HMP Lindholme – welcome safety improvements but still too many drugs and too much violence in a jail with a high organised crime population

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has questioned whether HMP Lindholme in South Yorkshire is a suitable place to hold high numbers of prisoners with organised crime connections who are determined to “ply their trade” in jail. The prison has a lengthy perimeter and a severe and intractable drugs problem, with high levels of violence.

Peter Clarke welcomed improvements in the safety of vulnerable prisoners and those who are ‘self-isolating’ because of the violence and intimidation.

However, in a report on an announced inspection in October 2017, Mr Clarke said: “It is certainly not a reflection of any diminution in the amount of violence or the threat posed to the prison by illicit drugs, which remained severe.

“More than two-thirds of prisoners still told us that it was easy or very easy to get hold of drugs, and a shockingly high 27% said they had developed a problem with drugs since being in the prison.

“Clearly, more must be done to keep drugs out of Lindholme. The lengthy perimeter of the prison is difficult to defend. When this is combined with the linkages of so many prisoners to organised crime and their obvious resourcefulness in getting large quantities of drugs into the jail, it means that further progress will be difficult to achieve.”

The first major recommendation by the inspectorate is that Lindholme should develop a comprehensive and effective drug supply reduction strategy. However, Mr Clarke added: “There is a question to be asked as to whether Lindholme is actually a suitable establishment in which to hold its current population given the apparent intractability of the problem.” A fifth of around 1,000 adult male prisoners in Lindhome at the time of the inspection had organised crime connections.

Inspectors noted that HMP Lindholme, a category C prison on an old, 100-acre RAF base near Doncaster, had a “long-term and high-risk population.” Nearly all prisoners are serving sentences of more than four years, and around a quarter are serving more than 10 years. The previous inspection in March 2016 found that safety was significantly compromised by the ready availability of drugs and the consequent debt, bullying and violence. Safety and Lindholme’s work on prisoner resettlement were both assessed as poor, the lowest HMIP assessment. In 2017, both these assessments had been raised one level, to ‘not sufficiently good.’

Inspectors in 2017 found that health care provision at Lindholme was suffering from a chronic lack of GP availability, leading to lengthy delays in getting appointments, and concluded that these health care problems may have played a part in influencing the very large decline in the number of prisoners saying they were treated with respect by staff. Inspectors were surprised that 25% of prisoners were locked in cells during the day, given that Lindholme is classed as a working prison.

More positively, inspectors found some good progress in the prison’s approach to issues of equality and diversity, with strong involvement from the senior leadership, with a scrutiny panel established to review responses to allegations of discrimination. They also noted an “excellent initiative” to buy in staff from a community rehabilitation company (CRC) to support resettlement work.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“It is clear that Lindholme still has a long way to go, but it would be churlish and wrong not to acknowledge the progress that has been made in the short time since the last inspection…Lindholme has faced some very serious challenges, and still does. There is always a high risk from drugs and the violence they generate. The leadership at HMP Lindholme have a number of credible plans, and they will need them to be successful if they are to defeat the organised criminals who are determined to continue to ply their trade while serving their sentences.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, said:

“I’m pleased the Inspector has acknowledged the progress Lindholme has made in the short time since its last inspection, but appreciate there is more to be done. We are working closely with the Police and National Crime Agency to manage and disrupt organised crime gangs and the prison has a coherent strategy to tackle violence and to improve safety. The Governor will use the recommendations in the report to drive continued improvement over the coming months.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report, published on 6 February 2018, 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 Lindholme is located on the site of a former Royal Air Force base, approximately 10 miles north of Doncaster. It was opened as a prison in 1985, and covers approximately 100 acres of land within the perimeter fence.
  4. This announced inspection took place between 2-6 October 2017.
  5. Please contact John Steele at HM Inspectorate of Prisons press office on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452, or at if you would like more information.