Grim situation getting worse says HM Inspectorate of Prisons

Increasing drug use and escalating violence across the prison estate

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Chief Inspectorate of Prisons releases 2015 report

“I have found that the grim situation referred to by Nick Hardwick in his report last year has not improved, and in some key areas it has, if anything, become even worse” says Peter Clarke, Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

The 2015 annual HM Inspectorate of prisons report indeed paints a bleak picture. Peter Clarke’s first report finds escalating violence and deterioration of safety across the prison estate linked to the harm caused by new psychoactive substances (NPS). Mr Clarke describes the impact of these drugs as “unpredictable and extreme”, adding that “their use can be linked to attacks on other prisoners and staff, self-inflicted deaths, serious illness and life-changing self-harm.”

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Peter Clarke, Chief Inspectorate of prisons

The report also noted overcrowding, poor physical environments in ageing prisons, and inadequate staffing, which Mr Clarke found to be underpinning “the strategic threats posed by NPS, violence and the prevalence of mental illness in our prisons.”


Key findings

  • 20,000 assaults, an increase of some 27 per cent over the previous year
  • serious assaults have risen by even more, by 31 per cent, up to nearly 3,000.
  • Over 32,000 incidents of self-harm, an increase of 25 per cent
  • 100 self inflicted deaths between April 2015 and March 2016 marks a 27% increase


Male prisons still unsafe

Outcomes for men in prison have not improved from the previous 12 months. Only eight out of 34 institutions were marked as good for safety.

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High and rising levels of self inflicted deaths and serious self-harm:

“Six prisoners had taken their own lives since the last inspection. Recorded levels of self-harm were high. Prisoners on ACCT procedures felt well cared for but this was not reflected in the documentation, which was poor.” Ranby

Increasing violence and nbew synthetic drugs increasingly a problem

“Around 40 prisoners were self-isolating because they were in fear for their safety, many for debt related to the use of NPS [new psychoactive substances], and with some on open assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) documents.” Rochester


Men spend too much time locked up 

Prisoners, including young adults, spent too much time locked in their cells.

“Unemployed prisoners on the basic level got little more than four and a half hours a week out of cell.” Aylesbury

Insufficient focus on the role of education in prisoner rehabilitation.

“Much of the teaching in education did not challenge the more able prisoners enough or plan individual learning effectively.” Ashfield


Activity and resettlement, the problem areas for women in prison

On the whole outcomes for women were found to be better than for men. However, Holloway continued to struggle to deliver adequate purposeful activity and resettlement at New Hall had deteriorated, the report found.

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It is expected that prisoners should have 10 hours out of their cell each day.

“At Holloway, 38 per cent of women had less than four hours a day out of cell.”

Rehabilitation is most effective where prisoners are in the prison closest to their home before release.

“At New Hall, around one-third of women were not from the local area and, unless they presented unusually high risk, most could not get transferred to the prison closest to their home before release.”


Outcomes for children in prison “not good enough”

Outcomes for children in prison were not described as “not good enough during 2015–16. All Young Offenders Units except one were judged to be not sufficiently safe. Two YOIs have become less safe.

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Poor behaviour management was identified across the estate:


Many boys were subject to restrictions to their regimes following disciplinary procedures and the time taken to administer this prevented some boys from having access to a shower and a telephone call every day. Werrington

High levels of violence were common:

“There had been an increase in the number of boys requiring outside hospital attention, many with head injuries sustained by assailants jumping on their head. Staff assaults had nearly doubled since the last inspection.” Cookham Wood

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