HMP Elmley – Weaknesses across all areas but plans and staffing in place to make progress

HMP Elmley, a large men’s prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, was found to have become less safe over the last four years and was assessed by inspectors as not sufficiently good across all aspects of prison life.

However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said Elmley was “not without hope” as the Governor and management clearly understood the weaknesses and had credible plans to address them.

At the time of the inspection in April and May 2019, Elmley held over 1,100 prisoners, with significant numbers of foreign nationals and sex offenders. The prison was last inspected in 2015.

It was pleasing, Mr Clarke said, to see some improvements to the reception and induction of new prisoners. Violence was lower than in similar prisons, though a quarter of prisoners still said they felt unsafe. The prison was urged to conduct more thorough investigations into the factors driving violence.

Nearly half of prisoners said it was easy to obtain illicit drugs in the prison and 22% tested positive during random mandatory drug tests, but there was no comprehensive drug supply reduction strategy. However, care for those in crisis or at risk of self-harm was reasonably good.

Inspectors saw too many examples of lowlevel poor behaviour, such as open vaping on wings, prisoners being inappropriately dressed, the use of bad language and play-fighting, going unchallenged. “Inexperienced staff needed to be given the confidence to challenge such poor behaviour, and this required them to be supported and mentored by their more experienced colleagues,” Mr Clarke said. “However, we saw young, inexperienced staff being left alone on landings while groups of their colleagues congregated in wing offices.”

Living conditions were variable across the prison, and overall standards of cleanliness were not good enough. No fewer than 180 prisoners were allocated to working on the wings, but many were not fully or meaningfully employed or supervised.

The strategic management of rehabilitation and release planning needed more attention. Although there was some good work being carried out – including the management of multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) for high-risk cases – significant improvement was needed in many other areas.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“While it was disappointing to find that the prison had not managed to improve since the last inspection, and that on this occasion all our judgements were ‘not sufficiently good’, the picture was not without hope. The prison had a number of credible plans to address the weaknesses, and those weaknesses were clearly acknowledged.

“There was also a full staff complement, so in terms of both plans and people, the prerequisites to make progress were in place. I was invited to regard Elmley as an establishment that was going through a transitional phase.

“There could be little doubt that this was a genuinely held aspiration, and I was given the clear impression that the senior team were fully aware of the amount of hard work and focused leadership that would be required to turn the aspiration into reality.”

Notable features from this inspection

The prison held 636 category C and 40 category D prisoners.

22% tested positive for drugs

There were 189 foreign national prisoners.

181 prisoners were sex offenders.

The prison had a full complement of uniformed staff.

HMP Isle Of Wight – Still Respectful But Less Safe, With Weaknesses In Release And Rehabilitation Work

HMP Isle of Wight – holding nearly 1,000 men convicted of sexual offences – was found to be a respectful prison but one where safety had deteriorated and rehabilitation and release planning was not sufficiently good: Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook, writes these findings have ‘shocked’ staff at the prison and are disputed by prisoners too.

Notable features from this inspection:

HMP Isle of Wight consists of two distinct sites, HMP Albany and HMP Parkhurst;

Cellular accommodation on wings 11 to 15 at the Albany site uses a night sanitation system requiring prisoners to be unlocked one at a time during the night to use the toilet;

40% of prisoners held are over 50 years of age;

83% of the population are high risk; 90% of prisoners are serving sentences of more than 10 years; in our survey, only 8% of prisoners said it was easy for family and friends to visit them, and only 7% said they received a visit each week.

Most of the prisoners held at the time of the inspection in April and May 2019 were serving long sentences for serious offences. Forty per cent of the population were over 50 years old and a significant proportion were elderly and sometimes frail. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the prison continued to house a very small remand population from local courts on the island, although it was ill-suited to this role.

Since the last inspection of Isle of Wight in 2015 the assessment of respect had slipped from good, the highest grading, to reasonably good, and safety fell from reasonably good to not sufficiently good. Purposeful activity remained at reasonably good and rehabilitation and release planning remained not sufficiently good.

Despite the deterioration in safety and respect, Mr Clarke said, much positive work continued at the prison. “Relationships between staff and prisoners remained good, underpinning prisoners’ experience of everyday life.” Most prisoners said they had a member of staff they could turn to if they had a problem and living conditions were also reasonably good.

Most prisoners could get 10 hours out of their cell each weekday and gym and library provision were good. Teaching and learning were also good and achievement rates were very high on most courses, though inspectors found a large number of prisoners underemployed in a significant number of wing roles.

More concerningly, Mr Clarke said, “we found prisoners had very poor perceptions of safety. In our survey, more than half said they had felt unsafe during their time at HMP Isle of Wight and nearly a quarter felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. While violence was still not widespread, it had risen significantly since the previous inspection and the response of managers was not good enough, leading to inconsistent challenge of perpetrators and little support for victims.”

Many Isle of Wight prisoners were held a long way from home and families experienced significant travel times and expense visiting the prison. It was therefore disappointing that support for prisoners to maintain contact with the outside world was limited to letters, phone calls and some fairly basic visits facilities.

The long-term, high-risk sex offender population presented significant challenges in rehabilitation and release planning, Mr Clarke said. “We found a very similar picture to the previous inspection. Fundamentally, some good work was undermined by a lack of up-to-date assessments of risk and need, high offender supervisor caseloads and a lack of contact between offender supervisors and prisoners.

“This meant the one-to-one motivational work needed with the large number of prisoners who were maintaining their innocence could not take place.” Around half the men at the prison maintained their innocence.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“HMP Isle of Wight is a respectful place where good relationships between frontline staff and prisoners result in many positive outcomes. However, there needs to be a better operational grip on safety. Managers need to address the weaknesses in offender management to ensure the prison fulfils its purpose of reducing the risks these long-term prisoners pose, both within the prison and, importantly, when they are eventually released.”

Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Director General of Prisons, said:

“The high-quality education and training at HMP Isle of Wight are vital for helping offenders lead a productive, law abiding life on release, but we recognise that more work is needed to make the prison safer. The Governor and his  staff are working hard to bring down levels of violence and self-harm, and the excellent relationships between prisoners and staff will be important in doing this. Every prisoner now has a dedicated officer giving them personal support and, combined with working closer with probation and local authorities, we expect to see an improvement in arrangements to prepare prisoners for release.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:

The lack of safety at HMP Isle of Wight is contrary to the feedback that I get the from the two prisons on the Island.

HMP Isle of Wight has had a considerable influx from the YOI estate despite which HMP IoW is reported by residents and staff to be a safe prison.

The prison only does local release for remands and their sentenced population go onto the mainland, it is not resettlement prison, probation at the prison is overloaded and residents report it is often impossible to make appointments – despite which every resident has a dedicated Key Worker – even remands.

Over the last 18 months HMP IoW has taken numbers from the YOI estate and  some that have been re-catted from dispersal, the result is high testosterone levels, but the clear view of residents and staff is that it is a largely safe prison.

HMP IoW is a Level Three prison, out-performing many others.

As one IoW staff member told me: “I was shocked to read this report .. the thing about the inspection teams are they have to find fault in order to justify their existence.

“The reality is while HMPPS pays the wages that it does it is unlikely to retain the staff and so the experience that it needs, until that happens, HMPPS is going to keep slipping and Boris can forget about an additional 10,000 spaces, we do not have staff to run it now, never mind with 10,000 more.”


HMP Isle of Wight is a training prison holding around 1,000 prisoners, almost all of whom have been convicted of sexual offences. It opened in April 2009 with the merger of three prisons: HMP Albany, HMP Parkhurst and HMP Camp Hill. Albany was constructed in the 1960s and occupies the site of a former military barracks. Parkhurst was originally a military hospital and became a prison in 1863.

Camp Hill was built in 1912 using prisoner labour from Parkhurst, but closed in April 2013.

This unannounced inspection took place between 15 April and 2 May 2019.

HMP SWALESIDE – Safer and more respectful, but weaker on activity and rehabilitation

Published 8th May 2019

The Chief Inspector of Prisons has said that HMP Swaleside, a training prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent holding many men serving long sentences for violent offences, had ‘become safer and more respectful over two years’ – despite the fact that outcomes for prisoners against the safety prison test ‘were not sufficiently good.”

Swaleside prison, which opened in 1988, is located on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. Covering mainly London and the South-East, the South-West as well as Wales, the prison first opened with four wings, adding four further wings between 1998 and 2010. In 2010, a psychologically informed planned environment (PIPE) unit was built, along with a pre-PIPE unit for prisoners with personality disorders and very challenging behaviour.

The prison held a complex population, including a psychologically informed planned environment unit, a wing holding prisoners seeking protection, a wing for prisoners convicted of sexual offences and a lifer wing. About a third of prisoners were serving an indeterminate sentence. Eighty-five per cent of prisoners potentially needed multi-agency supervision on release. Seventy-five per cent of the population had been assessed as presenting a high risk of harm. About 60% of prisoners had committed a violent offence. Thirty-five per cent of prison officers had been in the Prison Service for less than 12 months. One hundred and eighty-eight prisoners were employed as wing workers. Two hundred and eight-seven prisoners, about a quarter of the population, were unemployed.

Safety: Early days arrangements were generally good and prisoners were kept safe. The number of violent incidents was high. Innovative work to combat violence was promising but not yet fully productive and required more coordination. Too many prisoners in our survey said that they felt unsafe.

The number of adjudication charges had increased but processes were fair. Levels of use of force were high but oversight was generally good. Prisoners were routinely stripped of their clothing on entering the special cell, which was sometimes used without sufficient justification. The use of segregation was high and some prisoners spent a long time on the unit. Some of the work to help these individuals was impressive.

Security arrangements were generally  proportionate. Levels of self-harm were comparatively low but five prisoners had killed themselves since the previous inspection. there was some good, innovative work to help those with complex needs. The mandatory drug testing positive rate was high, at 25%, but work to reduce the supply of drugs was having some success.  

Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were not sufficiently good.”

At the last inspection in 2016 we found that outcomes for prisoners in Swaleside were poor against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations in the area of safety At this inspection we found that nine of the recommendations had been achieved, one had been partially achieved and two had not been achieved.

However, progress was assessed as “lop-sided” because the quality of purposeful activity remained insufficiently good since the previous inspection in 2016 and rehabilitation and resettlement work was now assessed as poor, the lowest assessment.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that although the population was comparatively settled “Swaleside is unquestionably a difficult place to run and an institution that presents many risks.”

In 2016, it was found to be “dangerous” and safety was assessed as poor. In December 2018, it still suffered high levels of violence and too many men felt unsafe. But inspectors also found very good work to reduce the supply of drugs, a significant effort to improve safety and some impressive care for those at risk of self-harm. The overall assessment of safety rose from poor to ‘not sufficiently good.’

Relationships between staff and prisoners were generally very good, with over 70% of men saying they thought staff treated them with respect. Many staff were, however, quite inexperienced and some lacked the confidence to challenge poor behaviour.

Most cells were well maintained but the standard of cleanliness “did not correlate with the plethora of supposed prisoner cleaners.” The report noted: “During our night visit, we saw rats in corridors near rubbish bags that had not been disposed of correctly. There was an excessive number of prisoners supposedly employed to clean but the lack of effective staff supervision resulted in little cleaning actually taking place.”

Inspectors found 32% of men locked in their cell during the working day – an improvement on 2016 but still poor. Good standards of work were evident in many aspects of education, skills and work and, for those engaged, the achievement of qualifications was high. This was undermined, however, by poor allocation to activity, under-employment, poor attendance and poor punctuality.

Mr Clarke added: “Core tasks of a prison that manages the type of prisoner held at Swaleside are meaningful sentence management, the reduction of risk of harm and ultimately the protection of the public. In these tasks Swaleside was failing badly.”

Public protection arrangements were weak and offending behaviour interventions were limited, especially for the prison’s population of sexual offenders. More than 160 men convicted of sex offences were moved to Swaleside at the end of 2016 in an attempt to stabilise the jail.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There was much to commend at Swaleside. Managers were energetic, caring and innovative, and staff, though inexperienced, were proactive and helpful. Improvements were clearly to be seen, as reflected in our assessments. That said, many improvements were undermined by failings elsewhere…While there had been some incremental improvements in safety, many prisoners were not fully engaged in the regime and some prisoners’ rehabilitation needs were not being met. Managers need to take a step back and think carefully about how they will not only sustain and integrate their achievements but also take a holistic approach to improving outcomes across all four of our healthy prison assessments.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons at HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), said:

“I am pleased that inspectors recognise the improvements that have been made, along with the energy and care that Swaleside staff put into what is acknowledged as their particularly challenging work. Clearly more still needs to be done to address violence and give prisoners more time out of their cells in education and training. Improved safety procedures have been introduced and the prison will also benefit from the new education framework we have implemented across the country to help offenders use their time in custody constructively.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:

Swaleside has a complex and difficult prison to manage population, the improvement in safety and respect is very welcome  but the stalling of purposeful activity and the fall in release planning shows a prison where far too much focus is set around getting basic control.

Swaleside demonstrates a prison that sees itself as a destination and not a journey, its focus is on getting through each day and with the reality of release for many some years away, the end of sentence planning is not in sharp enough focus and it needs to be – focus on release planning should begin right at the start of the sentence, tentatively in these cases but it must be there if light is to seen at the end of each tunnel,

Purposeful Activity: Too many prisoners were locked in their cells during the working day, and prisoners spent far too long in their cells at weekends. The library and gym facilities were good. The leadership and management of education, work and skills required improvement. Too many prisoners were not allocated to activities. The quality of most teaching and instructing was good but there was too little accredited training in workshops. Not enough prisoners improved their employment skills. Prisoners’ attendance and punctuality were not good enough. Outcomes and achievements for prisoners were reasonably good. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were not sufficiently good.

Release Planning: Prisoners now had telephones in their cells, which was appreciated and helped them to maintain contact with families. Visits arrangements were generally good but sessions did not always start on time. The strategic management of reducing reoffending was poor. Too many prisoners did not have an up-to-date assessment of their risks and needs. Offender supervisors had little contact with prisoners, most of which was reactive. Arrangements to protect the public were weak. Categorisation processes were adequate. There were too few places on offending behaviour programmes to meet the needs of the population, and none specifically for prisoners convicted of sexual offences. Not all prisoners were moved to a resettlement prisons before release. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were poor.

Read the Report

HMYOI brinsford no increase in violence but a ‘dreadful’ rise in self-harm

HMYOI brinsford avoided massive increases in violence seen in many other jails but must address a ‘dreadful’ rise in self-harm by young adult prisoners and change a regime in which they are locked in cells for long periods of the day, according to prison inspectors.

brinsford was inspected in November 2017. Inspectors concluded that “boredom and frustration caused by the poor regime” contributed to continuing high levels of violence. However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said it was to the credit of the prison that levels had not risen since the previous inspection in 2015, bucking the national trend of enormous increases.

Despite this, inspectors downgraded the assessment of safety at brinsford, a jail for young male adults aged 18-21, near Wolverhampton, in the West Midlands, because of concerns about prisoners self-harming. Self-harm had “increased quite dramatically.” There were 554 self-harm incidents between May and October 2017, with a small number of individuals accounting for multiple incidents.

“To understand the dreadful increase in self-harm,” Mr Clarke added, “it is impossible to ignore the potential impact of the regime at brinsford, which was particularly poor for a population consisting mainly of young adults. For those who were supposedly in full-time employment, five-and-a-half hours out of their cell each day was typical, and was simply not good enough, leaving very little time for access to showers or telephones.

“For those who were unemployed, an hour out of their cell each day was typical. For the prison to make meaningful progress in many other areas, these unacceptable figures must be improved.” Inspectors also noted that some of the meals were too small for young adults.

Mr Clarke said brinsford “had been on a journey of peaks and troughs in performance.” The lowest trough was in 2013 when inspectors found the prison in urgent need of improvement, with the lowest possible assessment of ‘poor’ in all HMIP’s healthy prison tests. Following that inspection, the prison benefited from new leadership and a very significant injection of resources. At the next inspection, in 2015, one inspector commented that in many ways it resembled a ‘brand new prison’.

“However, since 2015, in common with the rest of the prison estate, brinsford had felt the impact of reduced resources, and the improvements proved to be fragile,” as the assessments in 2017 showed, Mr Clarke said. “The gleaming paint and brand-new furniture that inspectors saw in 2015 had begun to fade. The lack of new investment, compounded ­– we were told – by frustration with the facilities management contract, meant that there had been an inevitable decline in living conditions. Despite the problems with the facilities management contract, there were some issues that were in the gift of the prison to rectify, particularly around basic cleanliness.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“It was obvious (in 2017) that the current enthusiastic yet realistic leadership at brinsford was determined to implement successfully the many credible plans that they now had in place. It is to be hoped that their plans will succeed. The improvements we saw in 2015 turned out to have been fragile and built on weak foundations that did not endure…It is not unreasonable to hope that if the plans of the current senior leadership come to fruition, the results of the next inspection will be markedly better; but that is speculation. For the moment, brinsford is a prison that is working hard to bring about some much-needed improvements, which we hope will prove to be more durable than in the past.”

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said: “Self-mutilation by the mentally ill is the price we are forced to pay for the MOJ trying to run a Young Offender Institution, that already has too few staff and a volatile young fit population with nothing to do all day, on what is effectively thirty bob – and from which the MOJ still expects change.

“This is not quantum physics: the MOJ must either provide more money to engage more staff and open up the regime, or reduce the population inside brinsford to a point where it is safe, decent and can deliver something more than a self-harm-inciting banged-up regime.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said:

         “As the Chief Inspector acknowledges, the Governor has robust plans in place to improve performance and safety at brinsford. Constructive activity has increased since the inspection and prisoners have more time out of cells. Systems to support the most vulnerable and to reduce self-harm have been strengthened. Staff and managers are determined to achieve the sustained improvements required and progress will be closely monitored over the coming months.”

A copy of the full report, published on 27 March 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons welcomes new ‘Urgent Notification’ agreement with potential to strengthen the impact of inspections in failing jails

PeterClarkePeter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, has welcomed a new process allowing him to publicly demand urgent action by the Secretary of State for Justice to improve jails with significant problems – a move also welcomed by one of the Inspectorate’s fiercest critics, Mark Leech.

Commenting after the Secretary of State for Justice David Lidington announced a new ‘Urgent Notification’ protocol, Mr Clarke said: “I welcome the new ‘Urgent Notification’ protocol which the Secretary of State for Justice has announced.

“This has the potential to be an important outcome of prison inspections, and to strengthen the role of HM Inspectorate of Prisons. Our job is to report on the treatment and conditions experienced by prisoners, and these new arrangements should mean that in the most serious cases there will be an effective and speedy response.

“In particular, I welcome the principle of transparency and accountability underpinning this new protocol. The Secretary of State has accepted that he and his successors will be held publicly accountable for delivering an urgent, robust and effective response when HMIP assesses that treatment or conditions in a jail raise such significant concerns that urgent action is required. The protocol requires the Secretary of State to respond to an urgent notification letter from HM Chief Inspector of Prisons within 28 days. The Chief Inspector’s notification and the Secretary of State’s response will both be published.”

Mr Clarke said HMIP supported the inclusion of measures in the Prisons and Courts Bill to require greater accountability and transparency in the response to HMI Prisons’ recommendations. “We regretted the fact that the provisions in the Bill relating to prisons were lost after the general election, but welcomed the commitment by the Secretary of State to achieve their objectives so far as possible without legislation.

“The Urgent Notification process announced this week is the culmination of many months of discussions between HMIP, the Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).”

Explaining the impact of the new arrangement, which is incorporated into the existing protocol through which HMIP inspects prisons, Mr Clarke added: “Whenever the new process is invoked, we will expect swift and effective action to be taken in response.

“However, the implementation and monitoring of improvements is a clear responsibility of HMPPS, not the Inspectorate. HMI Prisons will take account of a range of factors to decide when, in the judgement of the Chief Inspector, a prison should next be inspected. If for any reason an HMIP recommendation is not accepted, we would expect the rationale to be explained and published.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook, who wrote a blistering attack on the Prisons Inspectorate in The Independent in August 2017 described it as “a huge step forward.”

Mr Leech, who had criticised the Inspectorate for its failure to have the vast majority of its recommendations implemented, said: “This is a huge step forward, not only for the reputation of the Prisons Inspectorate, but for the safety and security of those who live and work in our prisons.

“Now the Justice Secretary will need to publicly explain why HMIP recommendations are not implemented, and that can only mean that at last we will see either progress in our prisons or obtain an explanation we can all scrutinise as to why nothing is happening.

“Peter Clarke, the Chief Inspector, a person of whom I have been critical many times, has clearly been hard at work behind the scenes and its important to give criticism where that is justified but credit where that is due too.”

Mr Leech said there was one area where progress could be made much faster.

“The Prisons Inspectorate quite rightly admits that it doesn’t have the resources to monitor progress on its recommendations – but every prison has Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) and they should be utilised now to follow up on HMIP recommendations and ensure progress is made – IMBs have been largely seen as a waste of time in the past but if they want to correct their dreadful reputation this is one area where they could step up to the plate and do something about it.”


Questions & Answers:

Q: Was the previous system of inspections, followed by a report and recommendations, too slow?

A: HMIP places great importance on fairness and rigorous fact-checking in its reports, to ensure the evidence on which we base recommendations is sound. Currently, the process from inspection to published report takes around 18 weeks. That said, there is nothing in the current system to prevent the leadership of a prison, and HMPPS/MoJ, from starting to take urgent action to address serious problems raised in an inspection. Inspectors share their major concerns with the jail’s leadership at the end of the inspection, supported by a written copy of the main findings. HMIP’s concern has not been so much about the speed of the system but rather that recommendations are either not acted on at all, or are inadequately addressed.

Q: How will the urgent notification process work in practice?

A: The test will be whether an inspection raises significant concerns that in the judgement of the Chief Inspector need to be brought to the attention of the Secretary of State. That judgement will be made after the conclusion of an inspection, and formal notification made to the Secretary of State within 7 days.  24 hours after the letter has been sent privately, it will be published on the HMIP website and distributed to the media and through social media. The letter will be supported by the end-of-inspection briefing material shared with the prison. These notes will also be made public.

Q: Why can’t HMIP monitor work to improve a jail subject to an urgent notification.

A: HM Inspectorate of Prisons does not have the capacity continuously to monitor the prisons we inspect. This is the clear responsibility of line management from HMPPS. HMIP resources are fully committed to carrying out more than 80 inspections each year of prisons and other places of detention.

Q: When will the prison subject to an urgent notification be re-inspected?

A: In line with current practice, the timing of inspections will remain a matter for the judgement of the Chief Inspector. Some inspections may be announced, though the vast majority are currently unannounced. The monitoring of UN action plans is a matter for HMPPS but the action plan would, plainly, be something HMIP looks closely at in any repeat inspection.

Q: How many urgent notifications will there be?

A: In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be any because treatment and conditions in all our prisons would meet acceptable standards. Sadly, though, that has not been the case in recent years and conditions – particularly relating to prisoner safety – have deteriorated alarmingly in some prisons. However, it is simply not possible to predict the number of urgent notification letters. It will depend on the circumstances in a jail and the judgement of the Chief Inspector.

The protocol is available, from 30 November, at

HMP Northumberland’s “many plans” have had no effect on high violence, poor safety & drugs

[su_box title=”OVERALL RECOMMENDATIONS ACHIEVED SINCE LAST INSPECTION: 32%” box_color=”#c51414″ title_color=”#ffffff”]Safety: At the last inspection in 2014, HMIP made 16 recommendations in the area of safety. At this follow-up inspection they found that four of the recommendations had been achieved. (25%)
Respect: At the last inspection in 2014, HMIP made 30 recommendations in the area of respect. At this follow-up inspection they found that 13 of the recommendations had been achieved. (43%).
Purposeful Activity: At the last inspection in 2014, HMIP made 16 recommendations in the area of purposeful activity. At this follow-up inspection they found that two of the recommendations had been achieved. (12.5%).
Resettlement: At the last inspection in 2014, HMIP made 14 recommendations in the area of resettlement. At this follow-up inspection they found that seven of the recommendations had been achieved. (50%).[/su_box]


HMP Northumberland has high levels of violence, with more than a quarter of prisoners feeling unsafe, and severe drugs problems, according to an HM Inspectorate of Prisons report.

The prison had suffered six self-inflicted deaths in the last three years but few of the shortcomings identified by investigations into those deaths had been addressed. And there was a “clearly unacceptable” failure to assess the risk posed to the public by many released prisoners.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the leadership team had a wide range of plans and strategies in place to tackle these and other problems “but many of them had yet to achieve their desired effect.”

HMP Northumberland, a category C jailed formed in 2011, was inspected in July and August. Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • Violence had more than doubled since the previous inspection in 2014; 58% had felt unsafe at some time, a significantly higher figure than at similar prisons and much higher than at the last inspection.” Mr Clarke said: “It was also troubling that 28% of prisoners felt unsafe at the time of this inspection, a very high figure by any standards. In the face of this grim picture, one would have expected there to be detailed analysis of the violence, leading to a comprehensive violence reduction plan. This was not what we found. There were plans for the future, but these had not yet come to fruition.”
  • Few of the shortcomings identified by Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) investigations into the six self-inflicted deaths since 2104 had been addressed. “This was difficult to comprehend and demanded the personal attention of senior management,” Mr Clarke said.
  • A total of 61% of men said that it was easy or very easy to obtain illicit drugs in the jail, and 21% said they had acquired a drug habit since entering the prison. The drug supply reduction strategy was clearly not working, Mr Clarke said.
  • Inspectors were particularly concerned that 59% of prisoners covered by MAPPA (multi-agency public protection arrangements to assess risk and protect the public) were being released without confirmation of their MAPPA level. “This was clearly unacceptable in terms of the risk this could potentially pose to the public,” Mr Clarke said.
  • There were also serious concerns about some aspects of medicines management.

On a more positive note, inspectors found some excellent work in a residential unit dedicated to older prisoners, and it was obvious that the men valued the opportunity to be there among their peers, away from what they described as “the noise, violence and drugs.” Activities for over 50s in a weekly club run by an Age UK included carpet bowls, speakers, quizzes and table games.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There was a very clear determination on the part of the director and leadership of the prison to make improvements, and a palpable energy and enthusiasm about their wish to do so. It is to their credit that there were a wide range of plans and strategies in place, but many of them had yet to achieve their desired effect. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is often encouraged to believe that if we had inspected an establishment a few months later than we actually did, we would have seen significant improvements. This report conveys our actual findings at the time of the inspection. It may well be that the plans we were told about will, in due course, lead to improvement, and this may happen at HMP Northumberland. It is to be hoped that this will be the case.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison and Probation Service, said:

“The Director at HMP Northumberland has taken firm action to drive forward progress at the prison. Since the report, the prison has set up a team to specifically review the prison’s management of violence and additional safer custody staff will also help improve the prison’s self-harm response. We welcome the Inspector’s acknowledgement of the good work taking place in substance misuse services, as well as with older prisoners and families, and will continue to work with the director to address the remainder of the report’s recommendations.”

A copy of the full report, published on 21 November 2017, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HMP Haverigg – Improvements but more to do

haveriggHMP Haverigg had a troubled past but was making improvements, and providing good work, training and education for prisoners, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison in Cumbria.

HMP Haverigg, when last inspected in 2014, was holding around 650 men. At this more recent inspection, that number had more than halved. A police operation had been launched in 2016 to investigate two deaths in custody and a serious assault alleged to have taken place in the old billet accommodation. Inspectors had criticised the safety of these facilities in the past. As a consequence of these events, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) closed these units because the safety of prisoners living there could not be assured. The police investigation had not concluded. Managers and staff were therefore operating against the backdrop of a significant police investigation. The governor had retained most of the resources allocated for the larger population and was managing the remaining four units. He had made some notable improvements.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • every new prisoner was now seen on reception by a member of the mental health team, and prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm were well cared for;
  • levels of violence had reduced since the decommissioning of the billet accommodation and were lower than at other similar prisons, but still too high;
  • very few prisoners were isolating themselves and almost all of those spoken to during the inspection said that Haverigg was now a safer and more decent prison;
  • security was proportionate and rather than curtailing the regime and locking men up to keep them apart, the prison was managing risk;
  • Ofsted endorsed the governor for prioritising education and work as routes to rehabilitation, and the prison offered a range of quality full-time activity places for every prisoner;
  • there was a clear focus on getting people out of their cells and into work, education and training; and
  • there was a more strategic approach to managing resettlement.

Inspectors were, however, concerned to find that:

  • more needed to be done to manage the perpetrators of violence and support victims;
  • the long, rural and therefore vulnerable perimeter added to the problems of drugs at the jail;
  • little had been done to address the living conditions on the units which, apart from one, were shabby and dirty; and
  • although health services were good, a rigid application of a zero tolerance policy in dealing with challenging prisoners increased the risk of prisoners being deprived of the health care they needed.

Peter Clarke said:

“Haverigg has had a troubled past and there was still much to do at the establishment. That said, we recognise the efforts made by the governor and his team not to let that troubled past define the prison’s future. Haverigg’s real strength lies in its relationships, from the governor’s positive relationships with partners and staff associations to those between staff of all disciplines and the prisoners in their care. We left the establishment feeling confident that, with continued support from HMPPS, the team at Haverigg will embrace the recommendations made in this report and improvements will continue.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said:

“As a result of concerns about safety at Haverigg we took the decision to close some of the old accommodation and reduce the population.

“This has allowed the governor to improve conditions for prisoners at Haverigg and I’m pleased that these improvements have been acknowledged by the inspectorate.

“The police investigation has now been concluded and the Governor will use the recommendations in the report to achieve further improvements at Haverigg.”

A copy of the full report, published on 16 August 2017, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

Shocking Offender Management Failures at Bure Prison


See our Youtube video on this report here

HMP Bure was a safe and decent prison, but the way it managed the risks prisoners posed needed to improve, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today 15th August 2017 he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the Norfolk prison – see our you tube video which addresses this report.

HMP Bure is a category C training prison and national resource for sex offenders, holding just under 650 prisoners. Previous inspections have always reported positive findings and this inspection was similar. The prison continues to ensure some very good outcomes, though there were concerns regarding the approach to risk management and resettlement.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • Bure remained a safe and respectful prison, with low levels of violence;
  • security was applied proportionately and segregation and use of force were used sparingly;
  • living conditions were decent and staff-prisoner relationships were generally good; and
  • virtually all prisoners had a good amount of time out of cell and there was sufficient work, training and education for all.

Inspectors were, however, concerned to find that:

  • although few prisoners self-harmed, support for those with complex and ongoing needs was weak;
  • as a national resource for sex offenders, the prison had no resettlement function and very limited resources to support reintegration and resettlement back into the community. Too few prisoners were being transferred to their home area prior to being released, and about 100 prisoners had been released directly from the prison in the preceding six months; and
  • Bure held many high-risk prisoners, yet offender management was far too variable and more attention needed to be paid to comprehensive risk management planning prior to release.

Peter Clarke said:

“Bure was a safe and decent prison, but weaknesses in offender management and resettlement – requirements which should be at the very heart of the prison’s purpose – undermined its success and overall effectiveness. We have made a number of recommendations which we believe will assist further improvement.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said:

“The Governor and her staff at HMP Bure deserve credit for providing a positive regime for prisoners in a safe and respectful environment, which provides a solid foundation for successful rehabilitation.

“Work is already underway to address the weaknesses identified in offender management and resettlement support and the Governor is using the recommendations in this report to drive progress in these areas”.

A copy of the full report, published on 15 August 2017, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HMP Birmingham – Availability of Drugs Still Affecting Safety

HMP-Birmingham1The stability of HMP Birmingham was being adversely affected by the high volume of illicit drugs available, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Prison managers and staff were clearly committed to moving on and making progress after the disturbance last year, he added. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local West Midlands jail.

HMP Birmingham holds a complex mix of prisoners and is characterised by a very high throughput, with around 500 new prisoners each month and an average stay of only six weeks. In December 2016 a major disturbance took place at the prison. Severe damage was caused to much of the more modern accommodation. Four wings were undergoing repairs at the time of the inspection and were not expected to be in use for some months. Following the disturbance, around 500 prisoners were moved out of the jail, leaving a population of over 900 to be housed in the older Victorian accommodation.

The inspection two months after this serious disturbance was not to enquire into events leading up to it, look for causal factors or comment on the handling of the disturbance. The decision to inspect was to establish the extent to which the prison was housing its remaining prisoners safely and decently and to see whether rehabilitative activity and resettlement work were being successfully delivered. It was also intended to give a snapshot of how the prison was performing in February 2017 to give the leadership a baseline from which they could plan the continuing recovery.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the safety and stability of the prison were being adversely affected by the high volume of illicit drugs, particularly new psychoactive substances;
  • 50% of prisoners said it was easy to get drugs, and as in so many prisons, drugs were giving rise to high levels of violence, debt and bullying;
  • the prison had a good drug supply reduction strategy and was working well with local police, but more needed to be done;
  • there was still too much inconsistency in the way poor behaviour was dealt with by staff;
  • despite a good range of education and training provision, not enough prisoners were able to take advantage of what was on offer and there was insufficient priority given to getting prisoners to their activities.


Inspectors were, however, pleased to find that:

  • there were many positive interactions between staff and prisoners and, in general, staff-prisoner relationships were respectful;
  • health care was generally good; and
  • the community rehabilitation company (CRC) was working better than in other jails.


Peter Clarke said:

“The leadership of the prison was clearly committed to meeting the many challenges presented by this large and complex establishment. The events of December 2016 had had a profound effect upon many members of staff. There was still, some two months later, a palpable sense of shock at the suddenness and ferocity of what had happened. Despite this, there was a very clear determination on the part of leadership and staff to move on from the disorder, rebuild and make progress.

“I am well aware that this report is likely to receive very close attention from many people who would like to understand the reasons for the riot. That is not the purpose of this report, and to attempt to use it in that way would be a mistake. This report is no more, and no less, than an account of the treatment of prisoners and the conditions in which we saw them being held during the period of the inspection.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said:

“This report provides an overview of HMP Birmingham two months after the serious disturbance which took place on 16 December. The Chief Inspector rightly draws attention to the impact of the riot on prisoners and staff but describes a prison which is now ‘in recovery’ and making positive progress.

“There remains more to do to provide purposeful activity and to tackle violence and illicit drug use but the staff and the leadership team deserve credit for the commendable way they have responded to the challenges to date.

“We are determined to learn lessons from what happened at Birmingham and will work closely with G4S to achieve improvement. Additional staff are being recruited and G4S will use the recommendations in this report to drive progress over the coming months.”

A copy of the full report, published on 28 June, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HMP Wymott – A reasonably safe prison doing good rehabilitation work

wymottHMP Wymott remained reasonably safe and was doing good work to rehabilitate prisoners and to reduce the risk of reoffending, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison in Lancashire.

HMP Wymott holds over 1,100 prisoners, approximately half of whom have been convicted of sex offences. Nearly all prisoners are now serving sentences of more than four years and up to life. Previous inspections have been positive. This more recent inspection concluded that Wymott remained a reasonably safe prison, although the summer months prior to this inspection saw a significant spike in violent incidents. The likely explanation for this concerned gang-related issues linked to the supply of new psychoactive substances. The prison had identified the key prisoners involved in the supply and use of these substances and had taken prompt and robust action to address it. Levels of violence had started to reduce towards the previous relatively low levels, but continued vigilance was needed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • arrangements to keep vulnerable prisoners safe remained good;
  • staff-prisoner relationships were generally respectful;
  • prison managers focused on ensuring the prison was decent and on improving the environment;
  • learning and skills provision had improved further and outcomes were either good or outstanding in all the areas Ofsted inspected;
  • some excellent work was carried out to challenge offending behaviour and the psychologically informed planned environment unit for those with complex offending behaviour was a positive addition;
  • the substance misuse therapeutic community remained an excellent facility; and
  • despite some weaknesses in reintegration work for men being released from Wymott, the overall picture in resettlement was good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • as a result of the spike in violence, some prisoners were isolating themselves on wings and managers needed to do more to improve their access to the daily routine;
  • the number of men with disabilities had increased and the ageing population included some with very limited mobility, but living accommodation for these men needed to be improved;
  • health care provision was weak and in some areas, potentially unsafe; and
  • staffing shortages had resulted in a restricted core day, and too many men were locked in their cells during the working day (15%), rather than participating in the good range of work, training and education offered.

Peter Clarke said:

“HMP Wymott was weathering similar pressures and challenges to other prisons, but was doing so with a proactive ‘can do’ approach, with an emphasis on finding solutions to problems and maintaining reasonably good outcomes for prisoners. This was underpinned by strong leadership that prioritised decency and provided men with opportunities to address their risks and work towards a successful rehabilitation. We commend the work being done and support the leadership team’s efforts to improve further.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:  “This is a positive report which recognises some really good work being undertaken at Wymott with a complex and challenging prisoner population.

“By providing a constructive regime which improves education levels and employment prospects, Wymott is helping prisoners turn their lives around, preventing victims and reducing crime.

“The Governor will use the recommendations in this report to achieve further improvements over the coming months.’

A copy of the full report, published on 14 February, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: