HMP The Mount: improvements in activity and rehabilitation and prison beginning to address violence and drugs

HMP The Mount, a training and resettlement prison in Hertfordshire holding up to 1,000 prisoners, was assessed in April 2019 to be improving from a troubling inspection a year before.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the full inspection in April and May 2018 had shown a “prison that had deteriorated substantially in many areas.” There were high levels of violence, drug use and use of force by staff and inspectors concluded that The Mount was “clearly failing in its fundamental mission to provide constructive activity, training and rehabilitation.”

Click to Enlarge Image

However, in an Independent Review of Progress (IRP) in 2019, Mr Clarke said, “we noted that the prison appeared to be on an upward trajectory, albeit from a very low base.

“Managers told us of many improvements expected within the next few months…We were pleased to find that there was some substance to these plans. There was evidence of greater clarity of vision around training and rehabilitation, something that we had urged in 2018.”

Work to improve safety outcomes for prisoners was less advanced than would have been expected, Mr Clarke noted. Violence and use of force had risen, and the governance of use of force and segregation was still weak. Drugs remained a problem. However, there was a comprehensive, though as yet only partially implemented, strategy to address violence. More body-worn cameras were available and they were used more often. In recent months there had been evidence of steadily reducing drug use in the prison.

Click to Enlarge Image

Cleanliness had improved substantially, and a programme of redecoration and refurbishment was well under way, supported by a prisoner ‘handyman’ scheme. Staffing had greatly improved, with around 80 new officers, and staff sickness levels were now very low.

Inspectors identified the use of prisoner ‘culture representatives’ – whose experience helped the management understand whether policies designed to create a more respectful environment were having an impact – as good practice.

There was reasonably good progress in purposeful activity. While far too many prisoners were unemployed and locked up during roll checks (around 40%), time out of cell had improved substantially since 2018. A full regime was now available to most men, with some advanced plans to create more activity places.

The most impressive area of progress was in rehabilitation and release planning, Mr Clarke said. There were still insufficient interventions – for example, to address the needs of prisoners with domestic violence histories. “However, the prison now had a much more coherent and joined up approach to offender management and reducing reoffending.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“This was an encouraging review. While a great deal of work was still needed to ensure that momentum was not lost, improvement and progress were evident. The two worst areas identified at the last inspection – purposeful activity, and rehabilitation and release planning – had both seen significant improvements. There was a sense of purpose and management drive at the prison, and the contribution that prisoners themselves could make to positive change was being recognised. It would be a disappointment – and a surprise – if the areas of insufficient progress… were not addressed with vigour before we return to The Mount.”

– End –

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full Independent Review of Progress report, published on 31 May 2019, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. HMP The Mount in Hertfordshire is a category C training and resettlement prison with capacity for about 1,000 prisoners. Opened in the late 1980s, it is a relatively modern prison holding convicted prisoners, most of whom are serving long sentences for serious offences.
  4. Read the full 2018 inspection report – https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2018/09/HMP-The-Mount-Web-2018.pdf

 

  1. Independent Reviews of Progress (IRPs) are a new type of prison visit, which began in April 2019. They were developed because Ministers wanted an independent assessment of how far prisons had implemented HMI Prisons’ recommendations following particularly concerning prison inspections. IRPs are not inspections and do not result in new judgements against our healthy prison tests. Rather they judge progress being made against the key recommendations made at the previous inspection. The visits are announced and happen eight to 12 months after the original inspection. They last 2.5 days and involve a comparatively small team. Reports are published within 25 working days of the end of the visit. We conduct 15 to 20 IRPs each year. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons selects sites for IRPs based on previous healthy prison test assessments and a range of other factors. For more on IRPs please see – https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/about-hmi-prisons/independent-reviews-of-progress-irps/

 

  1. This IRP visit took place between 23 – 25  April 2018. At this IRP visit, we followed up 13 of the 69 recommendations made at our most recent inspection and made judgements about the degree of progress achieved to date. We judged that there was good progress in five recommendations, reasonable progress in two recommendations and insufficient progress in six. There were no areas of no meaningful progress

 

  1. Please contact John Steele at HM Inspectorate of Prisons on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452, or at john.steele@justice.gov.uk, if you would like more information.

Please contact the Ministry of Justice Newsdesk – 020 3334 3536 – for a comment on the report.

 

 

Chief Inspector announces new independent reviews of progress in troubled jails

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke, has announced an important series of new follow-up visits to failing and unsafe prisons designed to give the government an independent assessment of how much progress has been made in improving the treatment and conditions for prisoners.

Independent Reviews of Progress (IRPs) will start in April 2019 and reports will be published 25 days after the visits.

IRPs will give ministers independent evidence about how far jails have implemented HMI Prisons’ recommendations following particularly concerning inspections. The Justice Select Committee supported this aim, stating that HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) should not “mark its own homework” when reporting on the achievement of recommendations.

It is currently envisaged that up to 20 IRPs – short visits of two-and-a-half days – will take place each year. HMI Prisons has secured extra funding from the Ministry of Justice to ensure it can conduct the IRPs in addition to its existing schedule of mainstream inspections of prisons and youth custody facilities in England and Wales.

Prisons will be told in advance they are subject to an IRP, in contrast to the mostly unannounced full inspections. The IRP schedule – along with a very small number of announced full inspections – will be published on the HMIP website once the IRPs have been announced.

Prisons subject to the Chief Inspector’s Urgent Notification (UN) protocol will be a priority under the IRP model. In the business year 2018-19, three prisons were issued with UNs – which require the Secretary of State to respond publicly within 28 days. They were HMP Exeter, HMP Birmingham and HMP Bedford.

The other prisons that have so far been notified of an IRP visit are Chelmsford, The Mount, Manchester and Highdown. HMP Chelmsford was told by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, that it narrowly escaped an Urgent Notification at its last full inspection because of his guarded confidence that the local and regional management could tackle major safety problems at the jail. The IRP will test progress at the prison.

The revised operating protocol between HMIP and the Ministry of Justice states: “The purpose of an IRP is to assess progress in implementing the recommendations from previous inspection reports, to support improvement in prisons, and to identify barriers to progress.

“IRPs differ from inspections, which assess the treatment of prisoners and the conditions of detention against HMIP’s ‘Expectations’ and four healthy prison tests. The IRPs instead follow up on a selection of key concerns and recommendations, and make judgements about the extent of progress made. HMCIP will identify establishments for an IRP based on a number of factors, including: healthy prison test scores over time (and) the key risks at the establishment.”  IRPs will typically take place 8 to 12 months following the full inspection.

Mr Clarke said:

“IRPs are an important new area of work for us. They are designed to give the Secretary of State an independent assessment of whether prisons we have found to be unsafe or otherwise failing are getting to grips with our key recommendations for improvement. There are many governing teams and staff working hard in very challenging jails and through our IRPs we will work constructively with them to support the improvements we all want to see.”