HMP Hewell – improvements in many areas but serious safety concerns remain on closed site

Safety needed to improve on the closed site of HMP Hewell but some notable progress had been made and the open site was generally good, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an announced inspection of the category B local prison and category D open prison in Worcestershire.

HMP Hewell is a complex establishment. Much of the prison is a relatively modern local facility holding over 1000 adult male prisoners and serving courts in the West Midlands. Linked to the main prison, about half a mile away, is an old country house which operates as an open prison holding 200 prisoners. The differences in the purpose and role of both sites led inspectors to assess each facility separately. On the open site, inspectors found a successful prison that, while needing some renovation, was safe and respectful with reasonably good work, training and education opportunities and did reasonably good work to resettle prisoners back into the community. On the closed site, Hewell continued to face many challenges and there were some areas of serious concern, including safety.

At the closed site, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • prisoners are particularly vulnerable on arrival, yet first night procedures were chaotic, staff were overwhelmed and prisoners felt unsafe;
  • the level of violence was far too high and although the prison had begun good work to help reduce it, much was not yet embedded;
  • levels of self-harm had increased, four prisoners had taken their own lives since the last inspection in 2014 and the prison had not yet sufficiently implemented recommendations from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following investigations into these deaths;
  • conditions in the segregation unit were very poor, many cells around the prison were overcrowded and the inpatient facility in health care was very poor; and
  • the availability of drugs remained very high.

However, on the closed site, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • staff-prisoner relationships were reasonably good, and mitigated against some of the difficulties, though staff needed to be more robust in challenging poor behaviour;
  • although too many prisoners were locked in cell during the working day, most had access to some learning and work opportunities and there were enough to occupy all for at least part of the day;
  • learning and skills management was good and teaching much improved;
  • a restorative justice unit had developed where restorative and community principles were very constructively applied; and
  • services to help prisoners resettle back into the community on release were reasonably good, with some impressive joint working with the community rehabilitation company (CRC) and some very effective work on finding accommodation for prisoners and changing their offending behaviour.

On the open site, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there were no safety concerns;
  • cleanliness had improved but the site was still in need of refurbishment and some toilets were in poor condition;
  • as on the closed site, teaching and learning for education and vocational training courses was good;
  • useful partnerships had been developed with training companies, helping prisoners to secure employment;
  • as on the closed site, the management of resettlement had improved and some aspects of offender management were very good;
  • a quarter of those on the open site worked out of the prison each day, after thorough risk assessments; and
  • some good work was being carried out with prisoners to reduce the risk of them reoffending.

Peter Clarke said:

“At the time of the inspection, the deputy governor was in temporary charge and the prison was awaiting the arrival of a new governor. But this uncertainty had not led to lack of leadership; the management team was focused, innovative and committed to tackling the prison’s problems. We found improvements in many areas and examples of good practice. Nevertheless, very big challenges – operationally, managerially and in terms of resources – were still to be addressed and outcomes for too many prisoners on the closed site were very poor.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors:

  1. A copy of the full report, published on 10 January 2017, 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 Hewell covers two sites – a category B local male prison and category D open male prison.
  4. This announced inspection was carried out from 22 August to 9 September 2016.
  5.  Please contact Jane Parsons at HM Inspectorate of Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information.