HMP Huntercombe - doing well in its new role

HMP Huntercombe had managed its transition to a foreign national prison well, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an announced inspection of the jail in Oxfordshire.

HMP Huntercombe had seen several changes of role and, in 2012, was designated a facility for holding convicted foreign national prisoners. At the time of its inspection, only a handful of UK nationals remained at the prison. Despite experiencing change and transition, some rapid, Huntercombe was a good institution. A key strength of the establishment was the quality of purposeful activity.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most prisoners felt safe and other indicators supported that perception;
  • although self-harm had risen slightly, prisoners were well supported;
  • use of force was generally low and security procedures were proportionate;
  • prisoners benefited from a good amount of time out of their cells and there was sufficient activity for the vast majority;
  • virtually all education, vocational training and work were accredited and the breadth and quality of what was on offer was very good;
  • the achievement of accreditations and qualifications by learners was outstanding;
  • the prison had begun to assess the resettlement needs of its new population and a reducing reoffending strategy was developing;
  • work to support resettlement and reintegration was generally good; and
  • as is often the case with a foreign national population, more could have been done to meet the needs of those due to be deported, but Huntercombe had a more developed approach to reducing risk and resettling foreign nationals than other similar prisons.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • segregation was overused and there was insufficient accountability for the use of special accommodation; and
  • although staff-prisoner relationships were reasonable, some prisoners reported some insensitivity to cultural differences and some perceived an element of victimisation from staff.

Nick Hardwick said:
‘Huntercombe is an example of a prison that has not been overwhelmed by change. It has embraced the challenge, exploited its strengths and planned effectively where it needed to develop new services. There were gaps, some significant, and some catch-up was required, but overall the prison was doing well in adapting to its new role.’

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
‘This is a positive report that recognises the good work of the Governor and staff during a period of change at Huntercombe.

‘I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the quality of purposeful activity and the outstanding achievements in prisoner learning.

‘The prison will continue to build on this and work to address the concerns raised in the report.’

Notes to editors:

  1. View the report (604.43 kB).
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. This announced inspection was carried out from 7-11 January 2013.
  4. HMP Huntercombe is a category C foreign national prison.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons Press Office on 0207 035 2123 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information.