Resettlement Work In YOIs – In Most Cases Letting Down The Children They Release, Say Chief Inspectors

Young offender institutions (YOIs) are largely failing to prepare children they release to live safe, law-abiding and productive lives in the community, according to a new report by two criminal justice inspectorates.

In too many case, those released do not have suitable accommodation lined up in time for the necessary support services to be put in place. Most have no training, education or employment arranged and mental health support is often lacking.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Probation, in a joint thematic inspection on resettlement work, principally in YOIs, also found inadequate planning to protect others, including families and younger children, from the risk posed by those released.

Every year, hundreds of children are released into the community from the five YOIs in England and Wales – many of them with very profound needs for support and follow-up care. Some pose a serious risk of harm to others.

The report noted: “With the exception of the casework team in HMYOI Wetherby,  none of the YOI-based agencies or departments we inspected were sufficiently focused on resettlement.”

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Justin Russell, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said: “We saw some examples of excellent resettlement work which offered children the best opportunities to change their lives and successfully reintegrate into their communities.” A common feature of the good examples was a ‘team around the child’ approach in which professionals worked together across agency boundaries.

“More often, though, we found that, while children were in custody, there was not enough productive resettlement work; this had detrimental consequences for them when they were released.

“The most damaging outcome was a lack of suitable accommodation identified in time for other services to be in place.” Ten days before release, almost 14% of children released in the first three months of 2019 did not know where they would be living after leaving the YOI. Most did not have education, training or employment arranged.

The inspection looked in detail at 50 cases of children released. “We judged that 38 out of 50… did not have these services in place at an appropriate time before their release. Mental health support was also, too often, not in place.”

Inspectors found that staff in YOIs – in casework, education and health care – were committed and enthusiastic, and interested in the welfare of the children. There was some imaginative resettlement work in all of the YOIs.

However, the report noted: “With the exception of the casework team in Wetherby, none of the YOI-based agencies or departments we inspected were sufficiently focused on resettlement.” Inspectors were concerned by a range of systemic weaknesses:

  • YOIs tended to concentrate on delivering services while the child was in custody that met their immediate needs and risks. Not enough thought was given to their future.
  • YOIs did not consider sufficiently often the risk to others that the child might pose on release.
  • None of the children who spoke to inspectors felt that the work that they had done in the YOI had helped them towards doing better on release.
  • Good work in mental health support during custody was often negated by a lack of attention to continuing support on release.
  • The children who reached 18 years old while serving a custodial sentence and were transferred to adult offending services faced additional difficulties with the loss of their rights to children’s services and the different expectations placed on them, often with little preparation or understanding.
  • Resettlement planning and interventions were mostly resource-led and formulaic. Children were ‘fitted in’ to what was available within the YOI, with little attention paid to their individual needs.

Mr Clarke said: “YOIs have not fully grasped the essential function of resettlement. They frequently neither enabled nor required their casework and other teams to deliver it. In addition, they have not ensured that resettlement work is understood, respected and prioritised across the whole YOI.”

Mr Russell said: “We found children and young people are being let down and are not being supported to succeed on release. Good mental health support in custody needs to continue in the community. Education and training should lead to purposeful activity and help individuals to fulfil their potential. Children and young people should have safe and secure accommodation on release. It is disappointing to see that four years after we last looked at this issue, so many of the same issues remain.”


The joint thematic report, published on 8 August, can be found at

There are five YOIs, holding children under the age of 18, in England and Wales – Feltham A in London, Cookham Wood in Kent, Werrington, near Stoke-on-Trent, Wetherby and Keppel in North Yorkshire, and Parc in Wales.

This inspection looked at the experience of 50 of these children who were released between October 2018 and April 2019 from all five YOIs. As well as examining the case files, our inspectors interviewed the case managers and children themselves wherever possible. They also used data collected on 115 children released in the first three months of 2019 and drew on a survey of over 600 children in custody undertaken by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

This interim report focuses on the outcomes for children immediately on release, and the operational work carried out to prepare them for release. It is largely, but not exclusively, about work carried out by staff working within YOIs.

A joint thematic inspection led by HMI Probation in 2015 found that:

  • Outcomes for children leaving custody were poor. The worst examples were the lack of suitable accommodation being considered early enough and the failure to organise appropriate, realistic education, training and employment provision or constructive activities at the point of release.
  • Resettlement work often started too late, and work in the community was not proactive enough during the custodial stage.

Full List of Thematic Reviews from the Prisons Inspectorate

Social care in prisons in England and Wales – a thematic report (October 2018)

Report on an announced thematic follow-up inspection of the close supervision centre system (4–8 December 2017)

This thematic report explores how incentives and behaviour management systems operate in YOIs and STCs (March 2018)

This findings paper is part of a series which focuses on daily life in prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs). It summarises literature surrounding living conditions in prison. (October 2017)

A joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Probation (June 2017)

Unintended consequences: Finding a way forward for prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment for public protection – a thematic review (November 2016)

An inspection of Through the Gate resettlement services for short-term prisoners (October 2016)

The impact of distance from home on children in custody (September 2016)

This findings paper is part of a series which focuses on daily life in prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs). It summarises literature surrounding food in prison. (September 2016)

This findings paper is part of a series which focuses on daily life in prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs). It summarises literature concerning the importance of prisoners maintaining relationships with the outside world and, in particular, with their family and friends. (August 2016)

A short thematic report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (July 2016)

This findings paper is part of a series which focuses on daily life in prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs). It summarises literature surrounding peer support in prisons. (January 2016)

This findings paper is part of a series which focuses on daily life in prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs). It summarises literature surrounding earning and spending money in prison. (January 2016)

Changing patterns of substance misuse in adult prisons and service responses (December 2015)

The first compendium of findings on the quality of services provided to victims by agencies within the criminal justice system, taken from individual and joint inspection reports published April 2014 to July 2015.

This findings paper is part of a series which focuses on daily life in prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs). It summarises literature surrounding reception and the first 24 hours in prison. (November 2015)

Behaviour management and restraint of children in custody: A review of the early implementation of MMPR (November 2015)

People in prison: Immigration detainees. A findings paper (November 2015)

A thematic review of court custody in England and Wales by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (October 2015)

Report on an announced thematic inspection of the Close Supervision Centre System (9 – 20 March 2015)

Prison communications inquiry – second stage (July 2015)

Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) Failures (July 2015)

The treatment of offenders with learning disabilities within the criminal justice system – phase two in custody and the community. A joint inspection by HMI Probation and HMI Prisons (March 2015)

Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) failures (March 2015)

A joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation, Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Ofsted. (December 2014)

A thematic review of transfers and escorts within the criminal justice system (December 2014)

Prison communications inquiry: first stage report (December 2014)

A joint thematic review by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Inspectorate of Probation and Ofsted (September 2014)

Ex-Service Personnel Supplementary Paper: Veteran data from HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ inspection survey (September 2014)

Report of a review of the implementation of the Zahid Mubarek Inquiry recommendations: A thematic review by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (June 2014)

People in Prison: Ex-service personnel. A findings paper (March 2014)

People in prison: Gypsies, Romany and Travellers. A findings report (February 2014)

A joint inspection of the treatment of offenders with learning disabilities within the criminal justice system – phase 1 from arrest to sentence. A Joint Inspection by HMI Probation, HMI Constabulary, HM Crown Prosecution Inspectorate and the Care Quality Commission (30 January 2014)

Findings from a series of joint inspections by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons (17 December 2013)

A joint inspection of life sentence prisoners by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons (September 2013)

A joint review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, the Care Quality Commission and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales to examine the extent to which police custody is used as a place of safety under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (20 June 2013)

A joint inspection of the effectiveness of multi-agency work with children and young people in England and Wales who have committed sexual offences and were supervised in the community (7 February 2013)

Report on the effectiveness and impact of immigration detention casework, by HMI Prisons with the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (12 December 2012)

A thematic review: The use of the person escort record with detainees at risk of self-harm (22 October 2012)

Transitions: An inspection of the transitions arrangements from youth to adult services in the criminal justice system by HMI Probation (lead), HMI Prisons, Care Quality Commission, Ofsted, Health Inspectorate Wales, Estyn (11 October 2012)

Facing up to offending: Use of restorative justice in the criminal justice system

Facing Up To Offending: Use of restorative justice in the criminal justice system. A joint thematic inspection by HMIC, HMI Probation, HMI Prisons and the HMCPSI (September 2012)

Remand prisoners: a thematic review (2 August 2012)

Findings from a Series of Joint Inspections by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons (19 July 2012)

A joint inspection of Appropriate Adult provision and children in detention after charge, led by HMI Constabulary with HMI Prisons, HMI Probation, the Care Quality Commission, the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (15 December 2011)

Pwy sy’n cadw llygad am y plant? Cydarolygiad o‟r ddarpariaeth Oedolion Priodol a chadw plant yn y ddalfa ar ôl eu cyhuddo (Rhagfyr 2011)

A joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation, HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and HM Inspectorate of Prisons (13 October 2011)

A thematic report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (21 June 2011)

The care of looked after children in custody: A short thematic review (May 2011)

Short thematic report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons

The first report from HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ joint Prisoner Offender Management Inspection programme (September 2009 and March 2010)

Women in prison – a short thematic review (July 2010)

A joint thematic review by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (23 June 2010)

Muslim prisoners’ experience: a thematic review (8 June 2010)

Alcohol services in prisons: an unmet need – thematic report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (18 February 2010)

Detainee escorts and removals: A thematic review (13 August 2009)

Commissioning healthcare in prisons: The results of joint work between the Healthcare Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons in 2007/08 (13 August 2009)

Prolific and priority offenders: a joint inspection of the prolific and priority offenders programme (July 2009)

Race relations in prisons: Responding to adult women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (31 March 2009) Race relations in prison (181.88 kB)

A short thematic review on the care and support of prisoners with a disability (March 2009)

The indeterminate sentence for public protection

The indeterminate sentence for public protection: a thematic review (September 2008)

Prisoners under escort: a short follow-up thematic review (August 2008)

Older prisoners in England and Wales: a follow-up to the 2004 thematic review (August 2008)

A short thematic review (December 2007)

An inspection of the category A detainee unit at HMP Long Lartin (July 2007)

The mental health of prisoners: a thematic review of the care and support of prisoners with mental health needs (October 2007)

Foreign national prisoners: A follow-up report (January 2007)

Operation safeguard: A report on exploratory work (2007)

Foreign national prisoners: a thematic review (July 2006)

Foreign National Prisoners: a thematic review (July 2006)

Young Adult Male Prisoners: a short thematic report (October 2006)

A thematic inspection of close supervision centres and high security segregation (June 2006)

Women in prison: a literature review (2005)

A thematic review of race relations in prisons (December 2005)

Prisoners under escort (December 2004)

‘No problems – old and quiet’:older prisoners in England and Wales – a thematic review (14 December 2004)

Through the Prison Gate – a joint thematic review by HM Inspectorates of Prisons and Probation (2001)

Lifers – a joint thematic review by her majesty’s inspectorates of prisons and probation (1999)

Suicide is everyone’s concern: a thematic review (May 1999)

Young Prisoners – a thematic review by HM Chief Inspector of prisons for England and Wales (October 1997)

Women in prison: a thematic review (1996)

Patient or prisoner (1996)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 copy of the full report can be found here

Children in Custody: Distance From Home – A Thematic Review.

Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 16.23.59Placing children in custody miles away from their home affected how many family visits they received, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. It didn’t, however, have a significant impact on other experiences of custody and could help some boys keep away from gang influence, he added.

Today he published a report, The impact of distance from home on children in custody.

The independent review was commissioned by the Youth Justice Board (YJB). It pulls together views and data on the impact of distance from home on children in custody. The aims of the thematic were to:

 explore the impact of distance from home on aspects of daily life in custody for children, and

 explore the impact of distance from home on resettlement planning and outcomes on release.

The report draws on interviews with around 50 children and staff at two young offender institutions (YOIs) and one secure training centre (STC), and data provided by those establishments. It also uses data from surveys conducted at four YOIs holding 15–18-yearolds and two STCs, and recall data provided by the YJB.

Key findings.

 Children who were held further from home had fewer visits than those who were close to home. For each child included in our survey sample, analysis of data on visits revealed that those held further from home had significantly fewer visits from family members and friends, with cost and travel time cited as reasons for children not receiving visits. The impact of this was raised as a negative influence by children and their caseworkers during interviews. Most caseworkers and managers, when asked about the vulnerabilities of the children in their care, linked them to problems with family contact. Little was being done, bar a pilot of using Skype at one YOI, to mitigate this impact on the boys and girls concerned (see paragraphs 4.14–4.24).

 Analysis of data for 595 children showed that children who were further away from home received significantly fewer visits from professionals. This mirrored what children told Inspectors in interviews (see paragraphs 4.43–4.44).

 Planning for release and resettlement followed the same process irrespective of distance from home. Children saw advantages in being close to home when it came to their release and caseworkers described it as sometimes harder to put a suitable release package in place for those who were further away from home. Elements such as family mediation work and ‘through the gate work’ (continuation into the community of work begun in custody) were seen as more difficult when greater distances were involved. Family involvement and support post release was seen as a key element whenever there was a chance of this being available (see paragraphs 4.48–4.51).

 In the sample of cases looked at, distance from home had little impact on attendance by external partners at sentence planning or remand management reviews. There was good attendance by external youth offending team (YOT) workers regardless of distance and families attended half of the reviews for children who were closer to home, and slightly fewer for those who were far from home (see paragraphs 4.34–4.36).

 There was no association between distance from home and recall to detention following release. Analysis of release and recall data for a census of over 1,300 children subject to a detention and training order (DTO) who were released in England and Wales during 2013–14, showed no identifiable link between distance from home while in custody and likelihood of recall to custody post release (see paragraph 4.58).

 Survey data and interviews with children showed distance from home was not a predictor of whether a child had felt unsafe in their YOI/STC. It was of concern though that nearly half of children, regardless of their distance from home, had at some point felt unsafe while in their current YOI/STC (see paragraph 4.5). Similarly, distance from home was not a predictor of whether a child reported that they had experienced victimisation from staff or other children, considered that they were treated with respect by staff, or had been restrained (see paragraphs 4.6–4.12).

 Distance from home did not have a significant impact on the experiences of children in many areas of custodial life. The main exceptions to this were: visits from family, involvement of family in preparation for release and the involvement of external professionals (other than for sentence or remand planning reviews).

 Arriving late at the YOI/STC, which can make it more difficult for a child to settle on their first night in custody, was not uncommon and could be exacerbated by the distances some children had to travel to get to their YOI/STC. In our Transfers and Escorts5 thematic review, we reported on the scope to make greater use of ‘virtual courts’ that could reduce the need for children to make lengthy journeys for brief court appearances and transfers. We repeat that observation in this review.

 Boys in YOIs who were close to home reported more gang problems when they first arrived at their YOI than those who were far from home. Caseworkers saw benefits for some children in being away from gang influences, or an area where their offence had attracted local attention. One child pointed to the advantage of being away from previous influences and having the chance to mature, and other children interviewed saw advantages in being further from home. It was considered easier as you were not reminded of family all the time, and knowing what was ‘on the other side of the fence’ could be a source of frustration for some. That young people who reported gang problems were placed closer to home than those who did not report such problems may be due to the geographical locations of YOIs and those young people involved in gangs, rather than the distances involved (see paragraphs 4.12 and 4.29).

The Report recommends

More imaginative solutions and flexibility should be used to mitigate the current lack of visits for children whose family find it hard to visit, whether due to distance or other factors.

 Children should be provided with additional phone calls to a parent/carer in place of unused visit entitlements.

 There should be greater use of new technologies to enable children in custody to have the levels of contact they need with external professionals who will be working with them post release, and to enable relevant ‘through the gate’ work to commence while in custody.

 Age appropriate information should be available in all courts so children who are committed to custody can know before they leave the court where in England or Wales they are going, where this is in relation to their home and what the YOI/STC offers.

 Children should routinely be given the opportunity to discuss how they feel about their distance from home and how any negative impacts they are experiencing can be mitigated.

 Available data should be used on a regular basis to determine any negative impacts on children who are placed far from home, particularly in relation to recall and reoffending, and to identify any emerging patterns or trends.

 There should be increased use of video-enabled court hearings, when appropriate, while ensuring there are no adverse consequences for the child or criminal justice procedures. Safeguards should ensure that the child is able to appropriately consult with their solicitor prior to their hearing. (Repeated recommendation from escorts thematic.)

After publication of the Report Peter Clarke said:

“It was reassuring to find that being placed in custody far from home was not a disadvantage to children in many respects. The negative impact on family ties and the implications this has for successful resettlement and turning children away from crime cannot, though, be ignored.”

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales welcomed the report and called for ‘thinking outside the box’.

Mr Leech said: “This report is welcome in that it revisits a very important issue, but did we really need a Thematic Review to tell us long distance and fewer visits are inextricably inter-linked?

“It has long been established that family contact is crucial to rehabilitation, the Inspectorate’s own 2014 report on resettlement of adults makes this point, and the UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty include that ‘detention facilities for juveniles should be decentralised and of such size as to facilitate access and contact between the juveniles and their families.’

“The point that increased distance from home can reduce gang influence may well be a welcome by-product, but keeping children far from home ought to be the exception not the rule; the costs in terms of rehabilitation far outweigh any benefits.

“A much reduced YOI Estate inevitably means distance from home will increase, fewer visits will take place, and therefore it is surely time to start thinking outside the box and use modern technology, such as Skype, to facilitate increased family and professional face-to-face visits where distance from home reduces or often prevents physical visits from taking place at all – and not just for children, although they should perhaps be the first to benefit, but across the prison estate nationally.”

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

Prisons Inspectorate’s Thematic Review on Close Supervision Centres published

Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit
Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit

Although clear progress had been made in clarifying the aims and processes of the system for managing the most dangerous prisoners in the country said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, in a Thematic Review report published today (25/8/2015) on Close Supervision Centres in English high security prisons, prison commentators also made clear there were a number of serious concerns.

The Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system holds about 60 of the most dangerous men in the prison system. Many of these are men who have been imprisoned for very serious offences which have done great harm, have usually committed subsequent very serious further offences in prison and whose dangerous and disruptive behaviour is too difficult to manage in ordinary prison location. They are held in small units or individual designated cells throughout the high security prison estate. These men are likely to be held for many years in the most restrictive conditions with limited stimuli and human contact.

The system is run by a central team as part of the Prison Service’s high security directorate, although day to day management is the responsibility of the individual prisons in which the units or cells are located. A further 14 men who do not quite meet the threshold for the CSC system are held under the ‘Managing Challenging Behaviour Strategy (MCBS) in similar but slightly less restrictive conditions. This is extreme custody and its management raises complex operational challenges and profound ethical issues. The aim of the system was to remove the most dangerous prisoners from ordinary location, manage them in small units and use individual or group work to reduce their risks so they could return to normal or other suitable location.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • leadership of the system as whole was clear, principled and courageous;
  • decisions to select prisoners the CSC system were based on a clear set of published criteria and a robust risk assessment;
  • some good support was provided to staff;
  • staff understood the men in their care well, enabling them to manage problematic behaviour effectively and promote change;
  • despite the significant risks the men posed, the majority of prisoners and staff felt safe;
  • most security restrictions and behavioural management work appeared measured and proportionate; and
  • staff-prisoner relationships were reassuring good, and psychological and psychiatric services were strong.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • there was no independent scrutiny or external involvement in decision-making, which was particularly important given the highly restrictive nature of the units, restrictions on access to legal aid and the difficulties prisoners had in being deselected;
  • delivery of some important processes varied and a minority of managers and staff did not understand the ethos of the system or embrace their role within it;
  • the use of designated cells in segregation units had often led to prisoners being held there for many months or even years, with poor regimes and little emphasis on progression, which was contrary to the prison rule 46 under which they were held;
  • the centrally managed MCBS units also needed improved governance;
  • more needed to be done to offset the real potential for psychological deterioration by the more imaginative provision of in and out of cell activities;
  • daily living conditions in the small units were cramped;
  • there was a very high proportion of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim men held, although management had commissioned research to look at the reasons for this; and
  • more work needed to be done on progression and reintegration, which was critical to ensuring the system was not used as a long-term containment option for dangerous men.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Leadership of the system as a whole was clear, principled and courageous. We do not underestimate the risk the men held in the CSC system pose or the complexity of working with them. The overall humanity and care provided to men whom it would have been easy to consign to the margins of the prison system was impressive. The system had a clear set of aims, was basically well run and founded on sound security and psychological principles and sought to contain men safely and decently. There were, however, a number of important issues that needed to be addressed.

“Management arrangements needed attention to ensure consistency and external involvement in decision-making was needed to provide transparency and rigor. The use of designated cells needed far greater control and there needed to be more clarity concerning the MCBS prisoners. Aspects of the environment needed to be improved, and men required greater opportunities to occupy their time purposefully. The reasons why a disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic and Muslim men were held needed to be better understood.

“Nevertheless, the CSC system provided a means of managing the most challenging men in the prison system in a way that minimised the risks to others and offered men the basic conditions to lead a decent and safe life. We support the continued commitment to resource and support it and commend many of the people who worked positively within the system, despite some of the obvious risks and challenges.”

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, and Converse the national newspaper for prisoners, welcomed the report but said there were still serious concerns that must be urgently addressed.

Mr Leech said: “There are five CSC Units located in Wakefield, Woodhill, Full Sutton, Manchester and Whitemoor prisons, with further designated CSC cells in Belmarsh, Frankland and Long Lartin prisons.

“While the CSC, and also the MCBS, systems are not ideal they are a vital way of managing a small number of very dangerous prisoners, often those who have killed other prisoners while in custody.

“The aim always must be the safe, humane and secure custody for CSC prisoners and staff, and it is vital those who manage the CSC system do not lose sight of the longer term aim of returning CSC inmates to normal location when sustained good behaviour and proven lowered risk warrants it.

“However there are real concerns over the high proportion of black, minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim men held in CSCs, the real lack of independent oversight in the decision-making process also needs addressing urgently because of the lack of legal aid to raise challenges, and the legality of holding such inmates in segregation units contrary to Rule 46 for extended period of time must be confronted without delay.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 25 August 2015 at:



Prisons must improve how they risk assess, monitor and care for prisoners to help prevent suicides, said Nigel Newcomen, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO). Today he published two reports on the lessons that can be learned from PPO investigations into self-inflicted deaths in custody.

There has been a sharp and troubling increase in self-inflicted deaths in custody in recent months. In 2013-14 there were 89 self-inflicted deaths in prison, an increase of 37 (71%) on 2012-13 when there were 52. The PPO independently investigates the circumstances of all deaths that occur in prisons in England and Wales and identifies lessons that need to be learned to improve safety. The PPO also investigates complaints from those held in prison.

The first report, Learning from PPO investigations: risk factors in self-inflicted deaths in prisons, uses information from investigations into 361 such deaths investigated between 2007 and 2013. It examines the characteristics of those who died, the events in the 72 hours leading to their deaths, and the prisons’ approaches to assessing and managing risk. Although various different groups of prisoners were looked at, the findings about the assessment and management of their risk were broadly similar. Too often prison staff placed too much weight on judging how the prisoner seemed, or ‘presented’ rather than on indications of known risk, even when there had been recent acts of self-harm.

Other findings include:

  • risk changes over time and in response to context and events;
  • contact with health services was common in the final 72 hours and represents a key opportunity for suicide prevention;
  • prisoners often withhold their distress from staff and other prisoners, and processes must be in place to respond effectively when family or friends raise concerns;
  • reception screening needs to take fully into account concerns raised by police, escort services or the courts; and
  • Prison Service Instructions should list being held on remand as a risk factor and the risk factors for suicide and self-harm should be presented clearly and concisely.

The second report, Learning from PPO investigations: Self-inflicted deaths of prisoners on ACCT looks at 60 investigations where the prisoner was being monitored under the Prison Service suicide and self-harm prevention procedures, the Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork Plan (ACCT), at the time of their death. At any one time around 2% of the prison population are on ACCT monitoring. When implemented properly, ACCT provides a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary framework to address the underlying cause of a prisoners’ distress. To be effective, ACCT requires a concerted, joined-up and holistic approach. The report finds that the ACCT process was not correctly implemented or monitored in half the cases in the PPO sample.

Other findings include:

  • the goals in ACCT plans should be realistic, achievable and relevant;
  • the trigger and warning signs section should be completed on all ACCT plans and reviewed and updated as and when necessary;
  • staff from across the prison and agencies working within it should be encouraged to attend ACCT reviews and offer input into an individual’s care;
  • all staff who come into contact with an individual should be responsible for updating the ACCT plan if they feel that their risk of self-harm or suicide is heightened; and
  • all staff should be up to date on their ACCT training.

Nigel Newcomen said:

“While I recognise the challenges facing busy prison staff and that my investigations have the benefit of hindsight, too often we find that assessments of risk of self-harm place insufficient weight on known risk factors and too much on staff perceptions of the prisoner’s behaviour and demeanour. While the professional judgment of staff is an essential ingredient in ensuring safety in custody, better staff awareness, consideration and training about risk factors could improve safety in custody.

“Nearly a decade after the introduction of ACCT (and a range of other safer custody measures) which saw self-inflicted deaths in custody fall, such deaths have risen sharply in recent months. It is too early to be sure why this rise is occurring, but the personal crisis and utter despair of those involved is readily apparent, as is the state’s evident inability to deliver its duty of care to some of the most vulnerable in custody.

“Learning the lessons from these two reports ought to help the Prison Service improve the implementation of ACCT and ensure greater safety in custody. However, given the repeated weaknesses in practice we identify and the rising toll of self-inflicted deaths, I believe it is also now necessary for the Prison Service to review and refresh its safer custody strategy in general and ACCT in particular.”


  1. A copy of the reports can be found on the PPO website. Visit
  2. The PPO investigates deaths that occur in prison, secure training centres, immigration detention or among the residents of probation approved premises. The

PPO also investigates complaints from prisoners, young people in secure training

centres, those on probation and those held in immigration removal centres.

  1. Prison Service Instructions provide a detailed guide to suicide and self-harm prevention through assessment, monitoring, staff and peer support. First night and induction procedures are intended to provide extra support for prisoners who are newly arrived in custody. The instructions also specify a non-exhaustive list of factors and triggers that indicate prisoners are at heightened risk. This includes having a history of self-harm, mental health issues, substance misuse problems, certain offence types, receiving a life sentence and being in the early days of custody.
  2. Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork plan (ACCT) was introduced in 2005-06 and built on a previous monitoring system known as F2052SH, introduced a decade earlier.
  3. Contact us: Please contact Jane Parsons, PPO Press Office, on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information, or email

Offenders with learning disabilities being ignored say inspectors


The needs of many people with learning disabilities are going unnoticed when they are arrested by police, go to court and are sentenced, according to independent inspectors. They have published the report of a joint inspection into people with learning disabilities within the criminal justice system which said their needs should be recognised and addressed.

The report, A joint inspection of the treatment of offenders with learning disabilities within the criminal justice system: phase 1 from arrest to sentence, reflects the findings of HM Inspectorate of Probation, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and the Care Quality Commission. The inspection covered activity at police stations, the prosecution and court process, pre-sentence report preparation and the assessment and planning undertaken at the start of the community order.

No clear definition or agreement exists across criminal justice and health organisations about what constitutes learning difficulties or disabilities. Although believed to be a sizeable minority, possibly as high as 30%, there is no way of knowing the number of people with such conditions within the criminal justice system. Adequate provision is, consequently, not always made by the agencies involved to cater for their specific needs.

Inspectors were concerned to find

  • little had changed by way of effective screening of detainees with a learning disability at the police arrest stage;
  • few medical or psychiatric professionals were specifically trained to work with people with learning disabilities in police custody suites;
  • a lack of knowledge and training led to offenders with a learning disability being perceived as a problem to be processed rather than an individual with particular needs requiring individual help;
  • too often, offenders with learning disabilities were not receiving the support they required to reduce their risk of harm to others or their likelihood of reoffending;
  • in some areas police custody sergeants said appropriate adults were not always available to assist with cases;
  • only one of the police forces inspectors visited had a mechanism to divert offenders from custody before arrest on the grounds of identified mental health problems or a learning disability;
  • in other areas, diversion schemes were implemented within the court building rather than before or at arrest. Earlier interventions might have avoided the need for a costly and stressful court process in some cases;
  • in two-thirds of the cases inspected, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was not provided at key stages with information regarding the offender’s learning disability; although all the decisions examined were correct, this information is vital to ensure they are properly informed; and
  • pre-sentence reports were not always based on an appropriate risk/needs assessment and in the majority of cases, the assessment emphasised the offender’s need rather than any risk they may have posed to the public. As a result, these offenders were sometimes denied access to interventions to address their offending.

In his review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system, published in 2009, Lord Bradley suggested that ‘the police stage in the offender pathway provides the greatest opportunity to effect change’. The recent government announcement confirming the decision to extend the provision of mental health and learning disability nurses to police stations and courts in ten pilot areas is a positive development.

The chief inspectors made recommendations for improvement for police forces, the CPS, the Department of Health and NHS England (Health and Justice), probation trusts, and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. These recommendations included the criminal justice agencies jointly adopting a definition of learning disability, ensuring information is shared and making effective screening tools available in custody suites.

HM Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service and Chair of the Criminal Justice Chief Inspectors Group, Michael Fuller QPM, said on behalf of all inspectorates:

“Although we found some excellent examples of professionals going the extra mile to ensure that individual offenders with learning disabilities received the appropriate support they required, such instances were exceptional and these deficits were mirrored across the criminal justice system.

“A balance needs to be struck between the support needs of those with learning disabilities and the need to hold them to account, where appropriate, for their offending. If offender engagement is to have any real meaning it has to start with an understanding of the offender’s learning ability and style based on an effective screening of all offenders.

“For those with a learning disability this is even more important as failure to identify and address their needs denies them their right to access services both inside and outside the criminal justice system.”

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

Children and Young People in Custody – Some Improvements, Some Concerns

Nick Hardwick Chief Inspector of Prisons
Nick Hardwick
Chief Inspector of Prisons

Children and Young People in Custody – Some Improvements, Some Concerns
Most young people’s perceptions of their treatment and conditions in custody had improved but there were indications that establishments were struggling to manage some of the most challenging or vulnerable, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing two thematic reports on the results of surveys of children and young people in custody.

The first report, Children and Young People in Custody 2012-13: an analysis of the experiences of 15-18-year-olds in prison, published jointly with the Youth Justice Board (YJB), sets out how young people describe their own experience of imprisonment in a young offender institution (YOI).

Since 2011-12, the numbers of young people aged 18 and under in custody dropped by just over 28% to 1,420 in March 2013. Those held in YOIs made up the majority of those in custody and there was a drop of 32% during the reporting period, with 1,044 young men and women held in March 2013. This period saw the decommissioning of a further 360 places by re-roling HMYOI Ashfield into a category C prison for male adults. In July 2013, the decision was taken to decommission the remaining female YOI units and hold all young women in secure training centres (STCs) and secure children’s homes (SCHs). At the time these reports were prepared, the government was considering plans for major changes to youth custody arrangements.

The surveys demonstrate variations in young people’s perceptions in different establishments that reflect, in part, differences in their size and functions. However, the overall picture for young men this year was of improvement in their perceptions across almost all areas of life in custody. It is not possible to definitively explain this improvement, but improved treatment and conditions may reflect the reduced population held in many YOIs. In this reporting period, there were higher proportions of sentenced young men and young men aged 18 than in the previous year, perhaps reflecting a more stable and mature population than previously.  However, the vulnerability of many of the young men held is clear.

The report also found that:

  • a third of young men had been in local authority care and almost nine out of ten had been excluded from school;
  • 74% of young men said most staff treated them with respect compared with 64% in 2011-12;
  • 90% of young men said they wanted to stop offending but a higher proportion than last year thought they would have problems getting a job on release;
  • 51% felt they had done something in the establishment that would make them less likely to offend in the future, compared with 45% in 2011-12;
  • the population of young men who said they were from a black and minority ethnic background remained stable at 45%;
  • the population of young men who described themselves as Muslim has remained stable at 22% after considerable increase from 13% in 2009-10 to 21% in 2011-12;
  • the number of young women  held is very small and reduced further in 2012-13; and
  • there was improvement in the proportion of young women reporting one or more visits per week

Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said:

“Three very clear messages are apparent from this year’s survey findings. First, most young people say they have been better able to navigate the experience of custody itself than in the past. Second, there are significant minorities of young people for whom this is not true and the variation across establishments is too wide. It is in these exceptions that the greatest risks lie. Third, young people may be generally able to manage the experience of custody better but they are more anxious about how they will manage after release. They want to get a job and stay out of trouble but too many do not know where to go to get the help they need.”

In April 2012, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission began joint inspections of STCs. The second report, Children and Young People in Custody 2012-13: an analysis of 12–18-year-olds’ perceptions of their experience in secure training centres is the first annual summary of children and young people’s experience of STCs.

Generally most young people were positive about their treatment and conditions in which they were held. However, in some important areas a sizeable minority of young people reported negatively and the range of some results across establishments is concerning.

The report found that:

  • most young people felt safe, felt that staff treated them with respect and that the education they had received would help them;
  • 16% of children and young people said they would have no-one to turn to if they had a problem;
  • 30% said they had been physically restrained by staff;
  • 44% of young people said they were from a black or minority ethnic background and 19% said they had a disability.

In some important areas, young people from all minority groups reported different experiences from the population as a whole. More work needs to be done to understand the over-representation of these minority groups and what lies behind the differences in their perceived experiences. The numbers of young people who said they were Muslims or from a Gypsy, Romany or Traveller background (21% and 12% respectively) varied substantially from statistical data held by the centre. This requires further investigation.

Nick Hardwick said:

“All the young people held in STCs are children and have the same fundamental rights as other children – to be safe from harm, educated, healthy, treated fairly and heard. Most of the young people surveyed for this report tell us that is the case, but a significant minority say that in important areas, that is not so. The planned changes to the youth custody estate need to take careful account of what young people identify as the strengths and weaknesses of the current provision.”

Lin Hinnigan, Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, said:

“The Youth Justice Board (YJB) commissions these annual reports to listen to the voices of children and young people in custody, to take forward their concerns and to understand how we can improve their experiences

“This year, the overall improved results show that much good work already goes on in custody to support some of the most vulnerable, challenging and troubled young people in society.

“However, we remain concerned about the significant minority of young people, whose experiences are less positive than others, including those from minority ethnic backgrounds or those who are particularly vulnerable for other reasons. We will continue to work with providers to improve the experience of these young people.

“The Youth Justice Board is also committed to improving resettlement when young people leave custody in order to improve their life chances and to reduce reoffending.”

A copy of the both reports can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 10 December 2013 at