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Reports published 29 April

Reports on inspections of HMP Whatton, court custody facilities in Staffordshire and West Mercia and short-term holding facilities (STHFs) managed by Mitie Care and Custody.

HMP Whatton

Type of inspection: full inspection

Dates of inspection: 15–25 January 2024

Summary of findings:  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.

Read the report: HMP Whatton

Staffordshire and West Mercia court custody

Type of inspection: full unannounced inspection

Dates of inspection: 19 February – 2 March 2024

Summary of findings:  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.

Read the report: Staffordshire and West Mercia courts

Non-residential airport short-term holding facilities (STHFs) managed by Mitie Care and Custody

Type of inspection: full unannounced inspection

Dates of inspection:  15–26 January 2024

Summary of findings:  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.

Read the report: Non-residential airport short-term holding facilities managed by Mitie Care and Custody