HMP Featherstone - offering excellent work, training and education opportunities for prisoners

HMP Featherstone was a very effective training prison but needed to strengthen some of its safety processes, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons as he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the jail near Wolverhampton.

The quality and quantity of work and education on offer at HMP Featherstone was much better than inspectors usually see. The purposeful atmosphere this engendered, together with a good environment and generally good staff-prisoner relationships, mitigated the worst effects of some weak safety processes. Offender management work also needed improvement and, despite some good practical support, the prison needed to do more to prepare men for release and reduce the risk that they would reoffend.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most prisoners had more than 10 hours out of their cell each week day and most used this time productively in a good range of training and education;
  • prisoners obtained useful qualifications that would be valued by future employers;
  • attendance and punctuality was good and peer mentors were used to support prisoners who needed extra help;
  • commercial partners spoke positively about their relationship with the prison and the quality of the work;
  • support for men with drug and alcohol problems was good;
  • the environment was decent and staff-prisoner relationships were generally positive; and
  • health care was satisfactory and there was a high level of awareness among uniformed staff of mental health issues.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • there was clearly a problem of debt in the prison, in part linked to the availability of drugs and tradable medicines, which the prison was aware of and addressing;
  • the issue of debt was partly responsible for many of the violent incidents and much of the bullying, although these were mainly low level;
  • support for victims was inadequate and they accounted for a significant proportion of those who self-harmed;
  • recording of discipline processes was sloppy, use of force was under-recorded and there was poor use of data across the range of discipline processes that would have helped understand trend; and
  • the offender management unit was isolated and under resourced and there was a large backlog of risk assessments.

Nick Hardwick said:

“HMP Featherstone was a very positive establishment. It did very well what other prisons sometimes find difficult – the more intangible qualities of culture, relationships and leadership. Most men at Featherstone could expect to make good progress in a decent environment and the excellent activity on offer would prepare them well for future employment. However, the prison struggled with what should have been an easier task – putting in place the processes and systems needed to underpin its good work and ensure there were no gaps through which more vulnerable men, or those who might pose a higher risk, might fall.”

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

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has recognised Featherstone as a very effective training prison and the Governor and her staff should be commended for their hard work to achieve this.

“The prison will continue to build on this good work as they address the recommendations made in this report.”

Notes to Editors:

1. Read the report

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 14-25 October 2013.

4. HMP Featherstone is a male category C training prison.

5. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview.