Chief Inspector’s Annual Report Shows Decline in Performance Male Prisons
Report shows a significant number of prisons are operating with staffing levels below what is necessary and much more needs to be done to address the decline in prison safety.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick published his annual report on July 14 2015. To see the full report go to

Chief Inspector Hardwick stated that ‘three broad themes’ emerge from the report…

“ Three broad themes emerge from this report and review – not just of the last year but of the five years since I was appointed. First, the increased vulnerability of those held across the range of establishments we inspect and the challenge establishments have in meeting these individuals’ needs. Too often locking someone up out of sight provides a short term solution, but fails to provide the long term answers more effective multi-agency community solutions would provide. Second, there is a real need to match the demand for custodial services to the resources available. Detention is one of the public services where demand can be managed. Alternatives to the use of custody may be unpalatable but so, no doubt, are the other public expenditure choices that government has to make. Third, the case for the independent inspection of custody remains as strong as ever and that independence needs to be preserved. I hope this report will assist Ministers and Parliament with the decisions they now have to make.”

Several prisons across England and Wales were reported as having poor conditions for detainees:

Some HMCTS managers had little idea of the unsatisfactory conditions in some of their courthouses. Physical conditions in court custody in Kent were the worst we have seen, with Surrey and Sussex being little better. In Kent, most cells were in a deplorable condition, filthy and covered in graffiti. Much of the graffiti was racist, pornographic and misogynist and had been there for years. There had been no discernable attempt to remove a swastika and ‘Muslim scum’ graffiti from a cell at Folkestone. Some toilets were dirty and unhygienic, and many lacked privacy. Despite repeated recommendations, no court cells had any blankets, warm clothing or mattresses to offer elderly, disabled or pregnant detainees who spent a long time (up to 10 hours or more) on hard benches, sometimes in unheated cells.

Most residential accommodation was squalid, a large number of windows were in a shocking condition and we considered many cells to be unfit for occupation… More prisoners than at similar establishments felt unsafe. (Brinsford)

Ex-service personnel feel less safe but have better relationships with staff:

In our survey, more prisoners who said they had previously been in the armed services than those who had not said they had a disability (36% compared with 21%) and were currently on medication (60% compared with 48%), and for more than half, this was their first time in prison (53% compared with 35%). They were more likely to report having had problems when they arrived in prison, more likely to have felt unsafe and more said they were victimised by other prisoners than non-ex-service personnel. However, ex-service personnel reported better relationships with staff than non-ex-service personnel. Support services for ex-service personnel in prison varied widely and often depended on which organisations operated in the area and whether there were any officers prepared to develop and coordinate these links. Where there was active support from external organisations, there were some very effective services to provide additional resettlement support to meet the needs of ex-service personnel. We took part in a national meeting of veteran-specific service providers, which acknowledged the disparity of provision across prisons.

The number of young adult men in custody continues to fall but those who remain in custody are some of the most vulnerable:

NOMS data showed that the number of young adult men (aged between 18 and 20) held in custody at 31 December 2014 was 5,030, continuing the downward trend since June 2004. This continued reduction of young adults in custody was welcome. However, as we reported in 2013–14, those who remained in custody were some of the most vulnerable, troubled young adults with complex needs. In recent years there has been a move to holding young adults in adult prisons and this has been a particular feature of prisons in London and the South East, following the decision to no longer hold remanded young adults in Feltham YOI. These changes have now been put on hold pending the findings and recommendations of the independent review into self-inflicted deaths in custody of young adult men aged 18 to 24 led by Lord Harris (see p.35).

In prisons that had integrated adults and young adults, outcomes for the young adults were generally worse, and many prisons continued to have no strategy to manage this distinct group, whose lack of maturity was sometimes manifest in poor behaviour and thinking skills. The numbers of young adults now integrated with adults had increased, but levels of violence, use of force and segregation had grown among young adults as there was often no strategy to manage this distinct group.

Some prisons did not analyse data on violence by age and so were not focused on the high levels attributed to younger prisoners. Staff in integrated prisons had generally not been trained in managing this group and often did not take their levels of maturity into account when addressing the reasons for the increase in violence. However, prisoners in dedicated young adult prisons said they felt even less safe than in prisons where they were integrated with adults, and we also found that the dedicated prisons were generally less safe than integrated prisons with high levels of violence.

Some further extracts from the annual report:

Most custody staff were friendly towards detainees on arrival at court but had very little interaction with them thereafter. However, we also observed some custody staff using derogatory language about detainees, including in Kent a custody officer describing a transgender detainee as ‘it’ and another officer referring to a person with mental health problems as a ‘nutter’.

There were too many section 136 detainees held in custody. Police officers were careful not to leave vulnerable people on the street and sometimes brought people into custody who committed low-level or non-notifiable offences and who were mentally unwell. While this was done with the best of intentions, it had the potential outcome of criminalising people with mental health concerns and concealed overall demand for mental health services. (Durham)

Management of written medical records was unacceptable. HCPs told us of a variety of means of storing written medical records, some of which involved taking them home, and we observed two ring binders containing almost a year of medical records on the floor of the toilet attached to the medical room at Doncaster. (South Yorkshire)








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