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HMP Gloucester, Improvements Needed

November 21, 2012, 12:05 am

HMP Gloucester had many problems to address, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the local jail.

HMP Gloucester is an old prison with a poor infrastructure, situated in a cramped inner city location. Much needs to be done to raise often basic standards, including investment in the environment and the regime. As a local prison, it receives prisoners on remand, awaiting trial or during the early stage of their sentences. It remains to a great extent a safe place, predicated on the quality of staff-prisoner relationships.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • The environment for vulnerable prisoners was poor, their regime very limited, and there was evidence that they experienced abuse from other prisoners;
  • Segregated prisoners were not continually supervised, though this was mitigated by low numbers and generally brief stays;
  • The accommodation is among the poorest in the prison system, with dingy cells in the oldest part of the prison and ‘night sanitation access to toilets in a newer wing;
  • The quality of the regime was very poor, as was access to association, and prisoners did not have enough time out of their cells;
  • There was not enough for prisoners to do and inspectors found well over half of the population locked up during the working day; and
  • Plans to become a ‘community prison, facilitating the resettlement of local Gloucestershire people made sense, but the project was embryonic and the more immediate needs of resettlement and offender management needed to be addressed.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • The poor environment was mitigated by exceptionally good staff-prisoner relationships;
  • Prisoners said they felt safe and there were relatively few incidents of recorded violence; and
  • The incidence of self-harm was low, despite two tragic self-inflicted deaths since Gloucesters last inspection.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Gloucester was a prison that seemed to have stood still. It was disappointing that issues that we had raised previously had not been addressed with sufficient rigour, but it was encouraging that the new governor was clear about the problems facing the prison and was trying to improve basic standards. The quality of engagement between staff and prisoners was also a significant strength upon which to build. However, Gloucesters issues were fundamental. The conditions in which people were held needed to be improved; prisoners needed to be given something meaningful and purposeful to do, and they needed better help resettling into society.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

“I recognise the concerns outlined in this report, particularly in the areas of resettlement and purposeful activity, but also note the positive aspects that have been highlighted.

“The physical environment at Gloucester clearly presents challenges to the regime but it is encouraging that there is recognition that relationships between staff and prisoners are strong and that it is a fundamentally safe prison with low levels of violence and self-harm.

“As the Chief Inspector highlights, the Governor is already working to improve standards at the prison, and with staff support, will look to address issues that have been raised in the report.”

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