HMYOI Aylesbury - inadequate work, training and education for prisoners and not safe enough

HMYOI Aylesbury had deteriorated, with particular failings in safety, decency and purposeful activity, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the young offender institution in Buckinghamshire.

HMYOI Aylesbury, a training prison, holds up to 444 young adult men aged 18 to 21 who are serving among the longest sentences for this age group in the country. Over 80% of those held are serving more than four years and 30% are serving more than 10 years to life. The risks the prison manages are significant. At the time of this inspection, debilitating staff shortages required the ongoing deployment of temporary staff from other prisons.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • Aylesbury was not safe enough: levels of violence were high and some incidents were serious;
  • although some useful work was being done to address gang affiliations and to combat violence, much more needed to be done to ensure an evidence-based effective strategy;
  • the long periods of lock-up and inactivity most prisoners experienced caused frustrations that contributed to the likelihood of violence and aggression;
  • many prisoners suspected of involvement in violence were managed through an excessively punitive incentives and privileges scheme which was ineffective;
  • the quality of the environment was mixed and too often inadequate, and the quality of staff-prisoner relationships was similarly mixed, undermined by the numbers of temporary staff;
  • between 30 and 40% of young prisoners were locked up during the working day;
  • the management of learning and skills was weak, many classes and workshops were closed owing to staff shortages; and the quality of teaching needed improvement; and
  • staff shortages were undermining offender management with heavy caseloads, a backlog of risk assessments and some limited sentence planning.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • security was managed adequately and intelligence was managed well, but drug usage was double the target;
  • although the number of prisoners who had self-harmed was high and worse than in similar prisons, arrangements to oversee the monitoring of those in crisis was reasonable and some prisoners spoke highly of the care staff provided;
  • faith provision was very good and the well led Chaplaincy was a strength;
  • public protection work was reasonable and the few prisoners the prison discharged were well supported; and
  • offending behaviour work was impressive with some innovative and encouraging initiatives being introduced.

Nick Hardwick said:

“The population at Aylesbury presents risks but it is reasonably stable. The purpose and function of the prison was clear but the prison was uncertain about how to set about delivering its core functions in a coherent and joined-up way. For example, there was some good work taking place to address violence but this was undermined by poor data, or by a very poor regime that fostered inactivity and indolence. The prison held long-term prisoners and yet many practices were punitive and regressive. Trust was too limited and relationships unpredictable. There was too little to motivate young men, or to encourage their personal investment in their futures while at the prison. Staffing shortages were a chronic weakness but it was hard to see how HMYOI Aylesbury could progress until there was a fundamental improvement in the quality of learning, skills and work offered.”

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

“Staffing shortfalls have had a serious impact on the quality of the regime provided at Aylesbury.

“We are recruiting more staff and have put an action plan in place to address the recommendations made by the Chief Inspector in this report.

“The Governor will receive the support he needs to urgently improve the prison over the coming months.”


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. HMYOI Aylesbury is a young offender institution holding long-term sentenced young adults (aged 18 to 21).
  4. This unannounced inspection was carried out from 1-12 June 2015.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information.