HMP Brixton - continues to improve

There have been demonstrable improvements in the way HMP Brixton is equipping and preparing prisoners for release, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an announced inspection of the south London resettlement jail.

For the past two years, HMP Brixton has been making the transition from a local prison to its new role as a category C/D resettlement prison for south London. A few months before the inspection, the prison’s vulnerable prisoner population (mainly sex offenders) were removed and replaced with more mainstream prisoners. This inspection found that the process of change was continuing and inspectors were encouraged by what they saw. Brixton is a difficult prison to run, not least because of its age, location and the limitations of its environment.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • arrangements to admit new prisoners had improved;
  • security was generally applied proportionately, use of force was low, as was the use of segregation;
  • work to promote equality was improving, and health care services were effective;
  • prisoners who worked could be out of their cells for 10 hours a day, which was impressive;
  • the provision of learning and skills activity was improving and there were sufficient activity places for the whole population;
  • there was a good focus on employability and some impressive vocational training, as well as resettlement placements available;
  • the use of release on temporary licence (ROTL) was well managed, although too many prisoners were sent to Brixton with too little time left of their sentence to benefit from ROTL; and
  • work to support resettlement was generally very good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • prisoner perceptions about their safety had not improved and there was evidence of more violence which coincided with the recent population changes;
  • work to address and reduce violence was improving, but inspectors were concerned about the lack of confidence prisoners had in reporting victimisation and intimidation;
  • incidents of self-harm had increased over the last year, but remained lower than comparable prisons, and tragically the prison had experienced two self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection in 2013;
  • the environment remained aged and cramped and although reasonably clean, many cells were grim and overcrowded;
  • a quarter of prisoners were locked up during the working day and the prison closed down very early in the evening; and
  • offender management was struggling to keep pace with recent changes and many prisoners had neither an up-to-date assessment nor sentence plan.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Largely as a response to the poor conditions we have seen at Brixton, this inspectorate called for a rethink of this establishment’s role and purpose. That rethink is taking place and Brixton is developing a new sense of purpose. Brixton provides a unique opportunity for London prisoners to resettle into their local community. This resettlement function makes sense and it is clear that a huge amount of work has been done to deliver this new vision, but Brixton needs help to ensure it receives prisoners who are able to take advantage of the opportunities it offers. The prison is not yet transformed and there are features and aspects of the operation that jar with this new direction. However, Brixton is a better place; it is reasonably safe and settled and there have been demonstrable improvements in the way it is equipping and preparing prisoners for release.”

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

“Since the last inspection, staff at Brixton have worked hard to drive improvements across all aspects of the regime as they adjust to the prison’s new role.

“They deserve real credit for the progress they have made, as well as their valuable work to rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them for release.

“There is still more to do, but I am confident that the prison will continue to successfully develop its resettlement role.”

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. HMP Brixton is a category C and D resettlement prison.
  4. This announced inspection was carried out from 3-7 November 2014.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons in HM Inspectorate of Prisons Press Office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview.