HMYOI Werrington – Proof that progress is obtained more by offering the carrot, than waving the stick

HMYOI Werrington, near Stoke-on-Trent, was found by inspectors to be a successful establishment with an “overriding culture” for the 100 boys aged from 15 to 18 of incentive rather than punishment.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “By any standards this was a good inspection (in January 2018) and showed what could be achieved in an area of custody that has drawn considerable adverse comment in recent times, not least from this Inspectorate.”

However, Mr Clarke sounded a note of caution. “Our major concerns were around the levels of violence, which had risen since the last inspection (in 2017) and were too high. There had been a significant increase from some 142 incidents in the six months prior to the last inspection to 206 incidents in the period leading up to this one.” Use of force by staff had also increased.

Inspectors noted, though, that Werrington had “good initiatives in place to tackle the violence, and early indications were that they were having a positive effect.” The ambition, Mr Clarke added, was to make the YOI safer, “but not at the expense of the regime” – the day-to-day running of the establishment.

In 2018, inspectors assessed respect in the YOI as “good”, the highest HMI Prisons assessment, with much of the progress due to good partnership working with other bodies, including in education, health and the voluntary sector.

The inspection, Mr Clarke said, “very quickly established that the overriding culture at Werrington was one of incentive rather than punishment. This was reality, not merely an aspiration, and the leadership and staff deserved much credit for having the determination to deliver it. This was in stark contrast to what we see all too often at other establishments, where a negative cycle of punishment and restriction is pursued as the preferred means of behaviour management.”

All boys had signed behaviour-related compacts in which access to private cash, computer games and time out of cell were good incentives and were appreciated by boys. Inspectors noted: “The scheme was more focused on incentives than we often see. The merit scheme had developed since the previous inspection and continued to offer boys an immediate reward for good behaviour which could be exchanged for confectionery at the merit shop. We observed officers who were quick to acknowledge good behaviour and this was reflected in the number of positive entries in boys’ files.”

Inspectors also commended good work in the area of resettlement for boys who were released. “There was imaginative use of release on temporary licence (ROTL), which was to be commended. There was also a proactive casework team that worked with partners to address offending behaviour and meet other resettlement needs.”

In conclusion, Mr Clarke said:

“It is pleasing to be able to publish a very positive report about a YOI. The Inspectorate always welcomes good practice being identified and promulgated, which is why we have gone to particular lengths in this report to do so. Nevertheless, it is clear that if the progress that has been made at Werrington is to be consolidated and maintained, there needs to be a continued and unwavering focus on reducing the violence that is the major threat to its continuing stability and success.

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales described the report as “an oasis in a sea of what is usually despair.”

Mr Leech said: “Far too often we read dreadful reports, particularly with this volatile population, who are notoriously difficult to manage.

“The Werrington report however is an oasis is a sea of what is usually despair, and shows what can be done with imaginative management, incentives that work straight away and staff who try to see the best in people.

“There is still too much violence at Werrington, it needs strict control, but there are many YOI Governors who wish this report could have been written about their establishment – and their challenge to aim for that with the same incentivised approach.”

 A copy of the full report, published on 5 June 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: