HMP/YOI Feltham - significant improvements, but still major concerns

Progress had been made at HMP/YOI Feltham but the establishment still struggled to manage the behaviour of the younger boys in a safe and secure way, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. He repeated his call for an independent expert review of behaviour management of children in custody. Today he published two reports of announced inspections of the young offender institution in West London.

HMP/YOI Feltham is divided into two parts. Feltham A holds up to 240 boys aged 15 to 18 and Feltham B holds over 400 young adults aged 18 to 21. They are managed as a whole but operate separately. Both were inspected.

  • Progress had been greatest at Feltham B and while there was also progress at Feltham A, some outcomes had deteriorated. Despite staff shortages, staff in Feltham A mostly worked in a calm, patient and sometimes courageous way to deal with very challenging and sometimes violent behaviour by some very troubled boys. However the number of fights and assaults remained high and the unpredictable and reckless nature of some violence was very concerning. Staff tried to maintain an effective balance between care and control but some boys in Feltham A were kept isolated for far too long.

Inspectors were pleased to find, at Feltham A, that:

  • reception, first night and induction arrangements were generally swift and effective and most boys reported feeling safe on their first night;
  • Feltham’s approach to safeguarding was thorough and staff generally understood their responsibilities in respect of child protection and worked well with the local authority;
  • the institution had gone to considerable lengths to address violence and bullying, with comprehensive strategies;
  • the number of boys segregated had reduced and their length of stay in separation had similarly reduced;
  • living conditions had improved and staff remained calm and constructive and weren’t thrown by challenging behaviour; and
  • public protection work was sound and the resettlement needs of looked after children were attended to.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • behaviour management arrangements were overly complex, leading to confusion that was in danger of undermining effectiveness;
  • although the number of fights and assaults had reduced since the last inspection, the violence still remained too high and there had been 79 assaults on staff in the preceding six months;
  • a significant amount of the conflict was gang-related and a quarter of the population were being managed on either restricted regimes or ‘keep apart’ lists which, although unavoidable, risked undermining relationships, stability and normal routines;
  • although the number of self-harm incidents had reduced, too many boys in crisis were left locked up for too long with not enough to do;
  • most boys had limited time unlocked but for a minority, it could be as little as an hour a day and this amounted to solitary confinement;
  • attendance at activities was too low and far fewer training hours were delivered then planned, although the range of courses on offer had increased; and
  • securing accommodation and employment, education and training placements on release continued to be difficult.

After Feltham B’s last inspection in March 2013, inspectors called for a radical rethink of its role. The prison and National Offender Management Service (NOMS) responded positively and took the decision that young adults who were remanded or serving very short sentences should no longer be held there. Feltham B is more stable as a result and outcomes are much better for young men serving longer sentences who continue to be held there. Managers and staff deserve credit for the work they have done. Although Feltham B still faces significant challenges, particularly a high level of staff vacancies, it has improved significantly in almost every area.

Inspectors were pleased to find at Feltham B that:

  • Feltham B was now much safer, with considerably reduced levels of violence which were now comparable with similar establishments;
  • at the previous inspection, inspectors were extremely concerned about the unprecedented frequency with which batons were drawn and/or used (108 times in 12 months). This inspection found they had been used just six times in six months; and
  • there was good support for prisoners with a range of mental health problems and excellent mental health awareness training for staff.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • a small number of uniformed staff were still dismissive and this undermined the work of their colleagues;
  • although some aspects of learning and skills were good, there were not enough activity places to meet the needs of the population; and
  • a backlog of assessments which identified what was needed to address prisoners’ behaviour and manage their risks was obstructing progress and needed to be addressed.

Nick Hardwick said:

“The welcome reduction in the number of boys in custody means that those who remain are a more concentrated mix of very troubled boys who sometimes display very challenging and violent behaviour. As at other YOIs for this age group, staff in Feltham A still struggled to manage this behaviour in a safe and secure way. Staff need more help to do this and I repeat my call for the Youth Justice Board to initiate an independent expert review of its policies and resources for managing behaviour, reducing bullying and supporting victims across all YOIs.”

“The report of our last inspection of Feltham B stated it was one of the most concerning we had recently published. In contrast, this report describes much greater progress than we have recently seen elsewhere. This is, in part, a consequence of strategic decisions about Feltham’s role but it is also largely due to the skilled and determined work of managers and staff. There is still much to do and the management of young adults in other parts of the prison estate is still a major concern. In addressing these wider issues, much can be learnt from Feltham’s decline and subsequent improvement.”

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

“As this report makes clear the challenge faced by the Governor and staff at Feltham should not be underestimated. Many of the young people in their care have strong gang affiliations and a history of violence. Managing their behaviour and supporting them to change and turn their lives around is a difficult and complex task. In this context the improvements achieved over the last 12 months are particularly impressive and the Governor and his staff deserve huge credit for what has been achieved.

“There is no easy answer to the challenges presented by the young men in Feltham but we are committed to working positively with our partners in the YJB and in the wider community to reduce violence, prevent victims and support effective rehabilitation.

“We will use the recommendations in this report to build on the progress made over the last 12 months.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. Read the report for HMPYOI Feltham A (children and young people).
  2. Read the report for HMP/YOI Feltham B (young adults).
  3. 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.
  4. HMP/YOI Feltham holds young people aged 15 to 18 years old who are on remand or convicted by the courts, and young adults aged 18 to 21 years old who are placed in custody by the courts.
  5. The announced inspection of Feltham A was carried out from 11-15 August 2014. The announced inspection of Feltham B was carried out from 28 July-8 August 2014.
  6. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview.