HMP LOWDHAM GRANGE – A Violent Training Prison with ‘Very Poor’ Work Opportunities

HMP Lowdham Grange, a training prison in Nottinghamshire operated by Serco and holding many men serving very long sentences, had become more violent since it was last inspected three years ago and there had been a “quite marked deterioration in the provision of education, skills and work.”

This area of ‘purposeful activity’ was assessed as poor, the lowest assessment.

The report noted that “the number of violent incidents was high and some were serious.” Much of the violence related to the trade in illicit drugs in the prison.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the prison had an encouraging new violence reduction strategy with a prisoners’ ‘violence hotline’, which was commended as good practice. However, Mr Clarke added: “While much of what we saw was good and seemed to us a good foundation for progress, it was too early to say if the approach was working. Levels of violence remained high.

“In keeping with the amount of violence evident, use of force had doubled and the use of segregation was also high. Oversight and accountability for the use of force and segregation required significant improvement.” However, the use of technology to scan mail as a potential source of drugs was “a useful initiative” and the availability of drugs had reduced in recent months.

The amount of self-harm in the prison had increased significantly and, since 2015, two prisoners had taken their own lives.

Most prisoners had “quite good” time out of cell but outcomes in education, skills and work had deteriorated. Mr Clarke said: “The range of provision was diminished and quality assurance arrangements were lacking. Teaching, learning and assessment outcomes were poor and too few completed their courses.”

On a more positive note, the prison environment was reasonable, although internal areas could have been cleaner. Access to services was generally very good and included a well-used internal advice line. Outcomes for minority groups were reasonable but some negative perceptions among these groups required further exploration. Health services were good but delays in access to some important elements of health care were excessive. Prisoners could wait up to 64 days for a routine GP appointment. Mr Clarke added that, in view of the risk posed by many of the 920 men held at Lowdham Grange, “it was reassuring that work to support risk reduction and rehabilitation was reasonably good.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“Our findings at Lowdham Grange were adequate if inconsistent. There had been some progress but there was very much the sense that the prison was doing just enough. For example, the prison’s level of attention to our 2015 recommendations was very disappointing and a missed opportunity. We did see some innovative practice, and recent improvements needed to be embedded. There was much more to do, however, to enhance the prison’s very poor training offer.”

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

“Lowdham Grange holds a challenging long-term prisoner population. Outcomes from this inspection confirm that they manage risk, public protection and rehabilitation requirements reasonably well but need to do more on safety and in providing quality education and training for prisoners. Serco are committed to improving performance at the prison and we will closely monitor their response to the recommendations in this report.”

On Purposeful Activity the Chief Inspector found:

Time out of cell and access to association and exercise were good for most prisoners. On average, 27% of prisoners were locked up during the working day. The library service was adequate but did not promote literacy effectively. Recreational gym provision was reasonably good but indoor facilities and equipment were very poor and the floor in the weights room was damaged and hazardous. Monitoring of library and gym use was weak and it was difficult to determine who used them and whether access was equitable.

Leaders and managers had not achieved any of our previous recommendations.

Most strengths highlighted at the previous inspection had deteriorated into weaknesses.

Leaders and managers did not have sufficient oversight of the quality of education, skills and work, including the quality of teaching, learning and assessment. Quality assurance and improvement processes were not effective. The self-assessment report was not evaluative enough and demonstrated that leaders did not have an accurate understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the provision. The number and range of education courses had reduced since the last inspection. NVQ qualifications in industries had been withdrawn, and there was now no externally recognised accreditation in the workplace. The curriculum did not reflect the needs of the population accurately. Staff shortages and regular cross  deployment of education staff led to cancelled classes. Staff performance management and development were minimal and did not address identified weaknesses. The number of purposeful activity places did not meet the needs of the whole population. Allocation to education activities was arbitrary. Prisoners were allocated to education courses while applying for work opportunities. The pay rates afforded a significant disincentive to prisoners to engage with education and vocational training. Prisoners sometimes did not arrive on time to their lessons because of a staged movement to activities.

Since the previous inspection, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment had declined significantly. Trainers and teachers did not have high enough expectations of what prisoners could achieve and did not make enough use of prisoners’ starting points to plan their individual learning and training. Induction into education was not sufficiently detailed or  robust. Prisoners’ individual learning plans were weak. Targets were often generic and did not help prisoners to achieve qualifications or develop new skills. Trainers did not routinely develop prisoners’ English and mathematics in vocational training and prison work. Prisoners with additional learning support needs were not supported effectively enough. Trainers and teachers did not routinely feed back clearly to prisoners on how they could improve their knowledge, skills and understanding. There was no virtual campus12. Teaching, learning and assessment in the sports academy were good and prisoners made reasonable progress.

Inside Media13 was well resourced and staffed by very experienced professionals who developed prisoners’ skills successfully. Trainers and teachers built good working relationships with prisoners.

In employability and information and communication technology lessons, prisoners developed successfully the skills and behaviour needed for future employment, such as effective communication and word processing skills, and the importance of good personal presentation and hygiene.

Trainers did not record prisoners’ progress, learning and skills development in workshops. Prisoners were often motivated by financial reward rather than personal and academic development. Prisoners in industries did not develop new skills that were likely to benefit them in the future. The number of prisoners attending education lessons was not consistently high. Attendance was good in vocational training and industries. Prisoners who attended education and training improved their confidence. Prisoners behaved well and showed respect for each other and for staff. Some prisoners in a minority of education and vocational training classes were proud of what they had achieved. The standard of their work was high. In some sessions, teachers developed prisoners’ skills for employment effectively.

Too many prisoners who started education programmes did not complete them. In 2017, only 65% of prisoners who started a course achieved it. Data recording, monitoring and management, particularly of progress, skills development and achievement, were weak.

Leaders did not monitor achievement gaps between different groups of prisoners. Most prisoners could not make informed decisions about the next steps in their education, employment or training because of a lack of information about the curriculum. Progression through levels in the same subject was poor. Staffing issues in some subject areas affected prisoners’ progress, achievement and learning experiences.

Read the report here

Additional: Photo Booth installed.

A jail has installed a photo booth so inmates can take pictures with family members.

Prisoners at privately-run HMP Lowdham Grange can use the facility to capture group shots with relatives during visits.

The move was praised in an inspection report on the Nottinghamshire prison.

It said: “There was a photo booth for prisoners and their families to take a group photograph, which was another good innovation.”

The prison’s operator Serco said the photo booth was introduced in March last year as part of efforts to help families and children have a more positive experience of visiting their fathers.

Used more than 2,200 times, it has been “extremely popular”, the firm added.

Following the trial at Lowdham Grange, Serco expects to introduce photo booths at its other prisons.

Ministers have highlighted the importance of enabling prisoners to keep up relationships with loved ones when behind bars.

Last month, the Government announced plans that will allow thousands more inmates in England and Wales to make phone calls from their cells.

The report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons also disclosed that Lowdham Grange introduced a “violence hotline” in an effort to improve safety.

Inmates can use the service to report concerns about violent or anti-social behaviour.

HMIP described the measure as an example of “good practice”.

It said: “Prisoners could call to report concerns about violence and the safer custody team responded quickly.

“The team also worked with health care to offer support to prisoners who had been using illicit substances.”

The inspection, which took place in August, found the number of violent incidents was high for a category B training prison, with 64 assaults on staff and 83 on prisoners in the last six months.

There had been 30 serious incidents involving weapons, some of which had resulted in puncture wounds and hospitalisation.

Most violence related to the trade of illicit drugs, the inspectorate said.

HMIP noted that the use of technology to scan mail for drugs was a “very useful” initiative but it said the practice of destroying all correspondence that indicated positive, including photographs and stamps, was “excessive”.

opened in 1998, Lowdham Grange holds up to 920 adult men.

Mark Hanson, Serco contract director at Lowdham Grange, said: “We are pleased that this report highlights a number of areas of progress, good practice and innovation in the prison, particularly our new violence reduction programme.

“However, we know we have much more to do to address all the recommendations in the report and embed the improvements that we been making in recent months and we are working on these as a matter of urgency.”

HMP Thameside – 59% of Recommendations Made by HMIP in 2014 Not Achieved


SAFETY: Previous recommendations made in 2014 achieved: 50% Initial risk assessment of new prisoners was not always robust, but early days peer support was good and induction was thorough. There was good work to manage violence, and the prison was well ordered. There was a significant level of self-harm but there had been strong action to address Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) recommendations following deaths in custody. Safeguarding procedures were very good. With some exceptions, security was proportionate. There was significant drug use but a robust approach to supply reduction was in place. Governance of use of force was weak. Most prisoners spent only short periods in the segregation unit. Substance misuse services were generally good. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were reasonably good. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in Thameside were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations in the area of respect. At this follow-up inspection we found that six of the recommendations had been achieved, one had been partially achieved and five had not been achieved.

