One of England and Wales’s most overcrowded prisons will close next year, Michael Gove has announced.
HMP Kennet in Merseyside will close in July 2017 as part of the Justice Secretary’s flagship prison reforms designed to improve safety and rehabilitation in jails.
Mr Gove said the prison was one of the most expensive of its kind in the country and that closing facilities like it will allow the Government to open new prisons with more focus on education and work.
In a written ministerial statement, he said: “We have already announced that we will build new prisons that have better education and work facilities and close ageing and ineffective prisons.
“As part of these reforms I can announce today that the National Offender Management Service (Noms) will not be renewing the lease with Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust for the site at HMP Kennet. The prison will therefore close by July 2017.
“The staff at HMP Kennet have been undertaking excellent work with the prisoners from Merseyside and surrounding areas.
“The prison however does not provide an ideal environment for the rehabilitation of the men it holds.
“Its design and layout make it difficult to operate, it has the highest levels of crowding in the estate and is one of the most expensive category C prisons in the country.
“Closing facilities like that at HMP Kennet will enable us to invest the money in a modern prison estate, with facilities for training and rehabilitation that help prisoners turn their lives around.”
HMP Kennet was helping prisoners to acquire new skills and to prepare for release, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the resettlement prison near Liverpool.
HMP Kennet is situated next to Ashworth high security hospital in converted former hospital premises. It opened in 2007 as a category C establishment but has recently changed to become a resettlement prison. It is now semi-open with a majority of category D prisoners. Arrangements to achieve this transition had worked well and inspectors found the prison was achieving reasonably good or better outcomes for prisoners across all tests for a healthy prison: safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
Kennet was a remarkably safe prison, with low levels of violence, self-harm and use of force;
arrangements to address substance misuse were satisfactory and use of segregation was low;
staff-prisoner relationships were usually good and most prisoners felt respected,
learning and skills provision was well managed with sufficient activity for all;
vocational training facilities and learning were impressive;
work was carried out to commercial standards and there was a meaningful focus on preparation for work and employability;
good links had been developed that were allowing significant numbers of prisoners to use their skills in voluntary work experience on temporary release; and
work to support the various resettlement pathways, such as finding prisoners accommodation on release and help with careers advice, was very good.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
the prison’s new function meant significant staff reductions and a requirement for staff to work differently and a few staff had yet to come to terms with the challenges of the prison’s new direction;
the prisoners’ accommodation was in a poor condition and required refurbishment;
more work was required to ensure the prison had a fully integrated resettlement strategy consistent with its new role; and
there were real gaps in the quality of offender management.
Nick Hardwick said:
“Kennet was settling well into its new role. Prisoners were given clear opportunities to use their time purposefully and acquire skills, and to prepare for release. Key priorities should now include further improving the quality of staff-prisoner relationships and developing a culture of consultation and communication with prisoners; improving environmental standards, including more proportionate physical security, and ensuring meaningful offender engagement is at the heart of the prisoners’ experience. Overall, however, the Governor and staff should be commended for running a prison that delivers good outcomes.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“Kennet is a safe and well-run prison that offers good outcomes for the prisoners it holds. I am pleased that that Chief Inspector has recognised the progress being made, especially in addressing substance misuse and providing work and vocational training – both of which help reduce reoffending on release and protect the public.
“The Governor and staff are working hard to adapt to becoming a resettlement prison and I am confident that they will continue to build on this progress.”