HMP Sudbury - an open prison failing in its resettlement role

The challenges of managing the population at HMP Sudbury had been underestimated and the prison was failing in some respects, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the open prison in Derbyshire.
HMP Sudbury held 561 adult male category D prisoners at the time of the inspection. A third were coming to the end of life sentences or indeterminate sentences for public protection. Most of the others were serving sentences of four years or more. The central task of the prison was to prepare these men for release by addressing their practical resettlement needs and reducing the risk that they would reoffend. The prison was failing badly in this central task and this impacted on all areas of its work.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the prison had focused its resettlement efforts on providing work experience for prisoners through release on temporary licence (ROTL) but there was little attempt to link the experience that might be obtained through ROTL to jobs that might be available to a prisoner in his home area;
  • following a series of high-profile ROTL failures in other prisons in 2013, procedures for granting ROTL had rightly tightened up and Sudbury was unable to keep up with the extra work this involved;
  • the offender management unit had a low profile within the prison and some offender supervisors lacked adequate training;
  • offender supervisor caseloads were high and some were frustrated by their inability to have meaningful contact with the prisoners for whom they were responsible;
  • public protection arrangements were not robust enough;
  • planning to meet prisoners’ practical resettlement needs was also weak and relied heavily on the work of untrained prisoner orderlies without internet access;
  • more prisoners than in similar prisons said they had not felt safe at some point during their stay and in part, these concerns reflected feelings of insecurity created by very low staffing levels;
  • some prisoners said they feared arbitrary return to closed conditions if, for instance, they made a complaint; and
  • the segregation unit was cold, dirty and poorly ventilated and the justification to segregate and/or transfer in some cases was inadequate.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • in view of some prisoners’ frustration, the prison did well to be a reasonably safe place with few violent incidents and little self-harm;
  • the environment was reasonable for most prisoners and most prisoners said they had a member of staff they could go to for help if they could find them;
  • health care had improved significantly since the last inspection and prescribing practice had been tightened up;
  • prisoners had very good amounts of time out of their cells and there were enough activity places to meet the needs of the population; and
  • the range of vocational training and the quality of education were good.
Nick Hardwick said: 
“Open prisons have an important part to play in the prison estate as a whole and in delivering rehabilitation objectives. The weaknesses we identified at HMP Sudbury reflect the fact that its resources are very stretched and the demands and challenges in managing this population have been underestimated. Some of this requires reconsideration at a national level but this report identifies much that the prison can and should do itself.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“As the Chief Inspector acknowledges we have tightened up temporary release arrangements at all open prisons including Sudbury.  A review of work requirements has been completed and Sudbury will receive additional resources to ensure it is able to effectively manage its central task of preparing prisoners for release, reducing their risk of reoffending and protecting the public.”‬

Notes to Editors:

1. View the report (777 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 unannounced inspection was carried out from 21 October – 1 November 2013.
4. HMP Sudbury is a category D prison for male adults.
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.