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Archives: Reports

Contains details of Reports

HMP Lewes

Lewes healthy prison scores

What we found

The prison was battling rising violence, self-harm, drugs and a churn of men caught in a cycle of homelessness and offending as the prison service continues to grapple with the effects of the population crisis.

Lewes had been in such a concerning state at its last two inspections that the Chief Inspector of Prisons took the unusual step of notifying the prison service when Lewes would next be inspected in a bid to drive more urgent improvement. While a dynamic new governor clearly understood the scale of the challenge and was already having an impact, the jail was struggling with rising violence and self-harm – which were both notably worse than other reception prisons – and a serious drug problem. More than half of prisoners were receiving support for substance use and 28% tested positive for drugs in mandatory testing. 

The new Governor of Lewes had made some real improvement since our last visit, but the jail remained trapped in a cycle of staffing shortfalls, boredom, and drugs driving rising violence and self-harm. Too many men were released homeless and inevitably recalled very shortly thereafter. None of this is unique to Lewes; reception prisons up and down the country continue to be on the frontline of the current population crisis, grappling with increasingly transient populations, ageing infrastructure and a lack of activity places for the populations that they are being asked to hold.
Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons

Easy read summary
(PDF, 596 KB)
Population statistics
(PDF, 147 KB)

HMP Wandsworth Urgent Notification

Inspection debriefing paper

‘I have issued an Urgent Notification for the following reasons:

Despite a high-profile escape from Wandsworth in September 2023, inspectors found significant weaknesses in many aspects of security. Wings were chaotic and staff across most units were unable to confirm where all prisoners were during the working day. There was no reliable roll that could assure leaders that all prisoners were accounted for. Given the recent escape, it was unfathomable that leaders had not focussed their attention on this area.

There had been 10 self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, seven of which had occurred in the last 12 months. The rate of self-harm was high and rising, and yet around 40% of emergency cell bells were not answered within five minutes.

Overall rates of violence, including serious assaults, had increased since the last inspection and were higher than most similar prisons. In our survey, 69% of prisoners said they had felt unsafe at Wandsworth.

Over half (51%) of prisoners surveyed said it was easy to get illicit drugs and the smell of cannabis was ubiquitous.’

Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

The full list of reasons Wandsworth’s Urgent Notification was issued can be read in the letter above.

HMP/YOI Chelmsford

Chelmsford healthy prison scores

What we found

Chelmsford was a safer and more productive place at its first full inspection since the Urgent Notification issued in 2021.

Staff had worked hard to reduce contraband getting into the estate. Subsequently, violence had reduced, the positive MDT rate was lower than at comparable jails at 15% and higher levels of prisoner attendance at education, training and work had been achieved. Sadly, self-harm had increased and poor coordination between the two providers of therapeutic support and long waiting lists prevented the delivery of much needed support for prisoners struggling with their mental health.

Points to note: Use of force was high, care and support for prisoners during their early days was poor and, whilst the OMU had made very good recent progress with work to reduce reoffending, some high-risk prisoners were released without adequate preparation. On average, 26% of sentenced prisoners had nowhere to sleep on their first night of release.

Easy read summary
(PDF, 589 KB)
Population statistics
(PDF, 147 KB)

HMP Cardiff

Cardiff healthy prison scores

What we found

Cardiff was very overcrowded, with nearly two-thirds of the population sharing cells designed for one, however, it was clean, settled and performing better than similar prisons against most safety outcomes. The governor and her senior team were visible and positive staff-prisoner relationships underpinned the respectful culture.

Despite this, illegal drugs were a problem with nearly half of prisoners saying it was easy to get hold of them and just under a quarter of prisoners tested positive for drugs in mandatory testing. The delivery of key work was weak but time out of cell was delivered more consistently than at comparable prisons.

Points to note: Ten prisoners had taken their lives since 2019, yet the implementation of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s recommendations following those deaths was poor. Oversight and planning of care for patients with long-term health conditions was weak and inconsistent.

Easy read summary
(PDF, 584 KB)
Population statistics
(PDF, 85 KB)

Staffordshire and West Mercia courts

What we found

Overall, staff were compassionate, patient and worked hard to support detainee welfare. However, detainees regularly arrived at court late due to limited cell capacity and long journeys, which delayed hearing start times. Searches of detainees were rarely based on individual risk assessment, meaning many were searched repeatedly and unnecessarily. Interpretation services were not used consistently to support detainees.

Points to note: Detainees discharged from prison at court did not have important personal possessions, such as door keys, and could not easily retrieve them. Despite the inspection being announced, cell environments were poor and there was a lack of facilities for detainees with impaired mobility or disabilities.

HMP Whatton

Whatton healthy prison scores

What we found

Whatton was generally continuing to operate effectively as a national resource for men convicted of sexual offences. The new governor had taken responsibility for improving the experiences of black prisoners, a concern raised in our previous two inspections. Behaviour management processes were overly punitive, with cellular confinement used far more than at similar establishments, and good behaviour needed to be better incentivised. Self-harm was also higher than at comparator prisons and had risen over the past two years. Many prisoners’ literacy and numeracy levels were poor and the rollout of a prison-wide reading strategy was slow. A lack of accredited programmes inhibited sentence progression, with some waiting years to fulfil that aspect of their sentence plan.

Points to note: Living conditions on B wing were poor. Cells were very cramped and the toilet was situated next to the bed without any partition. Black mould grew on poorly ventilated cell walls and prisoners had been forced to line walls with cardboard to keep warm.

Easy read summary
(PDF, 651 KB)
Population statistics
(PDF, 83 KB)

Action plan

Mitie Care and Custody short-term holding facilities

What we found

STHFs, designed and equipped to hold people for just a few hours, held over a quarter of detainees for more than 12 hours and nearly 600 people, including six children, for more than 24 hours over the previous six months. Detainees were not allowed access to their prescribed medication and telephone contact was limited. Not all Border Force staff who had contact with children had enhanced DBS checks and there were startling inconsistences in safeguarding data provided by Border Force. For the most part, Care and Custody staff were supportive to detainees.

Points to note:  The Home Office urgently needs to address the situation at Luton. The airport was unable to cope with the demands placed on it and we were particularly concerned to find that children were placed in crowded holding rooms with unrelated adults.

Business Plan 2024-25

I am delighted that my role as Chief Inspector of Prisons has been extended for another three years, allowing me to continue to lead my outstanding team to scrutinise independently the conditions for and treatment of detainees.

Our key priorities for 2024–25 are detailed in this business plan and will help the Inspectorate to continue to drive improvements in outcomes for detainees.

Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons

Improving behaviour in prisons: A thematic review

Prisons in England and Wales are almost full, with men and women serving increasingly long sentences often in overcrowded and squalid conditions. Reoffending rates remain high, and levels of assaults and self-harm are rising. Drugs too are an increasing problem in many jails, despite the use of technology designed to prevent their incursion.

We hope that our report inspires prison leaders to look for what is achievable within their own establishment. But there is no magic wand that can remove the pressure of rising populations, failing infrastructure and a dearth of experienced staff, and we have been calling for some time now for a serious conversation about who we send to prison, for how long and what we want to happen during their time in custody to reduce future victims of crime.