. HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) announced in March 2017 that rochester, a large and sprawling site dating back to 1874, would close for complete redevelopment. However, an increase in the national prison population led to a further announcement in July 2017 that the closure would be delayed until 2019. In 2015, inspectors had found that rochester was failing to deliver acceptable outcomes for prisoners. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the announcement and then delay of closure in 2017 “caused significant disruption and displacement of resources at the prison, and real uncertainty about its future.”

Inspectors returned to rochester in October and November 2017. Mr Clarke said: “Given the closure notice and ongoing uncertainty about the prison’s future, we were encouraged at this inspection to see progress in some key areas – to the great credit of the governor and his team. More needed to be done to embed and consolidate the progress made, but this had been achieved despite the uncertainties.”

Inspectors found rochester to be calmer than before, and poor behaviour was being more proactively challenged. Most men said they felt safe. Illegal drugs remained a big problem, and a major challenge, but the prison was better focused on these issues. There had been no deaths in custody since the 2015 inspection.

The prison was assessed as generally respectful, with much improved staff-prisoner relationships and better management of equality and diversity work and complaints. Much of the living accommodation was unacceptable, however, with constant demand for expensive emergency repairs, and C wing at HMP rochester “resembled a derelict building. Many cells were cramped, grubby, poorly maintained and without decent furniture, and we again found many offensive displays on walls.” The prison had made efforts to mitigate this, including allowing prisoners to paint their cells, but the living environment overall was not suitable and the accommodation needed to be closed.

“HMPPS also appeared to have reached this conclusion with the closure notice earlier last year. Despite the postponement of this decision in July, we would encourage HMPPS to revisit this issue at the very earliest opportunity,” Mr Clarke said.

The prison also suffered from insufficient staff to run a full regime, a problem exacerbated by the loss of a significant number of operational and specialist staff after the initial closure notice. Mr Clarke added: “The governor had

implemented a restricted regime, which meant men at least had a period of reliable time out of cell each day, prioritising attendance at activities.” Despite this, time out of cell overall was insufficient, and many activities were not being run because of staffing shortages. “We found far more men than at the last inspection locked up during the working day with nothing useful to do.”

Mr Clarke said:

“Uncertainty about the prison’s future was having a huge impact on outcomes and well-being at rochester. The prison was, however, very well led, and had clear and achievable plans to mitigate the impact of the uncertainty and improve areas within the governor’s control. Commendable progress had already been made in this regard. We would encourage whatever support or clarity can be provided to ensure any potential deterioration is avoided.”

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

“rochester has faced a number of challenges over the past year and I’m pleased that the Inspectorate has noted the progress made by the Governor and his team. A programme of refurbishment has been planned to address the most urgent accommodation issues, along with the recruitment of more staff to create a consistent regime for prisoners. We will continue to work towards addressing the broader issues raised in the report.”

A copy of the full report, published on 15 March 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HMP Wormwood Scrubs – iconic jail suffering persistent and intractable failings

SCRUBSWormwood Scrubs, the iconic West London jail, was found to be suffering from persistent and intractable failings, including high violence, drugs, chronic staff shortages and poor public protection work, according to a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP).

The jail, holding more than 1,200 men, has been inspected three times in the last three-and-a-half years. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the inspections in May 2014 and December 2015 raised “very serious concerns.”

The latest inspection, in July and August 2017, was announced and, Mr Clarke said, “we report again on the intractability and persistence of failure at this prison, notwithstanding the hard work of the governor and his staff to try to make some difference.”

There were a number of major concerns:

  • The prison had high levels of often serious violence, resulting in some significant injuries. There had been a ‘dramatic’ increase in violence against staff, with more than 90 assaults in the six months to July. Despite efforts to tackle violence, 65% of prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some time and 36% felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. Drugs were very accessible.
  • Too many men were locked up for significant periods of the day, some for as long as long as 23 hours. A total of 41% of prisoners were found to be locked in cells during the day.
  • The prison struggled to provide decent conditions. Outside areas were strewn with litter, attracting rats and cockroaches. Some food serveries were left uncleaned, in an ‘appalling’ state.
  • Far too many windows facing the perimeter wall were broken, which enabled prisoners to retrieve contraband thrown over the wall.
  • Equality and diversity work had been neglected and was poor – in a jail with a 60% black and minority ethnic (BME) population.
  • There were long delays in Carillion, a contractor, carrying out maintenance tasks, and the prison stores had not been open for many weeks, leaving staff to scavenge for many basic items needed by prisoners.
  • Resettlement and offender management work was “fundamentally failing”, the report said, “and the prison was not meeting one of its key aims of supporting men to understand and address their offending behaviour and risk.” The quality of public protection work – assessing and managing the risk posed by prisoners on release – was also not good enough.

Some progress, however, had been made. Support for new prisoners in their early days had improved. Oversight of the use of force was better than previously and, while use of force was high, incidents looked at by inspectors were proportionate. The segregation unit also did reasonably well, with some very challenging men, and health care was reasonably good.

Staff were remarkably stoic despite the pressures they were under, Mr Clarke said. Pervasive staffing shortages – arising from recruitment problems and the loss of experienced staff – resulted in significant staff redeployment and a failure to deliver even basic services.

Mr Clarke said: “Overall, this was an extremely concerning picture, and we could see no justification as to why this poor situation had persisted since 2014. The governor and his team were, to their credit, working tirelessly to address the problems faced… This was commendable. But we were not confident that they could deliver improvement to outcomes without considerable additional external support. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) must, in our view, engage with the governor and his team to develop a recovery plan.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “HMP Wormwood Scrubs has taken decisive action to reduce violence, and is working closely with Carillion to urgently improve conditions at the prison. We know staffing remains an issue, so we are recruiting 120 extra officers and will cut the time taken for new recruits to begin training. The addition of new, senior probation staff has also led to significant improvements in resettling offenders into the community following release. We are pleased inspectors recognised the hard work and dedication of staff at the prison, especially in improving education and purposeful activity.”

View the Report Here

How Low Staffing Impacts On Child Safety In Prisons


Staffing problems meant far too many boys were locked up in cells nearly all day in young offender institutions, according to an annual report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons on the experiences of detained children aged 12 to 18.

Though the numbers who had felt unsafe in YOIs had fallen from a record high level in 2015–16, surveys in 2016–17 still found almost 40% had felt unsafe. Children in secure training centres (STCs), home to a larger number of under-16s, generally felt safer than those in YOIs but a fifth said they had no-one to turn to if they had a problem.

And in 2016–17, across both types of custody, there were disproportionate numbers of black and minority ethnic children, and children from Gypsy, Romany or Traveller communities, compared to their representation in the general population. Children with disabilities and mental and emotional health problems, and with backgrounds in local authority care, were also held in high numbers.

The report – Children in Custody 2016–17 – summarised findings of surveys distributed in HMIP inspections in the year. A total of 720 children completed the surveys. In his foreword, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, recalled that in February 2017 he had warned ministers that none of the establishments holding children were judged in inspections to be safe and the speed of the decline in safety was “extraordinary”.

In 2016–17, Mr Clarke added, “the impact of staffing constraints appears to have been more keenly felt by children this year. In YOIs…we have found far too many boys being locked in their cells for more than of 22 hours each day, with staff struggling to manage the complexities of regimes where some boys can only be allowed out of their cells while others are locked up. Too often in STCs, we found that staff were being redeployed from their assigned unit to cover gaps elsewhere in the centre. More than a fifth of children in STCs said they had no one to turn to if they had a problem, meaning that many vulnerable children with complex needs were trying to manage their problems without support.”

Overall, the numbers of children in custody has fallen by 70% since 2006–07 and the number of girls continues to fall – though Mr Clarke said it was important their specific needs were not overlooked.

Among key findings:

  • Nearly half (49%) of children in STCs were from a black or other minority ethnic background. 12% said they were Muslim and 10% were from a Gypsy, Romany or Traveller background.
  • More than one in five children (22%) reported feeling unsafe at some point since arriving at the STC.

In YOIs:

  •  Nearly half (48%) of boys identified themselves as being from a black or minority ethnic background. Around one-fifth (22%) were Muslim and the proportion of boys who   had experienced local authority care was 42%. Almost one-fifth (19%) of boys reported having a disability.
  • 39% of boys said they had felt unsafe, a fall on last year’s figure of 46%.
  • There was a significant fall in the proportion of boys who said they could have a shower every day (71% compared with 88% in 2015–16) and the proportion who could use the phone every day had fallen significantly from 80% to 68%.

Mr Clarke said:

“Last year, I invited those with the responsibility to develop and improve policy to take our findings seriously. I trust that the realignment of responsibilities between the Youth Justice Board, the Ministry of Justice commissioners of services and the new Youth Custody Service within HM Prison and Probation Service will lead to improvement, and that the process of restructuring and reform will not detract from the urgent need for an effective operational response to the issues raised in this report. The need for this to be the case has actually increased, particularly when it comes to improving both the perceptions and the reality of safety. Until this is addressed, the broader objectives of delivering education, training and creating a rehabilitative environment will not be achieved.”

A copy of the report, published on Wednesday 23 November, can be found at

Tobacco costs twice as much as Spice

erlestokePrisoners can buy the drug known as Spice at half the cost of illicit tobacco behind bars, an inspection report reveals.

Inmates at one jail described how the availability of drugs, coupled with a recently imposed smoking ban, had helped fuel a sense of “hopelessness”.

Spice – a synthetic substance that mimics the effects of cannabis – has been identified as a factor behind the surging levels of self-harm and violence that has gripped much of the prisons estate.

An assessment from HM Inspectorate of Prisons details the drug’s impact at HMPErlestoke, a category C training jail holding around 500 men in Wiltshire.

The report says: “Many prisoners we spoke to said that the availability of drugs, coupled with the recent smoking ban, had contributed to a widespread sense of hopelessness, and that it was difficult to maintain recovery in an atmosphere where so many other prisoners were regularly under the influence of Spice.

“Prisoners also told us that the price of Spice was around half of that for illicit tobacco, which encouraged more Spice use than we have seen in similar prisons recently.

“There were frequent medical emergencies, some very serious, resulting from Spice use, partly due to prisoners smoking Spice without diluting it with tobacco, as is common practice elsewhere.”

A ban on smoking in jails has been phased in since the beginning of last year. Figures released earlier this month showed that 66 establishments in England and Wales are now smoke-free.

Inspectors visited HMP Erlestoke in June and July and found there was “clear evidence” of the widespread use of alcohol and drugs.

Prisoner self-harming had doubled since the last inspection in 2013, and the number of reported violent incidents had gone up.

The watchdog also said it was concerned to find prisoners in a cell with a “significant hole” in the exterior wall.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: “Safety in the prison was not good enough.

“Much of the violence and bullying that did exist was, in our view, linked to a significant drug problem, and yet the prison lacked an effective drug strategy.”

He added: “Overall, and despite our criticisms, we do report on much that was positive in the prison. The management team was relatively new and evidenced an enthusiasm to make improvements.

“There was a sense that with a little more organisation and consistency, and with a determination to ensure policies and rules are complied with, the prison could become much better quite quickly.”

Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said: “As the chief inspector points out there is much positive work being done by staff at Erlestoke.

“The supply and use of illicit psychoactive drugs has undermined safety in the prison.

“The governor is working with partners including the police and treatment agencies to address this issue as a priority.

“We will use the recommendations in this report to improve performance at Erlestoke over the coming months.”

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook said: “I am not surprised by this at all, in fact I am only surprised that others are surprised by it.

“The roll out of the smoking ban is well-intended, the disastrous health effects of smoking are incontrovertible, but it cannot be done in a vacuum – and the Ministry of Justice have been warned and warned about this.

“Now they have simply created another illegal currency in our prisons – get the message: creating new laws on trafficking in our prisons, backed by criminal sanctions are completely impotent when you are threatening to send people to prison who are actually already there.”

HMYOI Wetherby: Three-Quarters of HMIP Recommendations Not Implemented At This Volatile Institution



Many boys arrived too late from court to benefit from a safe introduction to the establishment. There was a shortage of important basic items and boys spent too long locked in sparse cells on Wetherby’s induction unit. Too many boys did not feel safe and some safeguarding practices increased risk. Levels of self-harm and the number of boys on ACCTs2 had reduced. Procedures to reduce violence and bullying still had inherent weaknesses. There were early signs of improvement in behaviour management, particularly on Keppel. Too many security measures were disproportionate, frustrating legitimate attempts to help boys. Management of adjudications had improved, but we remained concerned about some governance arrangements for the use of force. There was not enough management oversight of the segregation unit which we found to be risk averse. Proportionately fewer boys from Keppel were subject to the use of force and segregation. Outcomes for children and young people at Wetherby were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. Outcomes for children and young people at Keppel were reasonably good against this healthy prison test.

At the last inspection in 2016, we found that outcomes for children and young people at Wetherby were not sufficiently good and outcomes for children and young people at Keppel were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 26 recommendations about safety. At this follow-up inspection we found that eight of the recommendations had been achieved, three had been partially achieved and 15 had not been achieved.


Keppel unit was cleaner and better equipped than the main site where too many areas were dirty nd there was a shortage of important basic items. Access to telephones and showers was more restricted on the main site. Relationships between staff and boys were generally good but were hindered by some negative influences. There were significant weaknesses in equality work. The chaplaincy was a real strength. The application system was not monitored effectively. Management of complaints was starting to improve. Health services were generally good but affected by staff shortfalls. Boys were negative about the food but there were some opportunities to eat communally. Outcomes for children and young people at Wetherby were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. Outcomes for children and young people at Keppel were reasonably good against this healthy prison test.

At the last inspection in 2016, we found that outcomes for children and young people in Wetherby and Keppel were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 30 recommendations about respect. At this follow-up inspection we found that five of the recommendations had been achieved, one had been partially achieved and 24 had not been achieved.


Too many boys were locked up during the core day at Wetherby, although there had been significant improvements in this area on the Keppel unit. Education was still not given enough priority. Sufficient activities were provided to occupy every boy but attendance and punctuality were not managed effectively and not enough effort was made to get boys back to education following a behavioural incident. The quality of teaching was generally good and most boys behaved well in class. Achievement rates when boys attended classes were good. Access to the library was limited for boys on Wetherby. Boys had no opportunities to gain meaningful PE qualifications. Outcomes for children and young people at Wetherby and Keppel were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test.

At the last inspection in 2016, we found that outcomes for children and young people in Wetherby and Keppel were poor against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations about

purposeful activity. At this follow-up inspection we found that five of the recommendations had been achieved, one had been partially achieved and six had not been achieved.


The strategic management of resettlement was informed by an up-to-date needs analysis. Community partnerships were improving and there was more use of release on temporary licence (ROTL). Management of the training plan process was generally good but the quality of casework remained too variable and only half the boys knew that they had a training plan. Public protection work was good but management of MAPPA (multi-agency public protection arrangements) needed further improvement. Looked-after children were supported well and there was dedicated case management of boys serving long sentences. Reintegration planning was sound and most of the pathway work was well managed. Intervention to help boys with sexually harmful behaviours was good. Outcomes for children and young people at Wetherby and Keppel were reasonably good against this healthy prison test

At the last inspection in 2016, we found that outcomes for children and young people in Wetherby and Keppel were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations about resettlement. At this follow-up inspection we found that three of the recommendations had been achieved, two had been partially achieved and seven had not been achieved.

HMYOI Wetherby, a young offender institution with some extremely challenging young people, had improved and become more stable over the last year, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

In particular, a year on from the last inspection, there was a restored “sense of purpose and confidence” in the running of the Keppel unit within the prison, a self-contained specialist facility holding “some of the most challenging and vulnerable young people currently held anywhere in a custodial setting.”

However, inspectors found, in the wider Wetherby prison there were high levels of violence between boys and rising numbers of assaults on staff. Bullying was also a problem.

HMYOI Wetherby and Keppel, in Yorkshire, held 260 boys aged 15 to 18 at the time of the 2017 inspection, with around 40 boys in the Keppel unit. All custodial facilities for young people are inspected annually.

The 2016 inspection had found “much to commend” at Wetherby but also identified failings in safety and a failure to deliver an acceptable and predictable daily routine. In 2017, inspectors were reassured to find that the situation appeared to be more stable. A recently appointed new governor was a steadying influence, leading to a number of positive findings:

  • The Keppel unit showed “clear evidence of improvement.”
  • Overall, the number of boys exhibiting self-harming behaviour had reduced since the last inspection.
  • Inspectors also found that work to resettle boys at the end of their sentences was a strength at Wetherby, with a good understanding of boys’ needs and improved community partnerships and use of release on temporary licence (ROTL) to support resettlement work.

However, the 2017 report noted that the wider prison was still not safe enough and reported levels of violence were high, with increasing violence against staff. Inspectors also found that:

  • The prison was unable to identify the full extent of bullying and deliver proper support for boys who were bullied.
  • While there was improvement in behaviour management strategies, with more effort to incentivise boys, “the approach to violence reduction in general was still not adequate.” In particular, inspectors found that many approaches to security or the use of segregation “lacked proportionality and were needlessly restrictive”. They observed “an overbearing focus on risk rather than the needs of the boys”.
  • The wider prison operated a restricted daily routine and time out of cell was insufficient. During the working day inspectors found nearly half of boys in the wider Wetherby prison locked in cells – though the situation was much better on Keppel.
  • Inspectors also found that work to promote equality was weak. Boys from a black and minority ethnic background reported a “significantly worse experience of victimisation by other boys and staff” but there was a lack of clarity at Wetherby on whether racist abuse was being managed effectively.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said: “Yet again we see that three-quarters of HMIP Recommendations have not been implemented – you really have to ask what is the point of them?

“The public pays three and a half million pounds a year for this Inspectorate which, inspection after Inspection sees its recommendations ignored – and what makes that worse is that the increasingly ineffective Chief Inspector of prisons makes no complaint about it at all.”

A copy of the full report, published on 19 September 2017, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HMP Thameside – 59% of Recommendations Made by HMIP in 2014 Not Achieved


SAFETY: Previous recommendations made in 2014 achieved: 50% Initial risk assessment of new prisoners was not always robust, but early days peer support was good and induction was thorough. There was good work to manage violence, and the prison was well ordered. There was a significant level of self-harm but there had been strong action to address Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) recommendations following deaths in custody. Safeguarding procedures were very good. With some exceptions, security was proportionate. There was significant drug use but a robust approach to supply reduction was in place. Governance of use of force was weak. Most prisoners spent only short periods in the segregation unit. Substance misuse services were generally good. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were reasonably good. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in Thameside were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations in the area of respect. At this follow-up inspection we found that six of the recommendations had been achieved, one had been partially achieved and five had not been achieved.

RESPECT: Previous recommendations made in 2014 achieved: 25% The prison was generally clean and provided some very good facilities that were highly valued by prisoners. Staff-prisoner relationships were good. There were some positive elements of diversity work, but management structures had lapsed until recently. Faith provision was very good. Prisoners had little confidence in the complaints system and some responses were poor. Health services were unable to meet need and prisoners had significant problems in accessing the provision. The quality of food was good. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were reasonably good. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in Thameside were good against this healthy prison test.We made 20 recommendations in the area of respect. At this followup inspection we found that five of the recommendations had been achieved and 15 had not been achieved.

PURPOSEFUL ACTIVITY: Previous recommendations made in 2014 achieved: 37% Time out of cell was reasonable for most prisoners but a significant number were locked up for too long. There were insufficient activity places and attendance was not good enough. The quality of education and other aspects of learning and skills had improved and was reasonably good. However, management, quality of provision and outcomes in prison-led activities required improvement. Library and PE provision were good. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were not sufficiently good. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in Thameside were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. We made 19 recommendations in the area of respect. At this follow-up inspection we found that seven of the recommendations had been achieved, seven had been partially achieved and five had not been achieved.

RESETTLEMENT: Previous recommendations made in 2014 achieved: 54% Management of resettlement was good. Offender management was better than we often see, and the quality of OASys (offender assessment system) assessments was reasonable. There had been serious delays with home detention curfew (HDC) assessments. There was good work with indeterminate sentence prisoners. Initial public protection screening was robust but there were weaknesses in subsequent processes. Recategorisation was reasonably efficient. Resettlement planning and work were generally good. There was some very good work to support families. The visits environment was adequate. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were reasonably good. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in Thameside were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 11 recommendations in the area of respect. At this follow-up inspection we found that six of the recommendations had been achieved, three had been partially achieved and two had not been achieved


HMP Thameside, in south east London, effectively tackled gangs and avoided the huge rises in violence seen in other jails, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

In a report on an unannounced inspection, published today, Mr Clarke also noted that despite a very high turnover of prisoners at Thameside, with an average stay of only 36 days, the prison maintained a generally settled and respectful atmosphere.

Thameside, inspectors concluded, offered an unusually high number of good practice points from which others might learn.

Thameside is a modern prison in a group with HMP Belmarsh and HMP Isis in south east London. It opened in 2012 and serves the courts of east and south east London. It is run by Serco and at the time of the inspection, in May 2017, held just over 1,200 prisoners, both sentenced and remand. The prison was last inspected in September 2014.

Among positive aspects, inspectors noted that:

  • While violence levels were high and had not fallen over the past three years, there had been a small but consistent reduction in incidents of violence, particularly associated with gang activity, in the months before the inspection.
  • Overall, Thameside avoided the huge increases seen elsewhere. Maintaining a database of gang affiliations helped keep different gang members apart and avoid potential conflict. The prison had a reasonably calm atmosphere and was well ordered.
  • The largest identified security threats to the prison were contraband, violence, escapes, gangs and staff corruption. Links with the police were generally good. Work to tackle staff corruption was also good; three former staff were serving custodial sentences for corruption.
  •    Buildings and grounds were mostly in good condition and an AstroTurf football pitch appeared to be in near constant use. The gym was also well-used.
  • There was especially good access to showers and in-cell telephones, which allowed prisoners to maintain contact with families. Prisoners were much more positive about the quality and range of meals than HMIP normally sees. There was good use of the ‘virtual campus’ – giving internet access to community education, training and employment opportunities.

Areas for improvement included:

  • One prisoner in four said it was easy to get hold of illicit drugs and although there was a focused drug supply reduction strategy in place more needed to be done to reduce the availability of drugs.
  • The governance and oversight of use of force were poor, though each month managers discussed officers who had used force more than twice in the previous month, which helped to ensure that force was used appropriately.
  • There were also not enough activity places and attendance was not good enough. Overall, around 55% of prisoners got to activities, which was not enough in a jail of this kind.
  • The very high turnover of prisoners had a direct impact on education and vocational achievements, as too many prisoners were starting courses that they could not complete because of release or transfer. Those who managed to stay on accredited courses achieved well.

A copy of the full report, published on 12 September 2017, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: