Annual Report 2018/2019 Prisons Inspectorate – Too Much Violence, Drugs & Inactivity In Prisons, But Independent Scrutiny Having More Impact

HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) generated new and unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in the scrutiny of prisons in England and Wales in 2018–19, according to HM Chief Inspector Peter Clarke.

Publishing his annual report, Mr Clarke made clear that robust independent scrutiny was vital after another deeply troubling year for some parts of the prison estate. Too many prisons continued to be plagued by drugs, violence, appalling living conditions and a lack of access to meaningful rehabilitative activity.

What goes on in prisons remained largely unseen by the public and the media.  However, in 2018–19 Mr Clarke used the Urgent Notification protocol – requiring the Secretary of State publicly to respond with action to improve a jail with significant problems – three times. Those prisons were HMPs Exeter, Bedford and Birmingham, where inspectors found some of the worst conditions they had ever seen.

The Inspectorate also secured funding and developed the methodology for its new Independent Reviews of Progress (IRPs), designed to give ministers an independent assessment of how well failing jails were addressing key Inspectorate recommendations. The Justice Select Committee, in its report on HMIP’s inspection of HMP Liverpool in 2017, had expressed concern that the prison service was effectively ‘marking its own homework’ and concluded there should be an injection of independence in the follow up to inspection reports.

 Transparency and accountability

In his annual report, Mr Clarke asks: “How do we independently assess accountability in the inevitably closed world of prisons? The need for greater transparency in the delivery of this key public service has led to some important developments over the past two years that I hope will prove to be a turning point in improving the impact of independent prison inspection in England and Wales.

“There will be around 15–20 IRPs in 2019–20 and each subsequent year and these will be focused on prisons subject to an Urgent Notification or where there are other causes for serious concern.”

Mr Clarke added: “They will concentrate on progress in implementing key recommendations, and will look to see if action plans are properly focused, resourced, and with clear timelines and lines of accountability for improvement.

“As with Urgent Notifications, IRPs will be published, affording a higher level of both political and public accountability than has hitherto been the case. Our first IRPs (in 2019–20) at HMPs Exeter, Chelmsford, The Mount and Birmingham have suggested that a great deal of energy has gone into responding to Urgent Notifications and some other very concerning inspection reports, but that in some instances the response has been disappointingly slow.

“Nevertheless, the early indications are that they are prompting a more focused response than we have become accustomed to seeing in the past.”

Special measures

Mr Clarke made clear he believes such independent scrutiny is vital, given his reservations about the effectiveness of the current HMPPS ‘special measures’ system.

“On some occasions the response has been to place a struggling prison in ‘special measures’, but I do not have confidence in that as a reliable means of driving improvement. The inspection of HMP Lewes in January 2019 found a prison that had been in special measures for two years, and yet had declined in no less than three of our four healthy prison tests and failed to improve in the vital test of safety.

“Similarly, the special measures at HMP Bedford left me with little confidence that the prison could improve, and the use of the Urgent Notification process was inevitable.

He added: “HMI Prisons will remain resolutely independent in all that it does, but that should not and will not stop us being supportive and, where appropriate, collaborative in helping prisons to improve. We are therefore pleased that early indications are that establishments are warmly welcoming the advent of IRPs. Managers have appreciated the focus that the IRP visits have given.”

The most troubled part of the prison estate

As in previous years, men’s local and training prisons – with their high throughput of prisoners, often worn-out fabric, vulnerable populations and levels of violence and illicit drugs use – caused most concern.

The report also discloses significant prisoner vulnerability. Across the service, levels of self‑harm were disturbingly high and self-inflicted deaths tragically increased by nearly one-fifth on the previous year.

Mr Clarke said the prison service response to the “deluge of drugs flowing into many prisons in recent years,” generating debt, bullying and violence, had often been slow and neither robust nor sophisticated. “The introduction of new technology that is necessary to help counter the threat has been patchy.”

The extraordinary dedication of staff

Inspectors were struck, as in previous years, “by the extraordinary dedication of those who work in our prisons. Their work is difficult, often dangerous, largely unseen by the public and, as a result, little understood.

“Many worked through a period in which reduced resources, both in terms of staff and investment, made it extremely difficult to run some of our jails.” New staff deserved support in an environment where, in too many establishments, drug-fuelled violence remained a daily reality.

Variations in performance and the quality of leadership

The report highlights evidence that performance varies between comparable prisons and makes clear the Chief Inspector’s view that the quality of leadership is a vital factor. “Some issues that have an adverse impact on prisoners are often outside the control of prison leaders.

“However, there is much that is firmly within the control of those whose responsibility it is to lead and manage these complex establishments. It is as clear as day… that the variations in performance of apparently comparable jails is directly influenced by the quality of their leadership. “

Key findings

The report contains information from inspections of adult prisons and children’s detention, as well as immigration and other forms of detention.

  • Men’s prisons: Too many prisoners were still being held in prisons that were unsafe. Levels of violence had increased in more than half the prisons we inspected.
  • Respectful detention and living conditions: Inspectors noted the positive impact of in-cell phones and electronic kiosks for prisoners to make applications, health care appointments, arrange visits and make complaints. However, far too many prisoners still endured very poor and overcrowded living conditions. Though around two-thirds of prisoners overall were positive about the way they were treated by staff, inspectors frequently found that prisoners from black and minority ethnic backgrounds had less positive views of their treatment and conditions. There was no clear strategy for older prisoners.
  • Purposeful activity: In only a third of the adult male prisons inspected was purposeful activity, which includes the provision of education, work and training, judged to be good or reasonably good.
  • Rehabilitation and release planning: Overall, there was some progress but much remained to be done, particularly  around prisoners who presented a potentially high risk of harm to the public being released without a full risk assessment. Inspectors saw large cohorts of sex offenders in prisons where specialist interventions were not available.
  • Women’s prisons: Overall, inspectors continued to find that outcomes for women held in prison were better than for men.
  • Children’s custody: HMIP inspected four young offender institutions and three secure training centres. Safety assessment had improved in three inspections. Nevertheless, levels of violence remained high and bullying was a constant concern.
  • Immigration detention: Inspection outcomes were good or reasonably good. However, detainees continued to feel unsafe and uncertain because there was too often a lack of clarity as to what the future held for them.
  • Police custody: HMIP, with HMICFRS, jointly wrote to Chief Constables expressing concern about the governance and oversight of the use of force.

Read the Report

HMP Woodhill – Prison With ‘Staggering’ Total Of Self-Inflicted Deaths Struggling To Sustain Improvements In Care

HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes – where a “staggering” total of 19 men had taken their lives in seven years – was found by inspectors to be struggling to sustain improvement in care for vulnerable prisoners.

Inspectors also found “chronic and substantial” staff shortages. As a consequence, the prison ran a regime which meant many prisoners were locked up in their cells for long periods every day.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, warned this severely limited regime risked undermining the work to improve care. “Incidents of self-harm remained high. Improvements had been made to the way prisoners at risk of self-harm were assessed and supported, but not all planned improvements had been sustained and we had real concerns that the poverty of regime had the potential to undermine the well-being of those at risk.”

Inspectors found, overall, a “decidedly mixed” picture at Woodhill – which holds just over 600 men as local prisoners, alongside a small number of high-security prisoners. The assessment of respect for prisoners in the jail was “reasonably good”, with mostly good living conditions. Rehabilitation and resettlement work was also “reasonably good.”

However, safety and purposeful activity, the other two “healthy prison” tests applied by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, were both assessed as poor, the lowest assessment. Both these aspects had deteriorated significantly since the previous inspection in 2015.

Mr Clarke said: “Underpinning nearly all the concerns raised in this report, including issues of safety and well-being, were chronic staff shortages and inexperience. This led to poor time out of cell, unpredictable daily routines and limited access to activity. From a staffing complement of 320 officers there were, at the time of the inspection, 55 vacancies, and 20% of officers in post had less than 12 months’ experience. Many prisoners expressed frustration at the apparent inability of staff to help them.

“During the working day we found half the population locked in their cells. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of learning and skills provision to be ‘inadequate’, their lowest assessment and caused mainly by the underuse of available training and education resources owing to staff shortages.”

Inspectors found that Woodhill was “still not safe enough.” Though wings appeared to be relatively calm, nearly a third of prisoners said they currently felt unsafe and over half had felt unsafe at some point during their stay. Many prisoners reported victimisation and violence had increased – to levels greater than inspectors typically see in local prisons. Mr Clarke added: “We were concerned about the high number of assaults that had taken place against staff. It was hard to avoid the conclusion that this was related to the paucity of the regime on offer and the inconsistency of staff in their dealings with prisoners.”

Woodhill’s historical failure to implement recommendations from coroners and following Prisons and Probation Ombudsman inquiries into deaths had been the subject of repeated criticism, Mr Clarke said, “and had led to external scrutiny and analysis.”

Despite this, and work to improve care, “the number of self-inflicted deaths remained a huge concern”, Mr Clarke added. “At the time we inspected, eight prisoners had taken their own lives since our previous inspection in 2015 and, staggeringly, 19 prisoners had taken their own lives at the establishment since 2011. Tragically, a few months after this inspection another prisoner was reported to have taken his own life.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“It was clear to us that some improvements had been made at Woodhill and the governor and her team had expended considerable effort, enthusiasm and commitment to promote a positive culture in the establishment. That said, a disappointingly small number of recommendations from our previous inspection had been achieved. The priorities for the prison were clear: to stabilise the regime through adequate staffing; to devise and implement a clear, evidenced-based strategy to improve safety; and to sustain and embed the work being done to reduce self-harm.”

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

“Woodhill manages a complex and vulnerable population and the governor and her staff have worked tirelessly to improve support and care for prisoners and there were no self-inflicted deaths in 2017. Tragically there has been one self-inflicted death this year, but the prison remains focused on safety and supporting vulnerable men. Staffing vacancies have had an impact but we have a strong pipeline of new recruits which will significantly increase staffing in the coming months. This will improve the regime and mean more rehabilitative activity for prisoners.”

A copy of the full report, published on 19 June 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HMP Belmarsh – Encouraging trial of body scanner to prevent smuggling of drugs and contraband

An X-ray body scanner being piloted at HMP Belmarsh in south-east London resulted in the discovery of weapons, mobile phones and drugs on prisoners and contributed toward a reduction in drugs-fuelled violence, prisons inspectors found.

Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said an inspection of Belmarsh, one of the UK’s most high-profile prisons, in January and February 2018, noted that incidents of violence had increased since the previous inspection in 2015, and some were serious.

“However, in some important respects, the increase was not as significant as in many other local prisons. The overall level of security at the prison had helped, and the use of illegal drugs was less of a problem than we might have expected.”

Technology, Mr Clarke added, “was being used to support efforts to manage violence and drug use at the prison, for example through the body scanner being piloted in reception. Early results were encouraging, and I was told that staff welcomed the initiative, as did many prisoners who wanted to see the disruptive and dangerous trade in contraband disrupted.”

The report noted: “Staff were trialling a new body scanner in reception, which used low-level X-rays to identify prisoners concealing unauthorised articles. It had resulted in some finds of mobile phones, weapons and drugs, which would not have been identified during a strip-search. The initiative was encouraging and promoted respect and decency – the dedicated search team had decided to use the body scanner instead of requiring prisoners to squat routinely during strip-searches.”

HMP Belmarsh is one of only three high-security local prisons in England and Wales and holds an “extremely complex mix of men”, including young adults and low-risk men, over 100 with an indeterminate sentence, and those in custody for the most serious offences. The high security unit (HSU), “in effect a prison within a prison”, holds some of the highest-risk prisoners in the country. There are also a large number of foreign national prisoners and some with a high media or public profile.

Inspectors, in 2018, found the prison faced several new challenges compared with 2015, some of which were outside the governor’s direct control. For instance, “there was a significant shortage of frontline staff.” This was being addressed, Mr Clarke said, “but (it) had resulted in a severely depleted daily regime and regular redeployment of specialist staff to ensure that even a basic period of daily unlocking time could be given.” This was detrimental to the area of purposeful activity, one of the Inspectorate’s key ‘healthy prison’ tests covering training and education. Time out of cells for prisoners had “declined significantly” since 2015. The funding for education and training was also found to be insufficient and meant the prison could not meet all prisoners’ needs.

Inspectors found “some good work” to identify men who were vulnerable, including those at risk of self-harm. Some men at Belmarsh had “a combination of mental health issues, personality disorders and very challenging behaviour” and “it was encouraging to be told that the high security and long-term directorate (of HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)) was reviewing how these men were being managed and considering what improvements could be made.”

Inspectors, however, were concerned by some of the accommodation, with cases of “claustrophobic and extremely uncomfortable” cells designed for two but holding three men. Mr Clarke said: “We thought that this practice should stop, and that the prison’s operational capacity should be reduced to achieve this.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“In most respects, the prison continued to do a reasonable job managing an extremely complex population. However, some factors outside the control of the local management team were having a negative impact and we would urge HMPPS to give the prison the support it needs to deliver more consistently positive outcomes for its prisoners. At the last inspection, we warned that while we had seen a number of improvements, many had not been embedded. At this inspection, progress had stalled in some of these areas… The influx of new staff offers real opportunities to address these deficits, but in such a complex prison they will need to be supported and mentored to ensure they become the high-quality colleagues that the current leadership clearly want them to be.”

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

“HMP Belmarsh staff continue to manage a complex population with skill and professionalism. A successful recruitment campaign means that staffing vacancies are being filled and staff will receive the support they need to take the prison forward. The good work to tackle drugs is particularly encouraging and we will use learning from this to strengthen our drugs strategy across other prisons.”

A copy of the full report, published on 12 June 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website here:

HMP Exeter: A Prison In Decline Due To Staff Shortages

exeter_prisonThere were not enough staff at HMP Exeter and safety had declined, as had work to rehabilitate prisoners, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Current staff should, however, be praised for their efforts, he added. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local prison in Devon.

HMP Exeter held 490 adults and young adult prisoners at the time of its inspection. It was previously inspected in 2013. This more recent inspection found a clear decline in safety, in work to reduce reoffending and manage offenders through their sentence, and in the provision of health care. The biggest challenge facing the prison was that at the time of the inspection there were insufficient staff to run a predictable daily regime. The situation was apparently exacerbated by the long recruitment process for new staff. Inspectors considered whether the management team could have done more to mitigate the impact of staff shortages, and although there were some issues that could be addressed, it was difficult to see how outcomes could have been significantly better given the staffing shortfalls.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the number of violent incidents was far higher than at other local prisons and than at the time of the previous inspection;
  • too many prisoners felt unsafe;
  • there had been 10 self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection and there was another suspected self-inflicted death shortly after the inspection;
  • there were high levels of self-harm and serious concerns about some aspects of health care provision;
  • prisoners spent too much time locked in their cells and too few managed to take part in work, training or education, as the daily routine was often curtailed; and
  • there were real weaknesses in offender management, and work to help prisoners resettle back into the community, despite some good aspects, was undermined by staff changes and staff shortages.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the management team were leading staff to deliver a service under challenging circumstances;
  • relationships between staff and prisoners were good;
  • the substance misuse service was very good and services for the many prisoners with mental health problems were good;
  • the management of learning and skills was good and the prison provided enough activity places for the population, but they were not fully used and too many sessions were cancelled; and
  • plans to help prisoners resettle back into the community were generally detailed, and some provision was good.

Peter Clarke said:

“If the shortage of staff provided the backdrop to difficulties at HMP Exeter, the foreground was filled by the challenges of drugs, violence and prisoners suffering from mental health issues. These were, of course, intertwined, and each in their own way was exacerbated by the impact of staff shortages.

“Despite all these difficulties, prisoners told us that the staff treated them with respect and it was clear that the relationship between prisoners and staff was fundamentally sound. It was to the enormous credit of senior managers and staff alike that they were persisting in their determination to do what they could to provide a decent environment for the men in their care.

“However, there was a real and troubling concern that the situation at HMP Exeter was fragile. Outcomes for prisoners had declined markedly since the previous inspection. Unless the regime could be improved, violence reduced, and the prevalence of drugs and other contraband addressed, further declines would be almost inevitable.”

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

“We recognise that the prison needs more staff to deal with the problem of drugs, to improve safety and to provide more purposeful activity for prisoners. The Government have provided additional funding to increase staffing levels – and good progress is already being made to recruit new officers.

“The Chief Inspector has highlighted the dedication of managers and staff at HMP Exeter who have been working hard to provide a decent regime despite considerable operational pressures. I’m confident that together with these extra resources the Governor will be able to fully address the recommendations in this report and significantly improve the performance of the prison.”

A copy of the full report, published on 1 February, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HMP & YOI CARDIFF – ‘A Mixed Picture’ Say Inspectors

HMPCardiffCommitted staff at HMP & YOI Cardiff had maintained stability in the prison during challenging times, but now needed to focus on longer-term improvement, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the category B local training prison.

HMP & YOI Cardiff held around 770 men at the time of its inspection. The prison had become less safe and the physical environment had declined since a previous inspection in 2013. Work to help prisoners resettle back into the community on release had improved and was reasonably good. Overall, inspectors found a mixed picture of progress in a local prison that had faced the same challenges as many other local prisons. Challenges included staff shortages and an increased availability and use of new psychoactive substances (NPS), leading to an increase in unpredictable and violent behaviour. The prison had implemented a smoking ban that was unpopular with some.   Cardiff also had a high level of reported mental health problems. Despite these challenges, it did not feel unstable and staff-prisoner relationships had been maintained.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • staff-prisoner relationships were good, and those relationships were a key feature of the prison and helped it in facing the challenges;
  • health care was generally good, including good provision for those suffering from severe mental health issues;
  • there was a good range of work, training and education on offer, though it was not being fully utilised;
  • public protection work was sound; and
  • resettlement work was done well to meet the needs of the short-sentenced prisoners who formed the large majority of the population.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • more needed to be done to address the supply of illegal drugs into the prison;
  • there were rising levels of violence and weak management of key areas such as the use of force;
  • some cells were in a poor state and there was a lack of basic facilities, such as bedding; and
  • prisoners spent too much time locked in their cells.


Peter Clarke said:
“HMP & YOI Cardiff relied very heavily on a decent, hard-working staff group who had maintained good relationships with the men in their care, and had done well to keep the prison stable through some challenging times. However, for the future, the prison needs to reduce its reliance on key individuals and embed sound working practices and processes into the operation of the establishment, thereby ensuring long-term safety and stability.”

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

“I’m pleased that the Chief Inspector has commended the work of staff at Cardiff. Despite significant operational pressures the prison has continued to deliver a positive regime with good levels of purposeful activity and effective support of prisoners before release.

“There is more to do and action has already been taken to tackle safety including the appointment of a new Violence Reduction Manager to drive forward improvement.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 13 December 2016 at:

HMP Onley – Safety Had Declined say Inspectors


Screen Shot 2016-12-04 at 2.39.57 PMStandards had declined at HMP Onley and it had become an unsafe prison, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Friday 2nd December 2016 he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the category C prison near Rugby.

HMP Onley held around 740 prisoners at the time of its inspection. Since its previous inspection in 2012, it had been designated as a resettlement prison for Greater London, which had had a significant impact on the prison in terms of the changed nature of its population. This more recent inspection found that there had been a dramatic decline in standards since 2012, particularly in safety, where outcomes for prisoners were now poor, having been judged good in 2012. The number of assaults had nearly tripled and was far higher than at similar prisons. Despite the rise in violence, not enough had been done to analyse the root causes.

Inspectors were also concerned to find that:

  • there was no comprehensive violence reduction or drug reduction strategy;
  • the existing drug reduction strategy did not specifically address the problem of new psychoactive substances (NPS), which were having a significant impact in the prison;
  • a massive backlog of security-related information reports undermined a proactive approach to violence;
  • staff shortages had contributed to a restricted regime, which had a direct impact on the ability of prisoners to attend activities, learning and training;
  • offender supervisors were often moved to other duties and therefore had limited contact with prisoners; and
  • most prisoners did not have an up-to-date risk assessment (OASys), although that was largely a problem with London prisons transferring in prisoners without the assessments having been completed.


However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • staff-prisoner relationships were reasonably good, as were health services;
  • the range and quality of education and training opportunities at the prison were good; and
  • support for prisoners to resettle back into the community was mostly good, especially the good advice and assistance provided to address family relationships.


Peter Clarke said:
“The challenge for the management team at Onley is to find ways to halt the decline, and there are clear lessons to be learned from what the inspection revealed about the reactive approach that had been taken to too many issues. There was a clear need for the leadership of the prison to get a grip of the problems facing them and move away from merely reacting to events. Of course staff shortages have had an impact on many areas of service delivery, but they did not offer an excuse for a decline in standards of the severity that we found. There was actually much good work being done at Onley.”

Michael Spurr, CEO of the National Offender Management Service, said:

“As the Chief Inspector points out, there is much good work being done at Onley but the deterioration in safety is unacceptable and reversing this is the Governor’s top priority.

“Additional staff are being recruited to meet the commitments set out in the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper and the Governor will use these additional resources to drive forward the improvements required.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 2 December 2016 at:


exerciseDecisive action must be taken by the Justice Secretary to reduce the number of prisoners with a sentence of imprisonment for public protection (IPP) who are still in prison years after the end of their tariff, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Significant failings in the prison, probation and parole systems have contributed to the high number of prisoners unable to secure release by showing their risk had reduced, he added. Today he published a report, Unintended consequences: finding a way forward for prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment for public protection.

The report outlines the ongoing challenges of managing and progressing the large number of prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment for public protection (IPP) who remain in prison in England and Wales. The sentence was introduced in 2005 and was designed for those who had committed specified ‘serious violent or sexual offences’ and who were deemed to pose a ‘significant risk of serious harm’ in the future. Under the sentence, high-risk individuals would serve a minimum term in prison (their tariff), during which time they would undertake work to reduce the risk they posed. When sufficient risk reduction had been achieved, they would be released by the Parole Board.

If at the end of their tariff, their risk had not been reduced sufficiently, they would continue to be detained until they had satisfied the Parole Board that they could be safety managed in the community. Most tariffs were relatively short, with an average of three years and five months. The sentence was abolished in 2012. Between 2005 and 2012, a total of 8,711 sentences were issued by the courts. As of September 2016, 3,859 of those prisoners sentenced to an IPP were still in custody, and 87% or 3,200 of these prisoners were beyond their tariff expiry date. Over a third, 42% or 1,398 prisoners, are five or more years over tariff.

For a variety of reasons, many IPP sentence prisoners were unable to demonstrate a reduction in their risk that was sufficient for the Parole Board to direct their release. These included the prisoners not being given sufficient opportunity pre-tariff to access relevant courses, delays in them being transferred to other prisons to access programmes and inadequate support being provided to help them progress through the prison system in order to demonstrate a reduction in risk.
Inspectors found that:

  • the impact of serving an IPP sentence on a prisoner could be profound;
  • IPP prisoners fell into three broad categories: those who had not reduced their risk and remained dangerous, those who could reduce their risk if the support provided was delivered more efficiently, and those who might be deemed ready for release if delays in the offender management and parole processes were resolved;
  • many prisons did not provide good quality offender management to support IPP prisoners in their progression;
  • not all IPP sentence prisoners could access the relevant offending behaviour programmes which enable them to demonstrate a reduction in their risk;
  • open conditions and release on temporary licence (ROTL) are key ways in which IPP sentence prisoners can demonstrate a reduction in their risk prior to release, but current ROTL policy prevents most IPP prisoners from undertaking ROTL while they are still in closed category C training prisons;
  • the specialist progression regime at HMP Warren Hill was promising and provided a template for how the prison system can work with some of the most difficult IPP prisoners; and
  • the recall rate for IPP sentence prisoners was high compared with those with life sentences.

Decisive action must be taken by the Secretary of State for Justice to ensure adequate resources and timely support are available to work with IPP prisoners to reduce their risk of harm to others and to help them progress through the custodial system towards consideration for release by the Parole Board. For many IPP prisoners, it is not clear that holding them well beyond their end-of-tariff date is in the interests of public protection and therefore there are issues of fairness and justice. Secondly, the cost to the public purse of continuing to hold the high numbers of IPP prisoners is significant. Thirdly, the pressures IPP prisoners exert on the system in terms of risk management activity, demand for offending behaviour programmes and parole processes is significant. Resources are being stretched increasingly thinly.

Peter Clarke said:
“It is widely accepted that implementation of the sentence was flawed and that this has contributed to the large numbers who remain in prison with this sentence, often many years post-tariff. Some people with IPP sentences remain dangerous and need to be held in prison to protect the public. Others, however, present much lower levels of risks but system failures have impeded their progress.

“The problems with the legacy of the IPP sentence are well understood and there is an openness in government to find new and innovative solutions to the problem. The Justice Secretary needs to act quickly to ensure the consequences of mistakes made in the past do not continue to resonate for many years to come.”

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said it was a ‘vitally important’ report.

Mr Leech said: “This is a vitally important Thematic Review on the festering sore that is the scandal of IPPs trapped in the system.

“Those with loved ones serving an IPP sentenc,e and who are over tariff, should now contact their MP, asking them to demand from the Justice Secretary a statement of what she is going to do abiut IPPs and when.”

Felicity Gerry QC, leading counsel in the Supreme Court case of Jogee, that ruled in February this year the law on Joint Enterprise under which some IPP prisoners were convicted, told Converse:

“It is vital that there is a response to this valuable research which highlights the cruelty and injustice of a flawed abolished system which is being perpetuated by the lack of access to meaningful rehabilitation”

 copy of the full report can be found here

HMP Bedford – “Abject Failure Had Allowed A Decline to Unacceptable Standards” Say Inspectors

bedfordStandards at HMP Bedford had declined to unacceptable levels, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, who said of Bedford that it was “hard to understand how such an abject failure to address our previous clear recommendations has been allowed to happen.”

Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local prison.  HMP Bedford held 493 prisoners at the time of this inspection. At its previous inspection in February 2014, inspectors made 72 recommendations. On this more recent inspection, only 12 recommendations had been achieved and four partially achieved.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • although the prison knew where and when violent incidents were occurring, far too little was being done to analyse them and take effective action to reduce the violence;
  • the levels of self-harm had increased dramatically since the last inspection;
  • there had been self-inflicted deaths, but not all recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman had been embedded into practice;
  • the ready availability of new psychoactive substances (NPS) was having a serious impact on safety but there was no effective drug supply reduction strategy in place;
  • the physical condition of the prison was poor, with many prisoners living in cramped conditions;
  • offender supervisors, who prepare prisoners for release, had infrequent contact with prisoners; and
  • delays in implementing the community rehabilitation company (CRC) arrangements meant resettlement arrangements were weak.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most prisoners (79%) said staff treated them with respect; and
  • the food was rated good or very good by 43% of prisoners, more than double the figure in similar prisons, and PE facilities were good.

Peter Clarke said:
“This is a disappointing report. It is hard to understand how such an abject failure to address our previous clear recommendations has been allowed to happen. As a result, standards in the prison have declined to unacceptable levels. I am not suggesting that staff at HMP Bedford are not working hard – they clearly were, and some important things had been put in place to improve things in the future.

“The management of the prison is aware of the challenges they face but have not yet been able to address them. The lack of consistent leadership is unlikely to have helped. There had been four people fulfilling the role of governor since the last inspection in 2014. The responsibility to deliver on our recommendations lies mainly with the governor but there also has to be effective oversight at a national and regional level.”

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England Wales said

“What we see at HMP Bedford from this shocking report is being seen across the prison system nationally; Bedford prison just brings it into sharp focus.

“The Chief Inspector is right to say staff at HMP Bedford are ‘clearly working hard’, but this about delivery not work rate; the Hamster on its wheel ‘works hard’.

“What we need are more staff, more resources and an end to the crazy policy of trying to get ever more prisoners to the pound.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HMP CHELMSFORD – Progress stalled, some deterioration, but when will Peter Clarke Step Up To The Plate?

chelmsfordA rise in violence and the availability of drugs were among the challenges for HMP Chelmsford, but managers were competent and had strengths to build on, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons in a report published today – but six months into the job, one prisons expert is already critical of Peter Clarke and asking ‘when will he will step up to the plate’?

In today’s report Peter Clarke says that HMP Chelmsford holds up to 745 mainly adult men. It comprises older accommodation built in the 1830s together with a similar amount of modern accommodation. Perceptions among prisoners aligned closely with where they were located. Those in older wings were far more negative about their experiences than those in the newer buildings. Recent inspections have described HMP Chelmsford as a basically decent institution doing its best despite some significant challenges. This inspection suggested that progress had stalled and there had been some deterioration. There was evidence to suggest problems were beginning to be addressed by the management team, building on some of the prison’s strengths.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • violence and bullying had increased sharply and there was evidence that this was linked to drugs and debt;
  • prisoners on the older wings felt the least safe and those wings experienced a greater number of violent incidents;
  • use of force had nearly doubled since the last inspection in 2014 and arrangements to account for its use were not good enough;
  • there had been four self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection and a considerable increase in incidents of self-harm, but the prison was working to implement recommendations made after the investigation of these deaths and care for those at risk was reasonable;
  • the older accommodation was overcrowded, difficult to maintain and difficult to keep clean;
  • work to promote the interests of the small population of young adults had lapsed and the quality of health care had deteriorated;
  • operational management of learning and skills was not good enough and although there was sufficient work and education for all prisoners to have at least some part-time activity, it was poorly allocated, leaving many prisoners with nothing to do; and
  • offender management work was poor and undermined by staff shortages, and poor quality casework.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the prison seemed to be reasonably settled and prisoners’ perceptions of safety had not change since the last inspection in 2014, with about a fifth of all prisoners feeling unsafe;
  • reception and induction arrangements were basically sound;
  • security was managed reasonably well and although the availability of drugs, in particular new psychoactive substances, was a big problem, the prison was taking this seriously;
  • some very good relationships between staff and prisoners was an institutional strength;
  • most prisoners had a reasonable amount of time out of cell; and
  • there was a good range of resettlement provision but a lack of reliable data meant it was difficult to establish how effective some provision was.

Peter Clarke said:
“Chelmsford was a prison in transition. Overall it was competently run with obvious strengths to build on, despite some disappointing findings. Recent operational challenges, particularly around violence and drugs, had taken a toll and there were a number of strategic challenges such as health care, offender management and, most important of all, improving the treatment and conditions of those held in the older accommodation. The governor and his team seemed to be working hard to deal with these priorities and we are optimistic that they will get to grips with the issues we have highlighted.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales and Editor of the national monthly prisons newspaper Converse, said he was thoroughly disappointed with the new Chief Inspector’s first six months in the job.

Mr Leech said: “Look its not Peter Clarke’s fault that so many of his reports could have been cut and pasted from one report to the next, that is what he finds as a matter of fact as he goes around the country, but I think we deserve much better than this from our Chief Inspector of Prisons.

“His team is the lead of the 20-strong National Preventive Mechanism, an obligation owed not to the UK but by the UK to the United Nations.

“It’s really not good enough for Peter Clarke to keep trotting out the same old reports, even though they’re factual, we all already know the problems, what we need is for him to have the chutzpah to stand up and start talking about solutions.

“Clarke must find examples of good practice as he tours our collapsing prison system, there must be pockets of excellence where Governors facing the same problems have developed successful responses to them – but you won’t find a single mention of them in his reports – unlike many of his predecessors who balanced their findings with solutions they found elsewhere.

“Six months into his job, I am thoroughly disappointed to find he has failed to step up to the plate.”

A copy of the full HMP Chelmsford report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 16 August 2016 at:

HMYOI Parc Juvenile Unit – Much good work with children, but some safety concern


There was much to commend at Parc, but they needed to understand why safety had declined and act upon it, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an announced inspection of the young people’s unit at the local prison in South Wales. [previous report]

Parc juvenile unit is a distinct and generally well separated part of the much larger prison, HMP/YOI Parc near Bridgend. The unit can accommodate 64 children, though 38 were there at the time of inspection. Its catchment area encompasses south and mid-Wales and much of south-west England. When it was last inspected in May 2014, inspectors found that young people were well cared for and experienced positive outcomes. During this more recent inspection, outcomes in the important areas of ‘safety’ and ‘respect’ had declined from ‘good’ to ‘reasonably good’. Reception, safeguarding and child protection arrangements remained effective.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • 42% of children reported being victimised by staff, which had more than doubled from the 20% in May 2014;
  • only 55% of boys felt they were treated with respect by staff;
  • the use of force had tripled since the previous inspection, mostly in response to violent incidents; and
  • almost a quarter of the boys reported having been assaulted by other boys at Parc.

Some of this level of violence was ascribed by staff to the destabilising effect of two particularly difficult children transferred into Parc during the autumn of 2015. If that was the case, managers need to be sure they have plans in place to stop it happening again.

The leadership were committed to providing a safe and decent environment for children and there were many instances of good work, including:

  • boys accessed significantly more time out of their cell than at other young offender institutions, with regular association and exercise periods; and
  • segregation was rarely used, despite challenging behaviour.

Peter Clarke said:

“Despite all the positive things that were happening at Parc, there can be no room for complacency, as the judgements in the areas of ‘safety’ and ‘respect’ have declined since the last inspection. I am sure the leadership at Parc will give this their full attention, and strive to return the establishment to its previous high performance in these key areas.”

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

“As the report notes, there is some very positive work being undertaken with young people in Parc with a high level of purposeful activity and good education and resettlement provision. The number of young people in custody has continued to fall but the challenges presented by those who remain, particularly in terms of violence, are considerable. The Director and her team are committed to providing a safe and positive environment for young people in their care and will use the findings from this report to address areas of concern to achieve improvement.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: