HMP Grendon – an impressive prison working with long-sentenced prisoners

HMP Grendon offered excellent opportunities to the men it held to understand and address their offending behaviour, said Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison in Buckinghamshire.

HMP Grendon holds just over 200 men, all of whom are serving long sentences. All were at the prison to undertake accredited therapy in one of five democratic therapeutic communities (TCs). Grendon is one of only two prisons in England and Wales dedicated specifically to this type of work. TCs provide prisoners with a range of therapy so they can understand and address their offending behaviour and live in a collaborative setting with their peers and staff. Prisoners are given a say in the day-to-day running of the jail, which aims to equip them with greater insight into their own behaviour and instil in them a greater sense of responsibility. This happens within the usual security imperatives of a category B prison. At its last inspection in 2013, inspectors described a safe, decent prison with an excellent focus on therapy but with some improvement needed on the provision of training and education.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most men reported feeling safe and secure and far fewer men than at the last inspection felt victimised by staff;
  • violent incidents remained infrequent, the prison operated without a segregation unit and very few men were required to move to other jails for security or disciplinary reasons;
  • although the physical fabric of the prison was shabby, men showed respect towards their living environment and staff made efforts to ensure they had the wherewithal to live decently;
  • relationships between staff and prisoners and among prisoners and their peers were excellent and underpinned much that was positive about Grendon;
  • therapy was the main purposeful activity and consumed a significant proportion of the day;
  • time out of cell was excellent, a range of activities were offered and work, skills and learning provision had improved; and
  • the whole prison was focused on providing a rehabilitative culture and environment.

Inspectors found, however, that the automated night sanitation system was outdated and presented real challenges.

Peter Clarke said:

“The strong picture we reported at our previous inspection had been enhanced, and outcomes were even better. Nearly all recommendations we made previously had been achieved, or significant progress made in doing so. Many men at the prison recognised the benefits of the opportunities offered and how they would help them live offending-free lives in the future. This was in no small part down to the strong, principled and focused leadership of the prison, which provided more junior staff and prisoners with role models, exemplifying the positive behaviour and thinking expected of them. Not every prison can or needs to be a therapeutic community, but the values, principles and practice seen at Grendon could provide positive lessons and inspiration for other prisons. HM Prison and Probation Service should ensure this example is shared more widely for the benefits of others.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said:

“HMP Grendon continues to provide a safe and supportive environment for men, allowing them to participate in the therapeutic process, which is vital to successful rehabilitation. The positive relationships noted by the Inspectorate are testament to the hard work of the prison’s dedicated staff and the strong leadership of senior management at the prison.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors:

  1. A copy of the full report, published on 14 September 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 Grendon is a category B training prison. It provides group therapy and structured community living in which prisoners are encouraged to have shared responsibility for day-to-day decision-making and problem-solving.
  4. This unannounced inspection took place from 8-18 May 2017.
  5. Please contact John Steele at HM Inspectorate of Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information