The Inspector’s report analyses the positives and the negatives occurring in the previous year by highlighting issues that appear in the 86 individual inspection reports on prisons, police custody suites, immigration removal centres and other custodial establishments published by the Inspectorate throughout the year 2016-2017. This includes analysing places of detention inspection reports and death in custody reports.
All inspections carried out by HM Inspectorate of Prisons contribute to the UK’s international obligations under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
The report highlights some issues of concern from the overarching data compiled and compared to previous reports, such as the rise in violence, and the continuation of practices that the Inspector/Inspectorate perceive to be unacceptable such as the transportation of women and men or children and adults together in escort vans. The report highlights that there is an expectation of a minimum of 10 hours out of cell time for prisoners.
Experience of Men in Prison:
In his report the Inspector of Prisons outlines that there are growing concerns regarding the safety of prisons stating that:
“Safety had declined in 15 prisons inspected with just five prisons showing improvement”. (p 21)
The Inspector noted that there had been an increase in violence at an unacceptable rate, while the rates of self-harm had also risen within the same period. The report focuses on factors impacting on a person’s mental health such as bullying, isolation/segregation and a prisoner’s vulnerability during their early days in prison, and highlights that these are still prevalent within the prisons despite recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman that such practices increase the risk of self-harm.
While the Inspector identified that provisions for those experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems such as depression or anxiety were lacking, such as counselling, he did note that more than half of the prisons were identifying and supporting prisoners with learning difficulties which he states was:
“a marked improvement on previous years”. (p 37)
The Inspector also passes comment on prisoners not being engaged in purposeful activity calling for prisoners to be unlocked for at least 10 hours a day as to engage in meaningful activities. A survey carried out highlighted that only 14% of prisoners surveyed received this level of out of cell time.
Experience of Women in Prison:
Analysis for the report found that while women’s prisons continued to perform better than men’s prisons, women were held further from their homes/families and that the closure of Holloway Prison made prisons more crowded than before.
The report also suggests that women’s prisons performed better in tests to establish the safety and conditions of prisons but that women continued to the transported in escort vans with men, which is unacceptable. 21% of women surveyed received the 10 hours out of cell time per day to engage in purposeful activity.
Experiences of Children in Custody:
Of the four units inspected only the two smaller units were deemed to be reasonably safe. There had also been increasing violence resulting in many boys serving most of their sentence locked up.
In a survey undertaken by the inspectorate 38% of the boys said that they had spent a night in a care and separation (segregation) unit.
The Inspectorate had found that there had been some issues regarding the use of force in Young Offender Institutions (YOI) with some prison officers placing themselves at risk to protect children in their care and others using pain-inducing techniques and strip-searching children under restraint.
Only one YOI (Parc) met the expectation of 10 hours out of cell time as well as allowing all children access to evening association and to eat all their meals communally.