HMP Holme House - Some real strengths, but concerns remain

HMP Holme House had made some solid improvements but needed to go further, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the local jail near Stockton-on-Tees.

Holme House is a large prison holding around 1,150 prisoners. Its last inspection in 2010 was broadly positive although the prison faced significant challenges. This more recent inspection was similar. Findings were largely positive with some significant exceptions, exacerbated by the disruption arising from the implementation of the prison service ‘benchmarking’ exercise.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • levels of violence were low and most prisoners felt safe;
  • the care for prisoners identified as being at risk of suicide and self-harm was good and there were few self-harm incidents;
  • the use of force was low;
  • there had been some improvements in tackling the misuse of drugs but these needed to be sustained;
  • staff-prisoner relationships had improved considerably;
  • mental health services were very good and most officers had been trained in mental health awareness;
  • most prisoners were involved in work, training or education throughout the day and the ‘working prison’ operated in four workshops; and
  • resettlement agencies worked hard to identify and help prisoners to prepare for release, assisting them with housing, job-related, health care and substance misuse issues.

However, inspectors had some concerns:

  • there had been five self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection and what appear to be two further self-inflicted deaths since this inspection;
  • although care for those identified at risk of self-harm was good, there was a danger that poor first night safety arrangements meant that those who needed support might be missed;
  • first night cells were dirty with broken equipment and there was little support from staff or prisoner mentors for those new to prison;
  • many cells were dirty, toilets were inadequately screened and some prisoners shared cells designed for one which were too small;
  • laundry arrangements were chaotic and there were insufficient phones and showers; and
  • the needs of prisoners with protected characteristics were not sufficiently identified or met and staff still refused to push prisoners in wheelchairs.

Nick Hardwick said:  

“Holme House faces significant challenges and has to make a difficult transition to the new working arrangements its benchmarked staffing levels require. Despite these challenges, important progress has been made since the last inspection. Ensuring adequate first night arrangements, that prisoners can deal with their basic personal needs and that all prisoners receive equitable outcomes are key priorities for the future.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

“I’m pleased that the Chief Inspector recognises the progress that has been made at Holme House and the safe and purposeful environment it provides for the prisoners it holds.  The improvements achieved are a credit to the Governor and her staff.
“We are determined to maintain momentum and once established the new working arrangements will ensure that we continue to deliver a good quality regime but at lower cost to the public.
“Action has already been taken to address the concerns about first night care and arrangements are in place to meet the wider recommendations in the report.”

Notes to Editors:

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 unannounced inspection was carried out from 19-30 August 2013.
4. HMP Holme House is a category B local prison for remand and convicted adult male prisoners. It also accommodates a small number of unsentenced young offenders.
5. Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Prisons Press Office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview with Nick Hardwick.