HMP Humber – prison dealing with significant issues including many young prisoners with mental health needs

HMP Humber, a training prison holding 1,000 men, faced major challenges in supporting many among its young population with mental health problems and in maintaining security in its large rural site, prison inspectors found.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said there was “evidence of significant need among the comparatively young population. Many prisoners were serving short sentences and nearly 60% had been at the prison for less than six months. There was no doubt that the prison was managing considerable risks.”

A report on the inspection in November and December 2017 noted that half of prisoners surveyed said they had mental health problems and 11% said they felt suicidal on arrival at the prison. Mr Clarke added that the extent of vulnerability in the population “was arguably reflected in the high levels of self-harm. Five prisoners had sadly taken their own lives since we last inspected, although all but one were before 2017.” There had been 335 self-harm incidents by 115 prisoners in the six months prior to the inspection. Five men were responsible for 80 incidents. Inspectors noted, though, that prisoners at risk of self-harm felt supported by the prison.

While the “healthy prison assessments” by inspectors had changed only marginally since the previous inspection of Humber in 2015, Mr Clarke said: “We found a reasonably stable prison where there seemed to be a new-found and growing confidence about its future.” Despite this optimism, though, Humber – a merger of a former borstal and a more modern jail in east Yorkshire – was still not safe enough, with high levels of victimisation, intimidation and violence, some of it serious, and use of force by staff. “The evidence suggested that much of the violence was underpinned by a pervasive drug culture. Nearly two-thirds of prisoners thought drugs were easy to obtain and 29% claimed to have acquired a drug problem while at the prison,” Mr Clarke said. The rural setting, extended perimeter and geographical extent of the prison “presented real security vulnerabilities and supervisory challenges.”

The prison had several initiatives, some more advanced than others, to combat violence and confront drugs. The report noted that in one initiative prisoners were only allowed photocopies of their post to prevent paper soaked in new psychoactive substances (NPS) from entering the prison. “There had been a reduction in NPS-related incidents after this measure was introduced and it had been a justifiable short-term response to a very serious NPS problem. However, this intrusive measure had caused much anger among prisoners, and needed to remain demonstrably proportionate and effective.” Mr Clarke urged the prison to develop “more joined-up thinking with respect to the ongoing battle against drugs.”

Humber remained a reasonably respectful prison, inspectors found. Staff-prisoner relationships were good, the prison environment was generally decent and most cells were adequate, although too many were overcrowded.  About a quarter of prisoners were sharing cells originally designed for one. Though the prison routine – its regime – was predictable, “a third of prisoners were locked up during the working day, which was very disappointing for a training prison.” Some men could be locked up for 23 hours a day. Support for those being released was generally good.

Mr Clarke said:

“Humber was a prison with significant issues to address. That said, we were confident that the new governor and her team were aware of the gaps and had the capability and confidence to continue their programme of improvement. They needed to sustain the progress of the preceding year and build on what they had achieved. The prison was, in our view, well led and the staff group appeared to us to be committed. There was good reason to be optimistic about what could be achieved at Humber.”

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

“I’m pleased that the Inspectorate has acknowledged the progress made at Humber over the last 12 months. A robust strategy is in place to tackle illicit drug use, including a new specialist Intelligence Unit which will work closely with police colleagues to target drug supplies. Work to support vulnerable prisoners has been strengthened and staff are receiving additional mental health training. The Governor will use the recommendations in the report to drive further improvements over the next 12 months.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report, published on 17 April 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 Humber is a large category C training prison in East Yorkshire holding more than 1,000 adult male prisoners. HMP Humber was formed in June 2013 by the amalgamation of two former prisons, HMPs Everthorpe (originally opened as a borstal in 1958) and Wolds (opened in 1992 as a category B establishment and the first privately run prison in Europe). HMP Humber is now a category C resettlement prison.
  4. This unannounced inspection took place on 21 November and from 4 – 8 December 2017.
  5. Please contact John Steele at HM Inspectorate of Prisons on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787 452, or at, if you would like more information.