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Last March, HMI Prisons and Ofsted published a report into the teaching of reading in prisons. Having previously been a teacher, I was concerned about the low levels of literacy I had seen in our prisons and our report confirmed some of my worst fears. Far too many prisoners were coming into prison unable to […]

Published: 22 March 2023

At every inspection, HMI Prisons assesses the progress of the prison against four areas – safety, respect, purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning – and awards a score: four for good; three for reasonably good; two for not sufficiently good; and one for poor. Purposeful activity has consistently been the worst performing area since […]

Published: 24 January 2023

HMP/YOI Woodhill near Milton Keynes and HMP Swaleside on the Isle of Sheppey are similar-sized men’s prisons that are part of the long-term, high-secure estate. Both house prisoners mainly from London and the South East who are often serving long sentences. Both jails have recently been in the headlines: Woodhill has been forced to close […]

Published: 10 October 2022

It is almost three years since my predecessor Peter Clarke announced an Urgent Notification for HMYOI Feltham A following an unannounced inspection. He pointed to a “dramatic decline” in performance at the YOI and “numerous significant concerns about the treatment and conditions of children” held there. I remember it well because, as it happened, I […]

Published: 16 June 2022

As a former teacher, I often ask prisoners how they got on in school; the answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is often ‘not well’. Many describe having struggled through but survived primary school, only to be expelled in their first two or three years of secondary school. Others never spent much time in education at all, having […]

Published: 12 April 2022

When I first became a head teacher, my school was in a troubled state. Some established staff members had just left, the children were anxious and physical restraint had become the first rather than the last resort. There were many things that needed to be fixed, but I knew that if we did not get […]

Published: 03 March 2022

Recent statistics on violence in jails appear to support the old prison saying that ‘happiness is door shaped’. COVID-19 restrictions meant that most prisoners, apart from a small number who were working, were locked in their cells for 22 or more hours a day. They were only unlocked in small groups that were not allowed […]

Published: 24 January 2022

A prison chaplain recently asked me what I thought were the most important ingredients in creating a successful jail. I offered up a fairly predictable list of the things we see in the best places: effective leadership, a committed staff team, a set of values that pervades the prison, partnership with contracted services such as […]

Published: 30 November 2021

Last week I visited HMP Five Wells, the newly built prison just outside Wellingborough in Northamptonshire. The main building work is now largely complete and it is due to open in February 2022, to be run by G4S. Governors from elsewhere, particularly those who run crumbling Victorian local jails, will envy the new buildings. They […]

Published: 20 September 2021

One of my priorities as the new Chief Inspector was to sharpen the focus in our reports on prison leadership. Assessment of leadership was always a factor in our inspections and was commented on in the chief inspector’s report introduction or in the sections about our healthy prison tests. However, given the importance of leadership […]

Published: 02 August 2021