HMP & YOI ASKHAM GRANGE – Continues to be one of the best performing prisons in the country

HMP/YOI Askham Grange delivers a national service to women residents and young offenders and up to ten mothers. It is an open prison.

HMP & YOI Askham Grange, a women’s open prison near York, has been awarded the highest grading of ‘good’ in all four HM Inspectorate of Prisons healthy prison tests for the second inspection running.

Peter Clarke said it was particularly pleasing in April 2019 to see that the leadership and staff had not simply relied upon what inspectors found last time (in 2014), nor just continued along the same path.

“On the contrary, there had been new initiatives and innovations in many areas. The ethos of rehabilitation and resettlement that dominated the establishment seemed to be stronger than ever, and the extraordinarily strong nature of the relationships between staff and prisoners was clear to see. There can be no doubt whatsoever that this played a huge part in achieving the goals of building women’s confidence and self-esteem en route to eventual release.”

Very few prisoners said they had felt unsafe, there was hardly any violence, and levels of self-harm were very low. “This was a welcome finding when the levels of self-harm elsewhere in the women’s estate are so troubling. Those prisoners who did need support received it appropriately.” Drugs and alcohol were not easily available.

The prison was clean, the living conditions were good and the grounds were extensive. Acorn House, a stand-alone building in the prison grounds, enabled prisoners to look after their children for overnight stays. The onsite mother and baby unit, complete with well-equipped nursery, was an excellent facility. Mr Clarke added: “It was clear that both mothers and babies thrived in the environment.”

Prisoners were never locked in their rooms and had free access to most of the site throughout the day. There was a wide range of recreational and social activities and Ofsted inspectors judged the provision of learning and skills to be outstanding.

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In terms of helping prisoners to progress, the links to voluntary organisations and employers were a key strength. Inspectors raised one significant public protection concern, relating to weaknesses in assessments of whether prisoners posed a continuing risk to children.

Overall, however, Mr Clarke said, “it would be wrong to detract from the overall excellence of the prison.” He sounded two notes of caution for the future:

“In the weeks following the inspection, the acting governor and deputy governor were both due to leave, and as we have seen elsewhere, maintaining consistency in leadership energy and ethos can be vital to maintaining good performance. The second issue is potentially more worrying, and it is that Askham Grange has been under threat of closure for some six years. This uncertainty needs to be resolved as soon as possible. This is one of the best performing prisons in the country. The prisoners clearly benefit enormously from what it can provide. It would be good to think that in the future Askham Grange might remain as an example of what can be achieved, and not fade away into a memory of what was once an exceptional establishment.”

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

“This is an outstanding report and I am delighted that prison staff continued to build on the success of the last inspection. HMP Askham Grange is an example of an excellent open prison focused on the needs of the women in their custody. I am particularly pleased that inspectors noted prisoners have access to an impressive range of job opportunities and over half of the women released on temporary licence are doing so to go into paid employment, setting them up for life once they have been released.”

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HMP & YOI New Hall: Continues to be a good and safe prison

HMP & YOI New Hall, a women’s prison near Wakefield, was found in its first inspection since 2015 to be an establishment which continued to be safe, respectful and purposeful, and where work to resettle and rehabilitate prisoners was improving.

Notable features from this inspection

  • According to the prison’s data, 48% of prisoners had committed their offence to support the drug use of someone else.
  • Of the prisoners using the counselling service, only 4% said they had not suffered some form of abuse and
  • 56% said they had experienced more than one kind of abuse. For example, 53% said they had suffered domestic violence and 44% said they had been raped.
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In our survey, far more prisoners (60%) than in other prisons for women (48%) described themselves as

being disabled and 78% of prisoners disclosed they had a mental health problem.

71% of the population were receiving services from the substance use psychosocial team.

39% of prisoners were serving long sentences of over four years.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that recorded violence in the prison was quite high, “but nearly all incidents were very minor and overall most prisoners felt safe.” Work to intervene and support those perpetrating threatening or antisocial behaviour, and the victims of such incidents, was effective.

There had been three self-inflicted deaths since 2015 and most recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following its investigations had been implemented. Prisoners at risk of self-harm and with complex needs received good oversight and case management and those inspectors spoke to were positive about the care they received.

Inspectors noted a seeming over-reliance on the use of formal disciplinary processes and some punishments seemed excessive. Use of force had also increased substantially and several women had been in ‘special accommodation’ conditions on the house units, although records failed to adequately justify these decisions. The segregation unit was a clean but austere facility with a basic regime.

The prison environment was good but the quality of accommodation was more variable, although reasonable overall. Staff-prisoner relationships were good although some prisoners expressed frustration at their inability to get some simple tasks done by staff.

Mr Clarke said: “The prison would have benefited from greater visibility and support from managers. It was also our observation that the proportion of female staff was too low and was something that was a very stark and particular feature of the senior team.”

Though work to promote equality was limited outcomes for prisoners from minorities remained broadly consistent with those for other prisoners. The mother and baby unit was excellent and health care was similarly good but mental health provision was undermined by staff shortages among the mental health team.

Women experienced good time out of their cells, including association on Friday evenings, which inspectors now rarely see. The provision of learning, skills and work was improving with plans for a new curriculum and evidence of strong partnership working “Our colleagues in Ofsted assessed the overall effectiveness of provision as ‘good’, but undermined in part by quite poor levels of attendance,” Mr Clarke said.

The coordination of resettlement work had improved greatly since 2015 and offender management was clearly focused on risk reduction.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:
“New Hall remains a good prison, delivering effective outcomes for those held there. At the time of our inspection the prison was experiencing something of an interregnum with a temporary governor in post and new permanent governor about to be appointed. Our report highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of this prison. We trust the findings we detail will help the new governor to ensure momentum is maintained and continuous improvement sustained.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons, said:
“Inspectors rightly recognise the effective work of staff and management in making New Hall a safe and respectful prison.
Since the inspection, a  recruitment drive has increased the proportion of female staff to within reach of the 60 per cent target, and staff have received training on rewarding good behaviour.
A new Governor is set to be appointed in the coming weeks, and will be focusing on the Inspectorate’s recommendations to oversee  further improvements at New Hall.”

 Read the Report

HMP SEND – Excellent women’s prison but it must address the deterioration in education, work and training.

HMP Send, a closed training prison for women, including many high-risk offenders, was found by inspectors to have kept up high standards of safety, respectful treatment and rehabilitation and release planning.

The Surrey jail had, however, undergone a disappointing deterioration in its provision of ‘purposeful activity’ – education, work and training.

Overall, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, described Send as an “excellent” prison dealing with a “highly complex population” of up to 282 often high-risk offenders.

Three-quarters of those held at the time of the inspection in June 2018 were serving over four years and 67 were serving indeterminate sentences, including life. A substantial number, although not all, lived on one of three therapeutic or specialist facilities which “sought to address the needs of women as part of a structured personality disorder pathway.”

In 2014, inspectors assessed Send as ‘good’ in all four healthy prison tests, the highest assessment. Only purposeful activity dropped, to ‘not sufficiently good’, in 2018.

Send remained was a very safe prison, with very little violence. Though the HMIP survey raised some concerns about issues of bullying and victimisation, inspectors found the prison’s response to such behaviour had improved. Recorded self-harm had almost doubled but it remained much lower than comparable prisons. Force was rarely used and the prison, commendably, was able to operate without the need for a segregation unit.

Living conditions were clean and decent and most women reported very positively about many aspects of daily living. Relationships between staff and women were excellent and, Mr Clarke said, “were at the heart of the prison’s success.” Work to promote equality had improved and was generally very good, although more could have been done to support some groups, notably younger women and foreign nationals.

The management of resettlement was strong and offender management was at the heart of a prisoner’s experience.

Inspectors’ principal concern, Mr Clarke said, related to purposeful activity. Most women had more than 10 hours out of their cells and inspectors found very few locked up during the working day. “That said, the management of learning and skills was not robust and quality improvement lacked challenge. The range of education on offer was good but opportunities in work and vocational training were more limited.” Allocations to activity needed improvement and employer engagement was insufficient. Attendance and retention in education and vocational training were mixed and in some vocation and work settings women were insufficiently productive.

Overall, though, Mr Clarke said:

“HMP Send was an excellent prison run by a very effective governor and caring staff.  The women at the prison were treated with decency and care, being kept safe and treated with respect. The prison provided services for some very difficult and potentially dangerous women, yet did so with confidence and competence. There was work to do to improve education, vocational training and work, so we have left the prison with a few recommendations which we hope will assist in this process.”

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

“As the Chief Inspector says, Send does excellent work with a complex and challenging population. The Governor and her team are committed to maximising opportunities for the women in their care and will use the recommendations in this report, along with the measures outlined in the government’s Education and Employment Strategy, to improve the quality of training available to support women into employment on release.”

Read the Report

Prison Monitors publish annual report on HMP Bronzefield


Main judgements

1. Overall prisoners are treated fairly, humanely and with decency.

2. The Board remains concerned about those prisoners with severe mental health problems who experience long delays awaiting transfer to secure psychiatric facilities (8.13).

3. A large proportion of prisoners are not prepared well for release. This is owing to a combination of the high churn rate and the impact of on-going high levels of homelessness on discharge (7.11, 11.2, 11.3, 11.4).

4. Rehabilitation and reduction in reoffending is frustrated due to the numbers of short stay prisoners (11.3, 11.4). 5. An efficient process for the inter-prison transfer of prisoner’s property is lacking (7.15).

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Plans For Five New Community Prisons For Women Axed in Revised Female Offenders Plan

Plans for five new community prisons for women have been scrapped, instead Justice Secretary David Gauke has pledged instead to set up at least five residential centres for women in a pilot scheme.

The move is part of plans to try to reduce the number of female offenders serving short jail terms, replacing them with community sentences instead that will allow women to spend more time with their children who otherwise would end up in care.

In the foreword to the strategy, Mr Gauke said 70.7% of women and 62.9% of men released from custody between April and June 2016 after a sentence of less than a year went on to re-offend within 12 months.

He said: “There is persuasive evidence that short custodial sentences are less effective in reducing re-offending than community orders. Short sentences generate churn which is a major driver of instability in our prisons and they do not provide sufficient time for rehabilitative activity.

“The impact on women, many of whom are sentenced for non-violent, low-level but persistent offences, often for short periods of time, is particularly significant.

“The prevalence of anxiety and self-harm incidents is greater than for male prisoners.

“As more female offenders are primary carers than their male counterparts, these sentences lead to a disproportionate impact on children and families and a failure to halt the intergenerational cycle of offending.”

It is estimated that female offenders cost £1.7 billion in 2015/16, of which around £1 billion were incurred by the police.

The strategy proposes greater use of community punishments for women rather than short jail terms, and a review will be carried out looking at how they can spend more time with their children.

But critics have said the £5m earmarked for the scheme, and the lack of any firm timetable for its delivery, is ‘simply not good enough’.

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales welcomed the news saying it has the potential to benefit many women offenders, ‘but the money earmarked for this is simply not enough’ he said.

Mr Leech said: “The majority of women offenders come to prison with a long and complex history of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, so on the surface this is good news.

“Research shows they are more than twice as likely to have a mental health issue than men, and almost half committed their offence to support the drug use of someone else .

“Women are often the prime carers for their children who, when the mother goes to prison, are often taken into care where potentially life-long offending cycles can start for them too.

“Wherever possible women need to be given community penalties – but let’s be honest, the £5m earmarked for these five centres is chicken-feed in the scheme of things – what’s happened to the £50m earmarked for the five new prisons, and why isn’t that being invested in this initiative?

Mr Leech said his caution was not in relation to the theory, ‘governments have shed-loads of theories’, but on his past experience that these things rarely come to fruition as initially announced.

Mr Leech said: “The glaringly obvious lack of resources and absence of any coherent timetable for delivery, is deeply worrying.

“Let’s see the delivery plan, with ring-fenced funding and a strict delivery timetable, and then we can welcome progress that is real rather than another expression of good intent that so often comes to nothing.”

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The strategy is welcome recognition of the futility of short prison sentences for women whose offending is often driven by abusive relationships or unmet mental health needs.

“The strategy recognises that many women are victims of more serious crimes than those they are accused of, and contains many positive promises of change. But it has not provided the resource to deliver that change, and no timetable to drive it.

“If the Government turns its good intentions into action, many thousands of women and families, including victims, will benefit. That work must start immediately.”

The Government has pledged to spend £5 million over two years on “community provision” for women.

Number of female prisoners released into homelessness soars

homeless_womanThe number of women released from prison into homelessness has more than doubled over the past year, new figures have revealed.

Information obtained by Labour showed that 227 female offenders were recorded as being homeless by the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) in the second quarter of 2017, compared with 103 a year earlier.

In total, almost a third of offenders released under CRC supervision had “unknown or unsettled accommodation outcomes”, according to written parliamentary answers to Labour.

The proportion of offenders released into homelessness is up by 12% over the past year, Labour said.

Shadow justice minister Imran Hussain said: “The Tories are presiding over a failing justice system that is putting public safety and confidence at risk.

“It is shocking that so many ex-offenders are being released without a roof over their head, despite homelessness being a major factor in reoffending. How can these people hope to turn their lives around when they don’t even have anywhere to live?

“This is yet another damning indictment of the failure of the Community Rehabilitation Companies to meet even the most basic of needs of offenders. The Tories need to take urgent action to ensure that these probation companies that they privatised are fit for purpose.”


A Ministry of Justice spokesman: “The Justice Secretary has been clear that we are committed to improving work across government to help prisoners and ex-offenders find a home, as well as a job, help with debt, or treatment for a drug addiction.

“As part of this, we are working with the Department for Communities and Local Government to develop a pilot project enabling offenders to find – and stay in – private rented accommodation following release from prison, building on existing government support for those at risk of homelessness.

“We will also shortly be bringing forward a strategy for female offenders aimed at improving outcomes for women in the community and custody, to add to the support already in place.”

HMP & Yoi Foston Hall: woman’s prison with some strengths but improvements needed

IMG_0065Foston Hall was a reasonably safe and decent prison with some good rehabilitative work, but further improvements need to be made, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in Derbyshire.

HMP & YOI Foston Hall is a local and resettlement prison. Like most other women’s local prisons, it holds a complicated mix of women, from those recently remanded in custody to those with lengthy sentences. Levels of need in the population were very high. Nearly half of new arrivals said they had problems feeling depressed or suicidal or had mental health problems. Many reported problems with drugs or alcohol. Over half the women had children under the age of 18 and for a similar number it was their first time in prison. When it was last inspected in 2014, inspectors assessed outcomes in safety, respect and resettlement as reasonably good but considered that work, training and education was insufficiently good. This more recent inspection was mixed – there were some obvious strengths but a few areas of significant weakness.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

· the prison was basically safe and security arrangements were appropriate;

· concerns regarding illegal drugs were being addressed;

· good care was provided to the many women at risk of self-harming and a sensible approach was adopted to managing those with complex needs;

· relationships between women and staff were strong and founded on mutual respect;

· the living accommodation was mixed, but clean and decent;

· health care was starting to deliver reasonably good support in some areas; and

· there was some good work to support higher risk women through the release process, although release on temporary licence (ROTL) was not used to support this work.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

· some aspects of early days support needed to be improved, particularly as this was when women were at their most vulnerable;

· there had been four self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection in 2014, although the prison had taken robust action to address most of the concerns resulting from these deaths;

· there were delays in prescribed medications and limited administration slots at weekends and on bank holidays, meaning some medicines were not given to women at the right time;

· a third of women were locked up during the day and there were still insufficient activity places for all the women to be purposefully occupied; and

· although the community rehabilitation company was delivering pockets of good work, it was not yet fully integrated into the prison or delivering consistently good outcomes.
Peter Clarke said:
“Foston Hall remained a reasonably safe and respectful prison, and we found some excellent work being done to manage and support progression for the highly complex mix of women. Managers and staff were focused on improving the weaker aspects of the prison’s work, and we asked them to focus particularly on early days’ support, the management of medicines and developing the purposefulness of the regime. The prison’s senior team was going through a period of instability but we hoped this would be resolved speedily to ensure continuity in building on the obvious strengths of the institution, and addressing some of the significant challenges ahead.”

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

“I’m pleased that the Chief Inspector found Foston Hall to be a reasonably safe and respectful prison. This reflects the hard work of staff to support women with complex needs, offering them opportunities to progress and turn their lives around.

“The majority of women at Foston Hall have a good regime with access to education and vocational training, but there is more to do. Since the inspection more work places have been created and the Governor is determined to use the recommendations in this report to further improve the prison.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 21 October 2016 at:

HMP & YOI New Hall – One of the best women’s prisons

NewhallHMP & YOI New Hall was a safe and decent prison and staff should be commended for their work, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in West Yorkshire.

HMP & YOI New Hall held around 360 women at the time of its inspection, including a small number of young adults. Several mothers and their babies were held in the mother and baby unit. Most of the women were sentenced, many with long or indeterminate sentences. Levels of need in the population were high: over a third reported having depression, mental health issues or suicidal feelings on arrival and a similar number reported having a disability. Nearly half reported having a drug problem on arrival and 43% said they had problems with alcohol. At its last inspection in 2012, New Hall was found to be a basically safe and decent prison with excellent work, training and education provision and resettlement support. This more recent inspection found the prison had improved still further.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the prison was fundamentally safe and there was very little evidence of violence or concerning incidents;
  • support for women who were vulnerable to self-harm and those with complex needs was good;
  • disciplinary procedures were well managed, and force and segregation were used proportionately;
  • relationships between staff and prisoners were a real strength;
  • the prison was clean;
  • the excellent mental health provision was welcome, given the evident high levels of need;
  • time out of cell was good and very few women were locked up during the core prison day;
  • learning and skills provision was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and was excellent in nearly all respects; and
  • provision for women who had been abused was very good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • aspects of offender management work needed to be better to ensure women who presented a risk to the public on release were quickly identified and risk reduction work was initiated and management action taken before their release.

Nick Hardwick said:

“New Hall is a safe and very respectful prison which does an excellent job in providing women with a range of purposeful and vocationally based activities, and some sound support around the resettlement pathways. The concerns we raise about aspects of offender management are well within the capacity of the prison management to quickly resolve. The prison is among the best of its type and we commend both the staff and management for the positive work they have done to achieve these outcomes.”

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

“I am pleased that this report recognises the excellent work being undertaken by staff at New Hall. They are providing good quality care to a very needy population, supporting them to develop the skills they need to turn their lives around on release.”

Read the report.

Less than 10% of women leaving prison get a job


Fewer than one in 10 women released from a jail sentence of less than 12 months are able to get a job, prison reform campaigners have claimed.

The figure is three times worse than the equivalent figure for men, according to a briefing by the Prison Reform Trust.

In addition, the report claims nearly half of women leaving prison are reconvicted within one year of release.

The briefing calls on the Government to develop a strategy to increase employment opportunities and programmes for women with a criminal record.

Jenny Earle, director of the Prison Reform Trust’s programme to reduce women’s imprisonment, said: “Much more can and should be done by Government, probation and resettlement services and employers to support women into work and financial independence, making them less vulnerable to the abusive relationships that lie behind much of women’s offending.”

Elsewhere, the briefing claims two thirds of women in prison have dependent children, and a third of mothers are single parents prior to their imprisonment.

Four in 10 – or 38% – mothers in custody claim their offending is linked to “a need to support their children”, according to the Prison Reform Trust.

Justice minister Simon Hughes said: ” I’m not prepared to accept a situation where female offenders don’t have the chance to turn their lives around and support themselves and their families.

“As part of our reforms, all women’s prisons are to become resettlement prisons to keep women as close as possible to their homes and families, as well as prepare more effectively for their release back in to their local community.

“We are also supporting female offenders through training and education opportunities in custody, as well as linking up with local employers to help more women find employment on release.”

HMP Send – A very effective women’s prison


HMP Send was a safe and decent prison which did excellent work to rehabilitate the women it held, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in Surrey.

HMP Send holds just over 280 convicted women prisoners, well over half of whom are serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious offences. Its last inspection was in 2011 and found a settled institution with an impressive regime for prisoners. This inspection found that improvement has continued and Send is now a very successful prison. It is one of the few prisons to achieve the highest grading for outcomes across all four healthy prison tests: safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement. An excellent range of interventions was offered to address offending behaviour, including a facility to address the needs of women with a personality disorder.

Inspectors were also pleased to find that:

  • Send was a very safe institution where violent incidents were very rare;
  • levels of self-harm continued to reduce and care for those who were vulnerable was good;
  • there was little evidence of significant illicit drug use;
  • women with alcohol issues received appropriate support;
  • living conditions and the environment were generally very good and relationships between staff and prisoners were particularly strong;
  • mental health provision was impressive;
  • prisoners had a good amount of time out of cell and reasonable access to the prison’s grounds;
  • learning and skills provision was well managed and there was sufficient education, training and work for all the women held; and
  • resettlement services were much better than inspectors usually see and offender management arrangements were good.

Inspectors felt that the promotion of equality and diversity required attention, although most outcomes were reasonable, and also thought support for women who had been victims of domestic violence should be improved. The incentives and earned privileges (IEP) arrangements supported the safety of the prison but some requirements, notably that the hoods be cut off women’s coats, were ridiculous.

Nick Hardwick said:

“We highlight a number of relatively minor concerns that will assist the prison, but overall this is an excellent report that describes the work of a very effective prison. Women, some of whom are dealing with long sentences and considerable personal challenges and risks, are kept safely and in a prison that affords them respect. They use their time usefully and their risks are addressed meaningfully. This is not only a good prison; it is a useful and effective prison. The governor and staff should be congratulated on their success.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 3 June 2014 at: