HMP & YOI New Hall: Continues to be a good and safe prison

HMP & YOI New Hall, a women’s prison near Wakefield, was found in its first inspection since 2015 to be an establishment which continued to be safe, respectful and purposeful, and where work to resettle and rehabilitate prisoners was improving.

Notable features from this inspection

  • According to the prison’s data, 48% of prisoners had committed their offence to support the drug use of someone else.
  • Of the prisoners using the counselling service, only 4% said they had not suffered some form of abuse and
  • 56% said they had experienced more than one kind of abuse. For example, 53% said they had suffered domestic violence and 44% said they had been raped.
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In our survey, far more prisoners (60%) than in other prisons for women (48%) described themselves as

being disabled and 78% of prisoners disclosed they had a mental health problem.

71% of the population were receiving services from the substance use psychosocial team.

39% of prisoners were serving long sentences of over four years.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that recorded violence in the prison was quite high, “but nearly all incidents were very minor and overall most prisoners felt safe.” Work to intervene and support those perpetrating threatening or antisocial behaviour, and the victims of such incidents, was effective.

There had been three self-inflicted deaths since 2015 and most recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following its investigations had been implemented. Prisoners at risk of self-harm and with complex needs received good oversight and case management and those inspectors spoke to were positive about the care they received.

Inspectors noted a seeming over-reliance on the use of formal disciplinary processes and some punishments seemed excessive. Use of force had also increased substantially and several women had been in ‘special accommodation’ conditions on the house units, although records failed to adequately justify these decisions. The segregation unit was a clean but austere facility with a basic regime.

The prison environment was good but the quality of accommodation was more variable, although reasonable overall. Staff-prisoner relationships were good although some prisoners expressed frustration at their inability to get some simple tasks done by staff.

Mr Clarke said: “The prison would have benefited from greater visibility and support from managers. It was also our observation that the proportion of female staff was too low and was something that was a very stark and particular feature of the senior team.”

Though work to promote equality was limited outcomes for prisoners from minorities remained broadly consistent with those for other prisoners. The mother and baby unit was excellent and health care was similarly good but mental health provision was undermined by staff shortages among the mental health team.

Women experienced good time out of their cells, including association on Friday evenings, which inspectors now rarely see. The provision of learning, skills and work was improving with plans for a new curriculum and evidence of strong partnership working “Our colleagues in Ofsted assessed the overall effectiveness of provision as ‘good’, but undermined in part by quite poor levels of attendance,” Mr Clarke said.

The coordination of resettlement work had improved greatly since 2015 and offender management was clearly focused on risk reduction.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:
“New Hall remains a good prison, delivering effective outcomes for those held there. At the time of our inspection the prison was experiencing something of an interregnum with a temporary governor in post and new permanent governor about to be appointed. Our report highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of this prison. We trust the findings we detail will help the new governor to ensure momentum is maintained and continuous improvement sustained.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons, said:
“Inspectors rightly recognise the effective work of staff and management in making New Hall a safe and respectful prison.
Since the inspection, a  recruitment drive has increased the proportion of female staff to within reach of the 60 per cent target, and staff have received training on rewarding good behaviour.
A new Governor is set to be appointed in the coming weeks, and will be focusing on the Inspectorate’s recommendations to oversee  further improvements at New Hall.”

 Read the Report

HMP & YOI New Hall – One of the best women’s prisons

NewhallHMP & YOI New Hall was a safe and decent prison and staff should be commended for their work, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in West Yorkshire.

HMP & YOI New Hall held around 360 women at the time of its inspection, including a small number of young adults. Several mothers and their babies were held in the mother and baby unit. Most of the women were sentenced, many with long or indeterminate sentences. Levels of need in the population were high: over a third reported having depression, mental health issues or suicidal feelings on arrival and a similar number reported having a disability. Nearly half reported having a drug problem on arrival and 43% said they had problems with alcohol. At its last inspection in 2012, New Hall was found to be a basically safe and decent prison with excellent work, training and education provision and resettlement support. This more recent inspection found the prison had improved still further.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the prison was fundamentally safe and there was very little evidence of violence or concerning incidents;
  • support for women who were vulnerable to self-harm and those with complex needs was good;
  • disciplinary procedures were well managed, and force and segregation were used proportionately;
  • relationships between staff and prisoners were a real strength;
  • the prison was clean;
  • the excellent mental health provision was welcome, given the evident high levels of need;
  • time out of cell was good and very few women were locked up during the core prison day;
  • learning and skills provision was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and was excellent in nearly all respects; and
  • provision for women who had been abused was very good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • aspects of offender management work needed to be better to ensure women who presented a risk to the public on release were quickly identified and risk reduction work was initiated and management action taken before their release.

Nick Hardwick said:

“New Hall is a safe and very respectful prison which does an excellent job in providing women with a range of purposeful and vocationally based activities, and some sound support around the resettlement pathways. The concerns we raise about aspects of offender management are well within the capacity of the prison management to quickly resolve. The prison is among the best of its type and we commend both the staff and management for the positive work they have done to achieve these outcomes.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:

“I am pleased that this report recognises the excellent work being undertaken by staff at New Hall. They are providing good quality care to a very needy population, supporting them to develop the skills they need to turn their lives around on release.”

Read the report.