HMP Onley – safety had declined

Standards had declined at HMP Onley and it had become an unsafe prison, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the category C prison near Rugby.

HMP Onley held around 740 prisoners at the time of its inspection. Since its previous inspection in 2012, it had been designated as a resettlement prison for Greater London, which had had a significant impact on the prison in terms of the changed nature of its population. This more recent inspection found that there had been a dramatic decline in standards since 2012, particularly in safety, where outcomes for prisoners were now poor, having been judged good in 2012. The number of assaults had nearly tripled and was far higher than at similar prisons. Despite the rise in violence, not enough had been done to analyse the root causes.

Inspectors were also concerned to find that:

  • there was no comprehensive violence reduction or drug reduction strategy;
  • the existing drug reduction strategy did not specifically address the problem of new psychoactive substances (NPS), which were having a significant impact in the prison;
  • a massive backlog of security-related information reports undermined a proactive approach to violence;
  • staff shortages had contributed to a restricted regime, which had a direct impact on the ability of prisoners to attend activities, learning and training;
  • offender supervisors were often moved to other duties and therefore had limited contact with prisoners; and
  • most prisoners did not have an up-to-date risk assessment (OASys), although that was largely a problem with London prisons transferring in prisoners without the assessments having been completed.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • staff-prisoner relationships were reasonably good, as were health services;
  • the range and quality of education and training opportunities at the prison were good; and
  • support for prisoners to resettle back into the community was mostly good, especially the good advice and assistance provided to address family relationships.

Peter Clarke said:

“The challenge for the management team at Onley is to find ways to halt the decline, and there are clear lessons to be learned from what the inspection revealed about the reactive approach that had been taken to too many issues. There was a clear need for the leadership of the prison to get a grip of the problems facing them and move away from merely reacting to events. Of course staff shortages have had an impact on many areas of service delivery, but they did not offer an excuse for a decline in standards of the severity that we found. There was actually much good work being done at Onley.”

Michael Spurr, CEO of the National Offender Management Service, said:

“As the Chief Inspector points out, there is much good work being done at Onley but the deterioration in safety is unacceptable and reversing this is the Governor’s top priority.

“Additional staff are being recruited to meet the commitments set out in the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper and the Governor will use these additional resources to drive forward the improvements required.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors:

  1. A copy of the full report can be found here.
  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 Onley is a category C male training and resettlement prison.
  4. This unannounced inspection was carried out from 25 July-5 August 2016.
  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.