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HM Inspectorate of Prisons report found Hewell Prison is dirty, has high levels of assault and easy access to get drugs
HMP Hewell’s performance has deteriorated sharply since its last inspection, and action must be taken to improve, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced full follow-up inspection of the Worcestershire prison.
HMP Hewell has faced significant challenges in recent years. It was formed in 2008 following the amalgamation of three former prisons on the site, each holding a different category of prisoners and with a different function. At the time, this made it one of the largest prisons in the prison estate.
In 2011, the category C site was closed. There has been a rapid turnover of governors during that period. In 2012, the prison was rocked by the escape of a category A prisoner who was being escorted from the prison. At the time of the inspection, the prison had no clear sense of direction, some staff appeared to lack motivation and in some areas, poor practice had been left to develop unchallenged.
Inspectors were concerned to find that:
* the prison was unacceptably dirty. Some communal areas were filthy even after they had been ‘cleaned’ by wing cleaners, and waste was thrown out of cells into the exercise yards below, which went unchallenged;
* there were high levels of assaults, reflecting in part poor supervision and an unwillingness of some staff to challenge poor behaviour;
* 35% of prisoners on the closed side and 42% on the open side said it was easy to get drugs in the prison, and 17% and 36% said it was easy to get alcohol, all much higher than inspectors see in comparable prisons;
* managers often had poor quality information to identify areas of concern and address performance. Data about prisoner-on-prisoner violence and self-harm were particularly poor;
* more than half the prisoners were locked in their cells during the working part of the day; and
* allocation to activities was inconsistent, and provision for vulnerable prisoners and remand prisoners who wanted to work was particularly poor.
However, inspectors were pleased to find that:
* prisoners were generally positive about relations with staff, which were usually polite, although inspectors witnessed some poor interactions;
* use of force, disciplinary processes and the segregation unit were generally well managed;
* the quality and outcomes of learning, skills and work activities were good, with imaginative and effective provision, although too few prisoners on the closed site were able to benefit;
* there was a comprehensive resettlement strategy that underpinned work to reduce the likelihood that prisoners would reoffend and to provide practical resettlement help;
* the prison and voluntary sector providers offered a range of services to ensure prisoners had somewhere to live, work and training opportunities, money advice and help to tackle health and substance misuse issues after release; and
* there was some excellent and innovative restorative justice work and support for veterans.
Nick Hardwick said:''There are significant concerns about HMP Hewell whose performance has deteriorated sharply since our last inspection. Much of the prison provided an unsafe and degrading environment for staff and prisoners alike. The prison now needs support and stability to halt and reverse this slide in performance.
''Some staff at HMP Hewell are doing excellent work; the performance of a minority is unacceptable, and too many of the others are disengaged. Managers at a local and national level need to be very clear that the current level of performance is not acceptable, and ensure that effective and robust action is taken to achieve improvement''
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
''Hewell has been through a significant period of restructuring and change. At the time of the inspection the prison's performance was below acceptable standards although the new Governor was working hard to address the deficiencies. Since the inspection we have strengthened the management team.
Decisive action has been taken to improve both safety and security. The prison is now clean. Hewell will receive the external support necessary to ensure it further improves performance and delivers a safe, secure and decent regime for prisoners.''