HMP Eastwood Park: Where almost half the women released are chucked out the prison gate homeless, like a discarded bin bag of rubbish

“While there is much in this report to be pleased about, Eastwood Park is a safe, respectful and purposeful prison – none of that means anything when so much of the accommodation is in a deplorable condition and nearly half of women, some who are at high risk of causing serious harm, are chucked out of the prison gate at the end of their sentence, like a discarded bin bag of rubbish, homeless, on the streets, and with  sleeping bag and shop doorway for shelter – would you want that for your daughter?”
Mark Leech, Editor: The Prisons Handbook

“Almost half of prisoners discharged in recent months had been released either homeless or to very temporary/emergency accommodation, including some high-risk prisoners. Too little support was given to prisoners to either sustain or obtain accommodation.”
Peter Clarke: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

HMP Eastwood Park, a closed women’s prison near Bristol with a catchment area including Wales, was found to have remained a safe, respectful and purposeful prison over the last three years.

However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the latest inspection in May 2019 raised concerns about “completely inappropriate” conditions in the prison’s three closed blocks – units 1, 2 and 3. Inspectors were also concerned about the number of women released homeless.

At the time of the inspection in May 2019, Eastwood Park held just under 400 women. It was last inspected in November 2016. In 2019, assessments of safety, respect and purposeful activity had remained at reasonably good, though resettlement work had slipped to not sufficiently good.

Mr Clarke said: “Eastwood Park has a huge catchment area, including much of Wales. Consequently, half the women were being held more than 50 miles from home, and over one-third never received any visits. As with all women’s prisons, the population included many with very complex needs, and many who had been victimised in a variety of ways before coming into custody.”

He added: “Overall, we found that Eastwood Park remained a safe, respectful and purposeful prison.” Most prisoners said staff treated them with respect, they were increasingly consulted about their experiences in the prison, and we saw many positive interactions with staff.”

However, the prison needed to “think very carefully” about whether it was necessary for some women to be segregated for extended periods. “The practice of segregating women on residential wings also had a detrimental knock-on effect on the regime of the rest of the prisoners who were not in segregation.”

Mr Clarke said that although, by and large, living conditions in the prison were good, “the accommodation provided on Units 1-3 were completely inappropriate for a women’s prison.”

Inspectors found that women in Units 1 -3 felt less respected. They were often unnecessarily locked up during the working day while segregated prisoners were allowed ‘domestic time’ and exercise.

The report noted: “In our survey, 47% of prisoners on residential units 1, 2 and 3 said that it was easy to get drugs at the prison, and one in five that they had developed a drug problem while at the establishment. There was also evidence of prisoners taking medication that had not been prescribed to them; in our survey, 32% of respondents on residential units 1, 2 and 3 said that they had developed a problem with taking medication which had not been prescribed to them since being at the prison.”

Mr Clarke said: “On entering these units, I was immediately struck by the sight of rows of women’s faces pressed against the open observation hatches of their locked doors, peering out into the narrow, dark, cell block corridor. It was as if they were waiting for something or indeed anything to happen, however mundane, to relieve the monotony of their existence.

“Unless something radical can be done to improve the conditions on these units, then serious consideration should be given to closing them. At present they are simply not fit for purpose.”

The assessment of resettlement had declined and the complexity of the population clearly had an impact on the provision of effective offender management and resettlement services: 73% of prisoners said they had mental health problems, and around half had problems with illicit drug use.

In the months leading up to the inspection, a “worryingly high” 42% women had been released homeless and were left either to live on the streets or to go to temporary emergency accommodation.

Mr Clarke said: “I spoke to several prisoners who had previously experienced this and had either re-offended or felt it was inevitable that they would do so if released again in similar circumstances. In many ways this is an issue that is beyond the control of the prison, but more support does need to be given before release.”

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

While there is much in this report to be pleased about, Eastwood Park is a safe, respectful and purposeful prison – none of that means anything when so much of the accommodation is in a deplorable condition and nearly half of women, some who are at high risk of causing serious harm, are chucked out of the prison gate at the end of their sentence, like a discarded bin bag of rubbish, homeless, on the streets, and left to fend for themselves.

The whole point of having a joined up prison and probation service, with end-to-end offender management, is that transition from prison to probation supervision needs to be seamless – the reality however is that vulnerable females, many a high propensity to reoffend and who are accepted to be at high risk of causing serious harm are discarded, dumped at the gate with nowhere to live, just a shop doorway and sleeping bag for shelter.

Would you wants that for your daughter?

Read the Report

Prison: Deaths, Assaults and Self-Harm – and the facts no amount of spin can conceal

 

By Mark Leech

 

 

Look, I get it.

When your back is against the wall and you’re up against it, when every single piece of evidence shows no matter what you do it stubbornly isn’t working, there is a real temptation to find virtue in anything.

But there is no virtue to be found in the latest safety in custody quarterly statistics, where every single one of the key indicators show a continuing annual rise in deaths, violence and self-harm.

Just look at the plain, stripped-of-spin, painful facts.

  • In the 12 months to March 2019, that’s just four weeks ago by the way, there were 317 deaths in prison custody, up 18 from the previous year – of these, 87 deaths were self-inflicted, up 14 from the previous year.
  • Self-harm incidents rose to 55,598 in 2018, a new record high.
  • Incidents requiring hospital attendance rose to a record high of 3,214 in 2018 and the number of self-harm incidents requiring hospital attendance increased by 5% on the previous year to 3,214.
  • Assault incidents increased to 34,223, a record high level in 2018.
  • Annual assault incidents reached a record high of 34,223 incidents in 2018, a 16% increase from 2017.
  • Assaults in the October to December 2018 quarter show a 5% increase on the same quarter of the previous year.
  • The proportion of assaults on staff continue to rise. The proportion of assaults on staff increased to 30% of all incidents in 2018, an increase from 29% in 2017, and a steady increase from 20% between 2008 and 2011.
  • The proportion of assaults on staff (38%) in female establishments in 2018 was higher than in male establishments (29%).
  • In the 12 months to December 2018, there were 3,918 serious assault incidents, up 2% from the previous year.
  • While serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults decreased by just 1% since the previous year, serious assaults on staff rocketed by 15% (to 995) in the same period.

Now you tell me what has anyone who can read, talk and walk upright, got to applaud here?

When every single indicator across the quarter is at a higher figure than 12 months ago – often reaching yet more ‘new record highs’ – I find nothing to applaud at all.

But Prisons Minister Rory Stewart did.

Indeed despite the reality that every single annual indicator on deaths, assaults and self-harm showed increases, Rory made a video.

In it he managed to keep a straight face while celebrating the fact that, as he saw it, we have turned a corner, there is now light at the end of the tunnel, the signs of success are there he said, and we should all take comfort from the fact that he has it all under control.

No he doesn’t.

It’s one thing to mistake a swallow for the arrival of Summer, but it’s insane to look at these figures and say a single grain of sand means we’ve all arrived on a beach in Ibiza and it’s now Party Time.

No its not.

You can’t look at one quarter’s figures in this custodial world and make presumptions or try and extrapolate it into the future – especially when every single key annual indicator is still on the rise.

This is not a world where exact science works at all.

The prison population is constantly changing,  it’s fluid, it’s a world where there are people with mental illnesses, addictions, learning difficulties, impulsive behaviour issues, gang allegiances, where skilful manipulators and sophisticated fraudsters are at work.

It’s a place where there isn’t and never has been a one size fits all solution to anything.

It’s a world where when you think you’ve got something cracked the whole thing goes tits up proving you haven’t cracked it at all .

Exactly 25 years ago six Exceptional Risk Category A prisoners escaped from the ‘impregnable prison within a prison’ Special Secure Unit at Whitemoor prison, having managed to acquire a gun and ammunition they shot one prison officer and made it out of the unit over two walls and through a fence to short-lived freedom on the other side – the later Woodcock report revealed they’d also managed to smuggle into the SSU one pound of Semtex high explosive.

What seems calm and controlled one minute can blow up in your face the next – and then drop back down again as if nothing has happened just minutes later.

It’s a world where people aren’t afraid of consequences, being sent to prison doesn’t bother them – they’re already there – and they’ve largely spent a lifetime sticking two fingers up to authority and saying ‘fuck you’ whatever may then befall them.

You can take nothing for granted in this custodial world – and certainly not the fragile seeds of hope that even on the best view these figures do not represent.

I know,  I spent 14 years in prison,  during a prison career of riots and roof-top protests, segregation, ghost trains, and 62 different prisons until one day I arrived at Grendon Underwood where the healing process started, where for once I was treated with decency and respect and where my head was taken off and screwed back on the right way round and I haven’t looked back.

But in 61 other prisons it was ‘them and us’ – and consequences were irrelevant; which is why telling the public that the Government has doubled the sentence for assaults on prison officers may appear like progress, but in the real world of prison it’s utterly meaningless – neither prevention nor cure work here, only reasoning succeeds in the end.

I don’t doubt at all that Rory Stewart and David Gauke have the best of intentions but they are political animals, they have a concave view of the world in which they tell lies for a living – no disrespect, it’s just what politicians do – they call it putting a spin on things but to many people it’s just lying.

Yes, the 10 Prisons Project has had some success, I don’t deny that, it was inevitable and it would be strange if the investment in those prisons didn’t see cleaner wings, brighter landings, fresher environments and progress – but there are another 108 prisons where that simply isn’t the case; in fact there are another 108 prisons where things are going from bad to worse and no amount of spin or fresh paint can conceal it.

Don’t take my word for it, just go to the IMB web site and just read the latest annual reports just published.

IMB at HMP Durham: ….The prison has seen large increases in the use of force, assaults, death in custody and illegal use of drugs

IMB at HMP Haverigg …. widespread use of Psychoactive Substances (PS), not only with respect to those addicted to its use but on the general prison population, staff and also on the overall regime.

IMB at HMP Channings Wood …. decline in both the safety and well-being of the prisoners and in the physical condition of their surroundings with a significant increase in the use of the drug Spice and a serious deterioration in the state of the men’s living blocks.

IMB at HMP Hewell say the prison isn’t even fit for the 21st Century – 20 years after we entered it, widespread use of illicit drugs and mobile phones….

And so it goes on.

A splash of spin and a coat of paint can’t conceal reality – Queen Victoria thought the world smelt of fresh paint because, wherever she went, ten feet in front of her was a man with a paint brush; but had she turned the corner, had she gone off-tour, she would have collided with a reality where filth, stench and danger were obvious to anyone who cared to look.

Well, I care to look.

I want to be optimistic, I want to see progress, but equally I refuse to be deceived and distracted by political spin from the reality of a prison world that is, on the statistical facts, one where in terms of violence, death and self-harm it is getting worse not better.

When we’ve had 12 months not 12 weeks (and we haven’t had a single week across all four key indicators yet let’s not forget) of falling figures on deaths, self-harm and assaults in our prisons, when anecdotal evidence matches the figures and confirms that control has been regained and retained then – and not until then – we can say that progress has genuinely been made; rather than just a second-rate video that frankly was as risible to watch as it was as laughable to listen to.

Mark Leech FRSA is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales. @prisonsorguk

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: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Suicide Figures ‘A Damning Indictment’ of the State of Prisons Warn MPs

prison1“Mental health figures of prisoners are ’20 years out of date”

Appalling levels of suicide and self-harm behind bars are a “damning indictment” of the state of prisons, a Commons committee has warned.

In a highly critical assessment, MPs argued there are “deep-rooted failures” in the management of prisoners’ mental well-being.

The deteriorating prison estate and long-standing under-staffing have created an environment which exacerbates the mental health issues faced by prisoners, according to the Public Accounts Committee.

It also flagged up the increased availability of drugs in jails.

The committee’s report claimed the Government has no reliable or up-to-date measure of the number of inmates who have mental health problems.

Existing screening procedures were said to be insufficient to adequately identify those in need of support and treatment.

Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “There are deep-rooted failures in the management of prisoners’ mental health, reflected in what is an appalling toll of self-inflicted deaths and self-harm.

“Failing to attend to the mental health needs of inmates can also have devastating effects beyond the prison gates.

“The evidence is stark but there is no realistic prospect of these serious issues being properly addressed unless Government rethinks its approach.

“This must start with a meaningful assessment of the scale of the problem.

“Without adequate data it is simply not possible to determine whether Government action is making a difference – yet, incredibly, the most commonly used estimate of prisoners’ mental health problems is 20 years old.

“This is clearly not good enough and implementing more robust health-screening processes must be a priority.”

The latest official figures show there were a record 41,103 reported incidents of self-harm in prisons in England and Wales in the 12 months to June 2017, up 12% from the previous year.

There were 77 self-inflicted deaths in jails in the year to September, which was down 33 on the previous year.

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Professor Pamela Taylor, chairwoman of the forensic faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the Government “must look harder at how to prevent so many people with mental health problems ending up in prison”.

She added: “Many prisoners have severe mental disorders but are treated in an entirely inappropriate environment.”

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A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “Every death in custody is a tragedy and we are redoubling our efforts to support vulnerable offenders, especially during their first 24 hours in custody.

“All prisoners are subject to health screening when entering prison and their mental health is monitored closely while they serve their sentence.

“In April this year we introduced new suicide and self-harm reduction training – over 11,000 staff have embarked on the new training.

“We continue to support the prisoner listener scheme, as well as providing extra funding for the Samaritans.

“We will continue to work closely with NHS England to improve services in a number of areas, including the process for prisoners who require transfer to secure hospitals.

“We have been clear that improving safety in our prisons is our priority – that is why we are investing £100 million to increase staffing by 2,500 officers and we are taking unprecedented action to tackle drug use which undermines safety and stability.”

Why prison is never the right place for seriously mentally ill vulnerable people

Sean Lynch pictured with his father Damien
Sean Lynch pictured with his father Damien

A report of the Prisoner Ombudsman’s investigation into Mr Lynch’s self-harm in Maghaberry Prison in June 2014 was published today.

The self-harm that Sean Lynch inflicted over a three day period was extreme and shocking. It followed deterioration of his mental health in the community and increasingly bizarre behaviour in prison.

Although a detailed Forensic Medical Officer’s assessment, which suggested formal psychiatric assessment was an “absolute necessity,” was sent to Maghaberry, Mr Lynch was treated as a routine referral. It took two weeks for him to see a psychiatrist, when he was diagnosed with a drug-induced psychosis. Our clinical reviewer said problems may have been compounded by the fact that there was an eight day delay in administering an increased dosage of medication that was prescribed.

The default approach for vulnerable prisoners – the interagency Supporting Prisoner at Risk (SPAR) process was initiated. However it was never designed to care for someone as challenging as Mr Lynch. While efforts were made to comply with the letter of the process, the spirit was completely missed. Various aspects of the NIPS policy for using observation cells were also deficient and there were also indications that Mr Lynch was treated less favourably at outside hospitals because he was a prisoner.

Numerous NIPS and the SEHSCT personnel were involved, but nobody took overall responsibility for managing him, either as a patient or as a vulnerable prisoner. Events moved faster than the official reaction, and his increasingly bizarre and violent crises were met by short-term responses which included several moves of location and placements in observation cells with anti-ligature clothing. A Transfer Direction Order to a secure healthcare setting was considered but the necessary assessment did not take place in time.

A contemporary, independent assessment by a priest is informative: he said “His condition is beyond anything the officers can cope with.”

It is clear that Mr Lynch faked symptoms on some occasions and this led certain NIPS officers to believe he was being manipulative. This belief, which was also partly caused by insufficient awareness of his mental illness, impacted negatively upon his management and care.

The escalation in Mr Lynch’s self-destructive behaviour required treatment at outside hospitals. His conduct was so challenging that he had to be restrained and tranquilised, and he seriously assaulted a prison officer. He inflicted an 8cm cut to his groin, allegedly with a piece of broken flask which he found after moving into a new cell. However this cannot be confirmed as the implement was never sought nor found.

Much of Mr Lynch’s main self-harm episode – he rendered himself blind and extended his groin injury – on 5th June was directly observed by prison officers. Although they complied with a strict interpretation of Governor’s Orders which require intervention if a situation is “life-threatening,” Mr Lynch did not meet the definition. It seems remarkable that the officers felt it was neither necessary nor appropriate to enter his cell to prevent him from self-harming further. Their duty of care was trumped by security concerns that appear to have had little basis in reality.

We make 63 recommendations for improvement, of which 11 have previously been made to, and accepted by the NIPS. Five recommendations have previously been made to, and accepted by the SEHSCT.

Ombudsman Tom McGonigle said “This dreadful sequence of self-harming highlights the challenges of caring for severely mentally-ill people in prison. The key messages from this investigation are the need for someone to take prompt and effective control when a prisoner/patient’s mental health is deteriorating rapidly; and for improved assessment and information-sharing at the point when people go into prison.”

Media contact

McCann Public Relations, Telephone: 02890 666322
Maria McCann: 07802934246 or Natalie Mackin: 07974935855

Notes to editors

1. The Prisoner Ombudsman’s current Terms of Reference authorise the Office to investigate serious self-harm incidents in prison custody when requested to do so by the Northern Ireland Prison Service. For further information see www.niprisonerombudsman.gov.uk/termsofreference.html

2. The Ombudsman aims to provide the facts of the case and publish all material that is necessary to serve the public interest. This is balanced against legal obligations in respect of data protection and privacy for everyone concerned, and their views are therefore taken into account when publication is being considered. Mr Lynch and his family indicated they are content for the full findings of this investigation to be published.

3. Mr Lynch has requested that media enquiries for him should be directed to his solicitor, Kevin Casey of Mc Cartney Casey Solicitors on 02871288888

Yarls Wood high self harm

Yarls-Wood

Immigration detainees at the controversial Yarl’s Wood centre have required medical treatment after self-harming on average more than once a week in the last two years, official figures show.

The Home Office revealed that in 2014 there were 61 incidents of self-harm which required medical treatment, while in 2013 there were 74.

The revelation prompted warnings that immigration detention can cause mental illness and could lead to instances of self-harm among vulnerable inmates like survivors of torture or rape.

Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre near Bedford is run by Serco and houses nearly 400 detainees who are awaiting deportation, most of whom are women.

In March, Serco suspended two members of staff after a Channel 4 News investigation raised questions about standards of care at the centre, with one officer recorded saying “let them slash their wrists” and several others referring to detainees as “animals”.

The charity Medical Justice, which sends volunteer doctors to see immigration detainees and campaigns for the release of vulnerable people from detention, described the figures as “worrying”.

Emma Ginn, co-ordinator at Medical Justice, said: “These worrying statistics give an indication of how harmful indefinite immigration detention can be.

“Our volunteer doctors visit immigration detainees and have seen hundreds of cases of seriously inadequate healthcare.

“In many cases immigration detention exacerbates existing medical conditions and in some cases has been the cause of mental illness.

“There have been a number of fatalities including self-inflicted deaths and we fear that with no improvement in conditions there could be more.”

Tory MP for Bedford Richard Fuller said he wanted the Home Office to look at whether vulnerable asylum seekers who claim to have been tortured or abused should be housed in detention centres, even if they cannot prove their allegations.

He said: “It is fundamentally about whether places of detention are resulting in more instances of self-harm and whether there are alternatives that could be just as effective for removals but lead to less self-harm instances.

“Just because you cannot prove that you were a victim of torture or rape doesn’t mean it did not happen.

“This is an issue I would strongly urge the Home Office to look at.”

The figures were revealed by Home Office Minister Lord Bates in response to a written parliamentary question from crossbench peer Lord Hylton.

Lord Bates said: “Information is collated on the number of incidents of self-harm requiring medical treatment at Yarl’s Wood IRC. In 2013 there were 74 incidents and in 2014 there were 61.

“These are the number of incidents of self-harm requiring medical attention; they do not necessarily equate to the number of detainees requiring medical attention as one individual may have received medical attention on more than one occasion.”

Home Secretary Theresa May has ordered a review of detainees’ welfare, which is currently being conducted by the former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw and is due to report back in August.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said women who have been sexually abused, tortured or are pregnant should not be detained and called for an “urgent review” of Yarl’s Wood.

The Labour leadership contender said: “These figures are very disturbing and raise more serious concerns about the way Yarl’s Wood is being run. This follows allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, which have still not been investigated. The Government is overseeing the worst of all worlds in the asylum system – more people detained, and for longer, with fewer deportations. Too many women are left in a hellish limbo in detention centres.

Swansea prison “ignoring death in custody advice” say inspectors

Swansea Prison
Swansea Prison

Swansea jail settled but the prison was complacent about serious incidents of self harm and in a prison with four self inflicted deaths since the last inspection the prison was ignoring advice about fatal incidents from the Prisons Ombudsman

Inspectors said:

HMP Swansea is a local prison serving the courts of South Wales and holding up to 455 adult and young adult male prisoners. With an inner city location and on a compact site, the prison is a typical traditional Victorian establishment, although there are two newer wings. We last undertook a full inspection in 2010, when we found a prison that had achieved reasonably good outcomes.
A brief follow up visit in late 2012 found that progress in the implementation of our recommendations was mixed. At this latest inspection outcomes for prisoners were also mixed. Swansea prison had a number of significant advantages. It had a full complement of staff who were all fairly settled and experienced. The prison was also of a manageable size with a defined role.
Its situation ensured significant connection with the community and prisoners, who were mostly local, were pleased to be held close to home. The prison was a reasonably safe place. Prisoners were treated reasonably well on arrival although induction of new arrivals needed to be better. Violent incidents were few and in our survey prisoners reported positively about their perceptions of their own safety. Our own observations suggested a settled institution, although there was evidence to suggest work to tackle bullying and supporting victims needed greater rigour.
Sadly there had been four self-inflicted deaths since our last full inspection, although only one of these had occurred in the last two years. The number of self-harm incidents was low, but some incidents were serious and there was evidence of some complacency in the prison’s approach to this important issue. We were not assured that enquiries into incidents were thorough and the prison was not acting on recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following his investigation into these deaths. The case management documentation of those in crisis was poor but prisoners in crisis told us they felt cared for.
The prison faced a number of security challenges, in particular confronting the issue of illicit drugs which could easily be thrown over the prison wall. Mandatory drug testing showed that the prison was just within its target but there was evidence of significant spikes in activity throughout the year. More prisoners than at comparator establishments thought it was easy to get drugs into the prison.
The prison was compact, and maintaining environmental standards was difficult, but the external and communal areas were reasonably well kept. However, accommodation was varied: much of it was overcrowded or in a poor state of repair. Insufficient furniture, access to showers, the provision of kit and other basic amenities all needed improvement. The quality of relationships between staff and prisoners remained good but there was evidence that prisoners felt less respected than previously.
Arrangements to ensure that the quality of relationships between staff and prisoners were used purposefully – for example, the personal officer scheme – were ineffective. Work to support, monitor and promote equality and diversity was poor. Prisoners from minority groups were not systematically identified, the investigation of incidents was inadequate, and provision for most minority groups was minimal. The amount of time out of cell that prisoners experienced was reasonable and better than we often see at this type of prison, but there were not enough education or training opportunities and many prisoners were not fully occupied.
Overall, the provision of learning and skills had deteriorated. The prison had analysed need and had in place a useful development plan but progress towards delivery was slow. Assessment of learner needs was not comprehensive and work provision was limited. The development of employability skills was lacking and prisoners were not sufficiently prepared for the labour market. Punctuality and attendance also needed to improve. The achievement of qualifications was adequate, but most qualifications were at lower levels with few opportunities for progression.
Resettlement services lacked leadership and direction, which was a concern, as the prison was transitioning to become a resettlement prison. Plans were not sufficiently linked to the prison’s own analysis of need, and structures to support and monitor delivery were inadequate. Many offender assessments, if they were completed at all, lacked depth, and many risk of harm screening and assessments were insufficient. Sentence planning was too generic and contact between prisoners and their supervisors were poor. Work across the resettlement pathways was generally much better, with most prisoners receiving an assessment prior to release and a significant number of prisoners indicating that they believed someone had helped them to prepare for their release. Work to support prisoners and families, delivered in partnership with the Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) was very good.
Overall Swansea has many positive features but there are obvious areas for improvement. The prison is settled and has a traditional feel and culture. This could be a strength but care needs to be taken to ensure the prison is not allowed to drift into complacency. Expectations on the part of both staff and prisoners do not appear very high. There is a platform for improvement at Swansea but this is a mixed report. Many of our positive judgements were only marginally so, and the prison needs to be energised, rejuvenated and refocused on delivering better outcomes.

Report is here

INQUEST response to the YJB Child Deaths Report

INQUEST Charitable Trust
INQUEST Charitable Trust

INQUEST response to Youth Justice Board report on deaths of children in custody

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“Whilst this report offers some insight into the Board’s learning from child deaths, it can be no substitute for a wider review.

“INQUEST’s work on the deaths of children shows the same issues of concern repeat themselves with depressing regularity. This demonstrates that the current mechanisms, including the YJB, are not preventing deaths of children.

“And recent government proposals relating to restraint and secure colleges for children also call into question the extent of the impact the YJB’s learning is having on policy-making.

“A short report cannot be a substitute for a full, holistic, independent review of child deaths in custody that encompasses all findings and recommendations, and examines the wider public health and welfare issues and a child’s journey into the prison system.  The government must extend the remit of the inquiry it is commissioning into the deaths of 18-24 year olds in prison to include children.”

Notes to editors:

1.  The YJB report can be accessed here: http://www.justice.gov.uk/youth-justice/monitoring-performance/serious-incidents

2.  The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill can be accessed here: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/criminaljusticeandcourts.html

3. INQUEST’s briefing on the need for an independent review of the deaths of children and young people can be accessed here  

For further information, please contact Hannah Ward, INQUEST Communications Manager on 020 7263 1111 / 07972 492 230.

INQUEST provides a general telephone advice, support and information service to any bereaved person facing an inquest and a free, in-depth complex casework service on deaths in custody/state detention or involving state agents and works on other cases that also engage article 2 of the ECHR and/or raise wider issues of state and corporate accountability. INQUEST’s policy and parliamentary work is informed by its casework and we work to ensure that the collective experiences of bereaved people underpin that work. Its overall aim is to secure an investigative process that treats bereaved families with dignity and respect; ensures accountability and disseminates the lessons learned from the investigation process in order to prevent further deaths occurring.

Please refer to INQUEST the organisation in all capital letters in order to distinguish it from the legal hearing.