HM Inspectorate of Prisons, one of the most active oversight bodies for prisons in England and Wales, has published its latest annual report. Chief Inspector, Peter Clarke, acknowledged that it had been a difficult year for the Prison Service and emphasised the importance of the role of oversight in bringing public awareness to the realities of prison life and prison conditions.
The use of the newly established Urgent Notification protocol was issued in the case of three prisons - HMPs Exeter, Bedford, and Birmingham - with inspection teams expressing serious concerns regarding the conditions present in each. The Urgent Notification protocol was introduced at the end of 2017 to allow the Chief Inspector of Prisons to directly alert the Secretary of State for Justice when the performance of a prison is deemed to pose a significant concern.
Among the key findings of the annual report are:
- Increased levels of violence were observed in male prisons in over half of the prisons inspected.
- Only a third of adult male prisons inspected were found to have a good or reasonably good standard of purposeful activity available to prisoners. Purposeful activity has been negatively affected by the availability of education and training places, levels of violence, and staff shortages.
- Rehabilitation and release planning capabilities can differ greatly from prison to prison. In some prisons, specialist interventions - for example, those tailored to people convicted of a sexual offence - are not available, which can negatively affect release and reintegration.
- Outcomes for women leaving custody were found to be better than for men leaving custody. Safety, respect, and resettlement were deemed to be reasonably good within female prisons and positive relationships were reported between staff and prisoners.
- Women in prison were more vulnerable to self-harm than male prisoners, and levels of self-harm have been observed as increasing. The importance of family contact and trauma-informed approaches are emphasised to provide support to women in custody.
An introduction to the report can be found here.
The report in full is available here.