RESPECT: Previous recommendations made in 2014 achieved: 25% The prison was generally clean and provided some very good facilities that were highly valued by prisoners. Staff-prisoner relationships were good. There were some positive elements of diversity work, but management structures had lapsed until recently. Faith provision was very good. Prisoners had little confidence in the complaints system and some responses were poor. Health services were unable to meet need and prisoners had significant problems in accessing the provision. The quality of food was good. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were reasonably good. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in Thameside were good against this healthy prison test.We made 20 recommendations in the area of respect. At this followup inspection we found that five of the recommendations had been achieved and 15 had not been achieved.

PURPOSEFUL ACTIVITY: Previous recommendations made in 2014 achieved: 37% Time out of cell was reasonable for most prisoners but a significant number were locked up for too long. There were insufficient activity places and attendance was not good enough. The quality of education and other aspects of learning and skills had improved and was reasonably good. However, management, quality of provision and outcomes in prison-led activities required improvement. Library and PE provision were good. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were not sufficiently good. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in Thameside were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. We made 19 recommendations in the area of respect. At this follow-up inspection we found that seven of the recommendations had been achieved, seven had been partially achieved and five had not been achieved.

RESETTLEMENT: Previous recommendations made in 2014 achieved: 54% Management of resettlement was good. Offender management was better than we often see, and the quality of OASys (offender assessment system) assessments was reasonable. There had been serious delays with home detention curfew (HDC) assessments. There was good work with indeterminate sentence prisoners. Initial public protection screening was robust but there were weaknesses in subsequent processes. Recategorisation was reasonably efficient. Resettlement planning and work were generally good. There was some very good work to support families. The visits environment was adequate. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were reasonably good. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in Thameside were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 11 recommendations in the area of respect. At this follow-up inspection we found that six of the recommendations had been achieved, three had been partially achieved and two had not been achieved


HMP Thameside, in south east London, effectively tackled gangs and avoided the huge rises in violence seen in other jails, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

In a report on an unannounced inspection, published today, Mr Clarke also noted that despite a very high turnover of prisoners at Thameside, with an average stay of only 36 days, the prison maintained a generally settled and respectful atmosphere.

Thameside, inspectors concluded, offered an unusually high number of good practice points from which others might learn.

Thameside is a modern prison in a group with HMP Belmarsh and HMP Isis in south east London. It opened in 2012 and serves the courts of east and south east London. It is run by Serco and at the time of the inspection, in May 2017, held just over 1,200 prisoners, both sentenced and remand. The prison was last inspected in September 2014.

Among positive aspects, inspectors noted that:

  • While violence levels were high and had not fallen over the past three years, there had been a small but consistent reduction in incidents of violence, particularly associated with gang activity, in the months before the inspection.
  • Overall, Thameside avoided the huge increases seen elsewhere. Maintaining a database of gang affiliations helped keep different gang members apart and avoid potential conflict. The prison had a reasonably calm atmosphere and was well ordered.
  • The largest identified security threats to the prison were contraband, violence, escapes, gangs and staff corruption. Links with the police were generally good. Work to tackle staff corruption was also good; three former staff were serving custodial sentences for corruption.
  •    Buildings and grounds were mostly in good condition and an AstroTurf football pitch appeared to be in near constant use. The gym was also well-used.
  • There was especially good access to showers and in-cell telephones, which allowed prisoners to maintain contact with families. Prisoners were much more positive about the quality and range of meals than HMIP normally sees. There was good use of the ‘virtual campus’ – giving internet access to community education, training and employment opportunities.

Areas for improvement included:

  • One prisoner in four said it was easy to get hold of illicit drugs and although there was a focused drug supply reduction strategy in place more needed to be done to reduce the availability of drugs.
  • The governance and oversight of use of force were poor, though each month managers discussed officers who had used force more than twice in the previous month, which helped to ensure that force was used appropriately.
  • There were also not enough activity places and attendance was not good enough. Overall, around 55% of prisoners got to activities, which was not enough in a jail of this kind.
  • The very high turnover of prisoners had a direct impact on education and vocational achievements, as too many prisoners were starting courses that they could not complete because of release or transfer. Those who managed to stay on accredited courses achieved well.

A copy of the full report, published on 12 September 2017, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HMP Doncaster – “A very poor prison, safety a major concern” say Inspectors

HMP Doncaster
HMP Doncaster

Safety was a major concern at HMP Doncaster and a lack of staff was contributing to problems, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the South Yorkshire local jail.

HMP Doncaster, which opened in 1994 and is managed by Serco, holds just over 1,000 adult and young adult male prisoners. At the time of the inspection the population had been reduced by 100 as part of a response to the difficulties the prison found itself in. A previous inspection in March 2014 found a poorly performing institution in a state of drift. This more recent inspection 18 months later found that many problems remained unaddressed and some had worsened, although the recent appointment of a new director had led to some improvements.


Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • Doncaster receives new prisoners from the streets, with many pressing risks and needs, but its initial risk assessment remained inadequate and early days procedures did not focus sufficiently on prisoner safety;
  • levels of assault were much higher than in similar prisons and many violent incidents had resulted in serious injuries for staff and prisoners;
  • despite some efforts to understand these problems, initiatives to address violence were ineffective and investigations were weak;
  • the incidence of self-harm was very high and there had been three self-inflicted deaths in the previous 18 months;
  • despite the generally caring approach of staff, monitoring procedures for those at risk of self-harm (ACCT) were not good enough, support was intermittent and inspectors found too many prisoners in crisis left isolated in poor conditions;
  • staff on the wings were overwhelmed: there were too few staff and they did not have enough support;
  • security, derived from good relationships and interactions, was weak;
  • in the preceding few months there had been numerous acts of indiscipline, including barricades, hostage incidents and incidents at height;
  • drugs were widely available, and many prisoners told inspectors that new psychoactive substances were a major problem;
  • not enough was done to encourage good behaviour;
  • use of force and the special cell were high and increasing, but governance and supervision were inadequate;
  • environmental conditions throughout the prison were very poor, with filth, graffiti, missing windows and inadequate furniture in many cells;
  • health care provision had deteriorated; and
  • time out of cell for prisoners was erratic and poorly managed and although there were sufficient activity places for prisoners to have at least part-time work, training or education, these were still underused.


However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there were many good staff trying to do their best, although professional boundaries were not well managed and there was a lack of challenge to poor behaviour;
  • there were early signs of improvement in the promotion of equality and the work with the 6% of the population who were foreign nationals was better than inspectors usually see;
  • for those who did attend education, the quality of teaching and instruction was generally good, as were standards of work and the level of achievement by prisoners; and
  • the quality of offender management was better than usual in local prisons and the delivery of resettlement services was generally good.


Martin Lomas said:

“Doncaster has been a more effective prison in the past and we saw some very good people during our inspection. However, this report describes a very poor prison. The relative competence of the learning and skills and resettlement providers did not compensate for the inadequate standards across much of the prison and the lack of staff was a critical problem. The director and his management team were not in denial of the difficulties and there was evidence that the decline was being arrested; the prison certainly cannot be allowed to get any worse.”


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

“This is a disappointing report which reflects the considerable challenges Doncaster is currently facing.

“There have been a number of improvements since the time of the inspection, including an increase in the number of staff and the refurbishment of the prison accommodation.

“However we will continue to monitor the prison closely through a formal performance management process until the concerns highlighted by the independent inspectorate have been satisfactorily addressed.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 9 March 2016 at:

Prison officer admits misconduct in public office

Mark Blake
Mark Blake

A former prison officer who leaked stories to the Sun about a Serco-run immigration centre in west London has pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office.

While working as a prisoner custody officer, Mark Blake, 42, from Slough, was paid nearly £8,000 for tips about the Colnbrook secure immigration removal centre in Hillingdon which resulted in 10 stories being published by the tabloid newspaper over three years.

As well as naming individuals including a 9/11 plotter, the articles highlighted issues with the way the centre was run with headlines such as “Wiis for foreign lags in UK jails”, “Gastrojail” and “We fund massages for foreign killers”.

Following a trial at the Old Bailey in March, a jury could not agree a verdict on whether Blake’s dealings with the Sun reporter amounted to misconduct.

The Crown Prosecution Service later announced it would pursue a retrial against Blake while dropping the case against his co-accused Tom Wells.

On the day the retrial was scheduled to start, Blake changed his plea to guilty after hearing that he may be spared jail to look after his two children.


Blake’s lawyer Graham Trembath QC had formally applied to judge Mark Lucraft QC for an indication on what the maximum sentence would be if the defendant changed his plea.

In his response, Judge Lucraft noted the impact of the harm caused by the stories was difficult to quantify although it did affect the reputation of Serco and the UK Border Agency and made external recruitment more difficult.

The court heard that Blake had admitted that his motivation was partly financial and partly public interest.

The judge also took into account various factors raised by Mr Trembath including the length of time since the offence and the fact Blake is the primary carer of his two sons, aged six and 13.

He concluded that ordinarily after a trial the maximum sentence would be 18 months in custody, but a guilty plea would reduce that to 15 months.

The judge told the court that a pre-sentence report would be needed to assess the impact of custody on Blake’s children which could provide “strong reasons” for suspending the sentence.

Blake, who sat in the well of the court, pleaded guilty to a single count of misconduct in a public office between January 2008 and December 2010.

He was granted conditional bail until sentencing at the Old Bailey on September 21.

Yarls Wood: “A Place of National Concern”

Yarls Wood
Yarls Wood

Controversial Immigration detention centre Yarl’s Wood has been labelled a “place of national concern” after a scathing report revealed conditions have deteriorated.

Inspectors found dozens of pregnant women have been held at the facility in Bedfordshire against Government policy, while some are being held for more than a year because of “unacceptable” delays in processing their cases.

In one case a woman had been held for 17 months.

The prisons watchdog also found the centre is understaffed and healthcare services have declined “severely”

Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, called for “decisive action” to ensure women are only detained as “a last resort”.

He said: “Yarl’s Wood is rightly a place of national concern. Other well-respected bodies have recently called for time limits on administrative detention, and the concerns we have identified provide strong support for these calls.”

Yarl’s Wood, which held 354 detainees at the time of inspections in April and May, has been beset by problems since it opened in 2001.

The last inspection in June 2013 concluded that the facility was improving, but Mr Hardwick said it has deteriorated.

The assessment by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) found:

:: There are too many men working at the centre, which holds mainly women.

:: Care planning for women with complex needs is so poor that it put them at risk and pharmacy services are “chaotic”.

:: Staff entered women’s rooms without knocking.

:: Violent incidents have increased, with the number of reported assaults trebling in a year.

:: Almost half of female detainees (45%) said they feel “unsafe” due to the uncertainty of their immigration status, poor healthcare and having too few visible staff.

:: Four women reported instances of sexually inappropriate comments from staff, one reported “sexual contact” and one reported comments, contact and abuse in a survey. However, in separate interviews, no women said they were aware of staff being involved in any illegal activity of sexual abuse. HMIP said it did not find evidence of widespread abuse.

:: Most uses of force on detainees were “proportionate” but inspectors raised concerns about an incident in which an officer repeatedly struck at least two women with his shield as staff attempted to remove a detainee.

Inspectors raised particular concerns about the length of time some women were held for and the detention of vulnerable inmates “without clear reason”.

At the time of the inspection, 15 detainees had been held for between six months and a year, and four for more than a year.

Even though the Home Office’s own policy states that pregnant women should not normally be detained, 99 were held at Yarl’s Wood in 2014. Only nine were ultimately removed from the UK.

In the previous six months, 894 women were released back into the community – more than double the number (443) who were removed from the UK.

The report said this “raises questions about the validity of their detention in the first place”.

There were some positive findings. HMIP said the facility was clean, most detainees said staff treated them with respect, while recreational facilities and access to the internet were good.

Mr Hardwick said most staff “work hard to mitigate the worst effects of detention”, adding: “We should not make the mistake of blaming this on the staff on the ground.”

Maurice Wren, chief executive of Refugee Council, called for Yarl’s Wood to be closed.

He added: “The fact that people fleeing war and persecution are being locked away indefinitely in a civilised country is an affront to the values of liberty and compassion that we proudly regard as the cornerstones of our democracy.”

Serco, which has operated Yarl’s Wood since 2007, said it was “working very hard” to increase female staff numbers.

Julie Rogers, of Serco, which has operated Yarl’s Wood since 2007, added: “We are pleased that in (the report), they found that four out of five residents said that ‘staff treated them with respect’ and that they, ‘did not find evidence of a widespread abusive or hostile culture amongst staff’.”

John Shaw, of G4S, which provides health services, said the firm is “reconfiguring” the service to address a “growing number of more complex medical requirements” at the centre.

He said: “We have prioritised providing primary care and I am encouraged that inspectors have found that access to those services is good.

“There are now more GP hours delivered at the centre than ever before and no detainee waits more than three days for a non-emergency appointment.

“We are committed to working closely with the NHS to raise the standard of service at Yarl’s Wood and improve results for those who require medical care.”

An NHS England spokeswoman said it has been working closely with G4S to “ensure that rapid progress is made to achieve the high standards which we expect”.

She added they have “action plans” in place to address the concerns raised during a recent inspection and they will be reviewed in the light of the new report.

The NHS England spokeswoman added: “We are committed to ensuring patients can receive both the physical and mental health care they need when required at this centre.”

Yarls Wood high self harm


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.

Yarls Wood staff suspended after undercover investigation

Guards have been filmed making racist, sexist and threatening remarks at Yarl’s Wood
Guards have been filmed making racist, sexist and threatening remarks at Yarl’s Wood

A worker at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre has been suspended after a guard was secretly filmed calling inmates “caged animals”.

The investigation into the centre in Bedfordshire, which is run by private firm Serco, also raised concerns about self-harm by inmates.

The footage was filmed by an undercover reporter for Channel 4 News.

Serco said it had appointed former barrister Kate Lampard to carry out an independent review of its work.
Yarl’s Wood detention centre Yarl’s Wood is the main removal centre holding women and families facing deportation

The footage showed staff at Yarl’s Wood referring to inmates as “animals” and “beasties”.

One guard said: “They’re animals. They’re beasties. They’re all animals. Caged animals. Take a stick with you and beat them up. Right?”

A Freedom of Information Act request by Channel 4 News revealed there were 74 separate incidents of self-harm needing medical treatment at the centre in 2013.

One staff member is recorded saying: “They are all slashing their wrists apparently. Let them slash their wrists.” Another adds: “It’s attention seeking.”

James Thorburn, managing director of Serco’s Home Affairs business – which manages Yarl’s Wood – said: “We will not tolerate poor conduct or disrespect and will take disciplinary action wherever appropriate.

“We work hard to ensure that the highest standards of conduct are maintained at Yarl’s Wood and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons has found the Centre to be a safe and respectful place.”
Gates at Yarl’s Wood Serco confirmed it had suspended a member of staff

He said the independent review was needed because the “public will want to be confident that Yarl’s Wood is doing its difficult task with professionalism, care and humanity”.

Serco confirmed it had suspended a member of staff.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The dignity and welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance – we will accept nothing but the highest standards from companies employed to manage the detention estate.

“Last month, the Home Secretary commissioned an independent review of detainees’ welfare to be conducted by former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw, but these are clearly very serious and disturbing allegations which merit immediate scrutiny.

“All of our detention centres are part of a regular and rigorous inspection regime operated by independent monitoring boards and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons.

“Lapses in standards, when they are identified, are dealt with swiftly and effectively.”

Inmates ‘take over wing’ at Northumberland prison


More than 50 inmates reportedly took over part of a prison wing.

The incident broke out at HMP Northumberland in Morpeth at around 7.30pm yesterday.

Officials at the prison confirmed a “disturbance” had taken place, but dismissed as “speculation” the suggestion of a stand-off between inmates and guards, and there were no reports of any injuries.

But Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan told the BBC that there was a stand-off.

He said last night: “We do not know what has sparked this major incident, but I do know that 50 plus inmates have taken over a wing,” he said.

“We have teams from other establishments trained to deal with riots on their way. There is concerted indiscipline and our officers will try to contain it.”

The trouble broke out after prisoners refused to go back to their cells, the BBC said, while police were put on standby ready to assist.

A spokesman for Sodexo, which operates the prison, said the situation has now been resolved.

He said: “We can confirm there was a disturbance at HMP Northumberland.

“It was confined to part of one wing of the prison and has now been resolved. We will carry out an investigation into this incident.”

HMP Northumberland houses around 1,350 inmates and is a category C prison, for prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to make a determined attempt to escape.

Sodexo Justice Services took over the management of the prison in December last year.

HMP Dovegate Therapeutic Community – Working Effectively to Reduce The Risk of Reoffending

HM Prison Dovegate - operated by Serco
HM Prison Dovegate – operated by Serco

HMP Dovegate’s Therapeutic Community was doing some good work with prisoners to reduce the risk they posed, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the facility at the Staffordshire jail.

The Dovegate Therapeutic Community (TC) is a distinct institution holding up to 200 men, contained within the larger HMP Dovegate. The main prison, a category B training prison, is inspected separately. Dovegate TC is based on the concept that democratic therapeutic communities, run by both staff and prisoners, should be central to the way the prison operates. Prisoners are given a real say in the day-to-day running of the prison and have far more influence over their experience of prison life than at normal prisons. This happens within the context of the usual security imperatives of a category B prison holding men on indeterminate or long sentences. Men arrive at Dovegate TC needing to be more open about their offending and related institutional behaviour and to being challenged by peers and staff within therapy and community groups. Often they have a history of serious violent offending, poor institutional behaviour and prolific self-harm.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • Dovegate TC remained a safe prison, with very few incidents and most day-to-day safety problems dealt with by the communities rather than by more formal processes;
  • support for the small number of men vulnerable to self-harm was good, as was support for men with substance misuse issues;
  • staff-prisoner relationships were very good, which underpinned much of the work being done;
  • time out of cells was good, but sometimes affected by problems in the main prison;
  • leadership of learning and skills was developing, but some elements of quality improvement needed to be fully embedded;
  • resettlement support was good and men were encouraged to address their risks of re-offending; and
  • some very good work was being done during therapy, but problems in delivering some key aspects of therapy risked undermining effectiveness.

However, inspectors had some concerns:

  • men spent their first few months on the assessment unit and they had little to do that was purposeful;
  • the lack of experienced TC members in the unit was affecting the transfer of some key elements of the TC’s ethos;
  • prisoners needed to feel confident enough to raise concerns in therapy about other prisoners’ behaviour, and this was not fully embedded, which needed to be addressed head on;
  • the focus of learning skills as complementing therapy needed to be better understood and supported by staff; and
  • the promise of the national integrated personality disorder pathways strategy had not yet been realised, which was a wasted opportunity to ensure men arrived at the prison at the right time, and that there was a structured plan for them to progress after completion of the programme.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Overall, Dovegate provided a safe, respectful but testing environment for the prisoners it held and the public as a whole benefited from its effective work to reduce the risk that they would reoffend after release. We identified some weaknesses, but we were reassured that management had already identified and begun to address most of them. This provided grounds for optimism that the good work of the prison would not just be continued but be enhanced.”


Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the good work at Dovegate Therapeutic Community.

“It is a safe prison that is working well to rehabilitate a complex population and reduce their risk of reoffending.

“The director and his team will take forward the recommendations made in the report as they continue to build on their progress.”


A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 27 February 2014 at:

SFO Confirm Serious Fraud Investigation Into Both G4S & Serco


G4S in 2012

  • £7.3bn turnover
  • Pre-tax profit: £516m
  • Quarter of turnover relates to government contracts
  • Half of business in Europe
  • Value of government contracts: £394m

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) says it has opened an investigation into the government’s contracts with G4S and Serco for tagging criminals.

It comes after an audit suggested the firms had been charging for tagging criminals who were either dead, in jail or never tagged in the first place.

In July, the government had asked the SFO to consider carrying out an investigation into G4S.

G4S said it would co-operate fully with the SFO investigation.

A spokesman for G4S said: “G4S confirms it has today received notice that the director of the Serious Fraud Office has opened an investigation into the ‘contract for the provision of electronic monitoring services, which commenced in April 2005, as amended and extended until the present day’.

“G4S has confirmed to the SFO that it will co-operate fully with the investigation.”

The audit by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, launched in May, alleged that the charging discrepancies began at least as far back as the start of the current contracts, in 2005, but could have dated back to the previous contracts in 1999.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told the two firms that an independent “forensic audit” – a search for possible illegality – should be conducted, which among other things would need to examine email trails between bosses.

G4S was reported to the SFO when it refused to co-operate with this further audit, while Serco allowed a further forensic audit to take place.

In the course of the audit in September, the Ministry of Justice provided material to the SFO in relation to Serco’s conduct.

G4S made headlines after it failed to provide all of its contracted security guards for the London 2012 Olympics, prompting extra military personnel to be called in to fill the gap and leaving the firm with losses of £88m.