Safety had improved and conditions for more than 800 men in the prison remained reasonably good. However, the prison had deteriorated in terms of purposeful activity, including training and education, and in rehabilitation and release planning.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said it was clear that the leadership of the prison was fully committed to maintaining and improving performance. “A very obvious sign of success is that the rating we awarded for safety, so often a challenge for prisons in recent times, had risen from not sufficiently good at the last inspection to reasonably good on this occasion.
“This is a very real achievement. Levels of violence had not increased, and were lower than at similar prisons. HMP Stocken had managed to defy the national trend of year-on-year increases in violence.”
Mr Clarke added, however, that HMP Stocken needed to review and develop its drugs strategy, particularly focusing on new psychoactive substances (NPS). “Nevertheless, there had been some good work carried out, and although the mandatory drug testing positive results were high for the previous six months at around 26%, there were some encouraging signs of improvement.”
Relationships between staff and prisoners were generally positive though there had been insufficient attention paid to equalities since the last inspection. Inspectors were concerned by some serious weaknesses in health care.
It was disappointing, both for the Inspectorate and the prison, Mr Clarke said, “to find that performance in the area of purposeful activity had fallen away. At the previous inspection we had awarded our highest grade of ‘good’, but this had now declined to ‘not sufficiently good’.
“Broadly speaking, there were enough activity places and those that attended generally achieved well. However, we found that only 60% of prisoners actually left their wings to attend activities, and a further 16% were wing workers who for much of the time were not gainfully employed. Our assessment was that only around three-quarters of prisoners were engaged in genuinely purposeful activity. For those who did get to their allocated activities, punctuality was often poor and they frequently failed to settle into work promptly.”
Inspectors also had a major concern about the risks to public protection potentially posed by the small number of prisoners, around eight each month, released from Stocken into the community. Stocken is not designated as a resettlement prison, and as such does not receive services from a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC). Most prisoners were transferred to a resettlement prison prior to release, but a small number were not. This created potentially serious risks, given the profile of the prisoner population at Stocken, which were compounded by weaknesses in the internal assessment of risk.
Overall, Mr Clarke said: “Some of (our) judgements were finely balanced, but the main concerns we have identified will, I hope, give a clear steer for where the undoubted energy and commitment of the leadership and staff at Stocken can best be focused.”