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

HM Prison Eastwood Park – an impressive women’s prison

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The way HMP Eastwood Park responded to the challenges of its population was impressive, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the Gloucestershire women’s prison.

HMP Eastwood Park holds a needy and transient population from a wide geographical area, taking women from Cornwall in the South West to Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, across Wales and along the south coast. Many women were a long way from home, a particular problem for the large number who also had dependent children. A significant number of women had disabilities, half the population were in touch with mental health services at the prison, almost three-quarters were having treatment for drug and alcohol misuse and there were about 10 self-harm incidents every week. Many of the women had histories of abuse, rape, domestic violence and involvement in prostitution. Few women stayed at the prison for longer than a few weeks with most staying less than three months.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • first night and early days support was now very good and much improved from a previous inspection in 2012;
  • support for women who were vulnerable to self-harm was good and incidence of self-harm had greatly reduced, although it was still high;
  • significant progress had been made in treating and supporting the high number of women with substance misuse problems;
  • the environment was generally decent and staff-prisoner relationships were particularly strong;
  • the very high numbers of women with disabilities had their needs met in a planned and sensitive way;
  • time out of cell was good for all, there were sufficient activity places for the population and a good work ethic was encouraged; and
  • a good range of partner agencies were engaged in resettlement work.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • around 10% of the population were young adult women aged 18 to 21 and there had been little thought about their specific needs;
  • young adult women were more likely to be involved in self-harm and assaults and less likely to make progress in education;
  • the mother and baby unit was a good resource but was underused;
  • women needed to be allocated to activities more quickly, as many of them stayed in the prison for such a short time; and
  • custody planning for short-sentenced women was underdeveloped.

 

Nick Hardwick said:

“Staff, managers and partner agencies at Eastwood Park, from top to bottom, should be proud of what they have achieved and the impressive mixture of compassion and professionalism we found on this inspection. The problems and needs they deal with go far beyond issues of crime and punishment. A large, closed institution, far from home, cannot be the best place to meet the needs we found among the women at Eastwood Park – and it is in view of those challenges that the outcomes achieved are all the more impressive. There are still areas where improvements is required but they should be seen in the context of these very positive findings overall.”

“The prison is now due to expand and take on a new role as a resettlement prison. We are not yet assured that the rehabilitation model adopted, primarily designed for the male estate, is right for a women’s prison such as Eastwood Park. It will be important that as the new model is developed, full use if made of the experience and expertise available at Eastwood Park and other women’s prisons to ensure it is fit for purpose.”

 

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

“This is an extremely positive report highlighting the excellent work done at Eastwood Park in managing a vulnerable group of women. As the Chief Inspector rightly highlights, the Governor and his staff should be proud of the significant improvements made in providing support especially during the early days in custody and for those with substance misuse issues or those vulnerable to self-harm.

“The prison will continue to build on the progress made as it changes into a resettlement prison, focused on ensuring that all prisoners can maintain crucial family relationships and have access to through-the-gate rehabilitative services.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 3 April 2014 at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/prison-and-yoi/eastwoodpark

Women’s Prisons To Close

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Two women’s open prisons, as well as a mother and baby unit in London, are set to close as part of a shake-up of the way female offenders are treated.

HMP Askham Grange in Yorkshire and HMP East Sutton Park (above) in Kent will close “in due course” because the changes will mean there is no longer a requirement for dedicated women’s open prisons.

The mother and baby unit at HMP Holloway in north London will also close due to under-occupancy, the Ministry of Justice announced.

Female inmates will serve their sentences closer to home and will be offered skills to help find work on their release under the new reforms.

Low risk offenders will be encouraged to undertake practical training so they can seek employment following their jail term.

The reforms, announced by Lord McNally, the minister for female offenders, will mean all women’s prisons will become resettlement prisons so that women are close to home and are re-integrated into society.

Lord McNally said: “When a female offender walks out of the prison gates, I want to make sure she never returns.

“Keeping female prisoners as close as possible to their homes, and importantly their children, is vital if we are to help them break the pernicious cycle of re-offending.

“And providing at least a year of support in the community, alongside the means to find employment on release, will give them the best possible chance to live productive, law abiding lives.”

The MoJ said it will test a “pioneering” new open unit at HMP Styal in Cheshire aimed at helping women into jobs on release, with the prospect of a commercial run business at the prison that could provide training and employment for inmates.

In order to ensure there are enough prison places available for women, existing provision at HMP Eastwood Park and HMP Foston Hall will be refurbished and HMP Drake Hall will see modifications to some of its buildings.