Not enough progress had been made at HMP Ranby, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an announced inspection of the Nottinghamshire training and resettlement prison.
HMP Ranby holds just over 1,000 men. The accommodation is arranged in two distinct parts: house blocks 1 to 3 were older and generally delivered poorer outcomes than newer house blocks 4 to 7. At an inspection in 2014, inspectors reported significant concerns about the prison as a whole and about safety in particular. There had been improvement in some areas but this more recent inspection 17 months later found inadequate progress overall and safety remained a significant concern. A number of factors had combined to undermine progress. The role of the prison had become more complex and in addition to its function as a working prison that should have kept men occupied in education, training, work and offending behaviour courses, it now had a new role as a resettlement prison which received men in the last three months of their sentence and prepared them for release in the local area. A lack of work for some of the workshops and staff absences meant many prisoners had too little to do. There were problems resolving simple domestic issues.
On top of this, the prison was attempting to combat a surge in the availability of new psychoactive substances (NPS). Health services were at risk of being overwhelmed by the need to treat the most seriously affected. The trade in NPS was leading to high levels of debt and associated violence.
Inspectors were concerned to find that:
- too many prisoners held on the large house blocks 1 to 3 and staff working on the units said they felt unsafe;
- the number of violent incidents was much higher than in similar establishments;
- assaults on staff had increased significantly and a number of very serious incidents had occurred;
- in the 17 months between inspections there had been six self-inflicted deaths;
- prisoners in house blocks 1 to 3 reported difficulties obtaining cleaning materials, clean clothes and clean bedding, staff appeared very busy with little time to talk to prisoners, and this was compounded by the long time many prisoners spent locked behind their doors;
- too many men were locked in their cells during the working day because of a shortage of workshop instructors and delays in materials arriving;
- the quality of some teaching and learning provision needed to improve;
- even when activity places were available, attendance and punctuality were often poor; and
- the backlog of OASys assessments required to assess prisoners’ risks, and on which sentence plans should have been based, remained extensive.
The prison was trying to respond to challenges and there were signs of improvement in some areas. Inspectors were pleased to find that:
- fewer prisoners than at the last inspection said they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection or that they had been victimised, although this was still significantly higher than comparable prisons;
- early days support was much better;
- there were effective systems in place to collect and use intelligence, and there were good links with the local police;
- security measures generally struck a sensible balance between the need to get men to activities and provide adequate supervision;
- the environment on house blocks 4 to 7 varied from reasonable to good and some good efforts were being made to keep the environment on house blocks 1 to 3 decent;
- health care provision was clinically sound and provided an appropriate range of services, although these were stretched as a result of NPS; and
- there was a developing understanding of the strategic priorities for resettlement and reasonably good provision of practical resettlement services, but this was undermined by poor offender management support.
Martin Lomas said:
“HMP Ranby had not made sufficient progress since the previous inspection. We remain seriously concerned about the stability of the prison, the safety of prisoners and staff and the inadequate measures being taken to prepare prisoners for release and reduce the risk they will reoffend.
“The prison has already been provided with some additional staff and there is more to be done by prison managers to improve outcomes. However, the prison faces the challenge of a destabilising supply of NPS which threatens to overwhelm it. The harm caused by NPS in prisons requires a national policy. There should be an immediate temporary reduction in the population to give staff the opportunity to regroup. The prison is struggling to cope with its dual working and resettlement prison roles. The resettlement role involves a very high throughput of challenging prisoners, some of whom have little investment in the opportunities the prison offers because they are so near to their release. The prison should return to being a working prison if only so that it is able to concentrate fully on that task.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:
“Following September’s Inspection we have taken decisive action to support the prison in making the required improvements including; reducing the population by 120 prisoners and increasing prison staff. In addition, we have changed Ranby’s role to give it a longer sentenced, more stable prisoner population.
“NPS remains a real concern in prisons and we are introducing a new testing regime which will be rolled out across the country from April. Legislation is in place to ban so called ‘legal highs’ and we will continue to work with police to disrupt supply chains and take robust action against anyone found supplying or using NPS in prisons.
“There remains some way to go, but I’m confident that Ranby is now on the right track”.
A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 25 February 2016 at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons