HMYOI Deerbolt – positive findings on safety and respectful treatment but a deterioration in activity and release work

HMYOI Deerbolt – a young offender institution (YOI) and category C adult training prison in County Durham – was found by inspectors to be ‘reasonably good’ in terms of safety and respectful treatment for the 400 young men held there.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said this performance in two of HMI Prisons’ healthy prison tests was a “creditable performance overall” when set against the broader context of prison performance across the country in recent times. Safety and respect had also been assessed as reasonably good in the previous inspection in 2014.

Inspectors were concerned that violence had risen in the prison – in which three-quarters of the young men were under 21 – since 2014, but violence was lower than in similar jails. Mr Clarke said the jail needed to pay more attention to the governance of use of force by staff. A total of 16% of prisoners reported that they had acquired a drug habit in Deerbolt and this, Mr Clarke said, underlined the importance for the jail of understanding and addressing the issue of drugs.

The assessment of purposeful activity had declined from reasonably good in 2014 to not sufficiently good in April 2018. It was disappointing, Mr Clarke said, to find that some 35% of men were locked in their cells during the working day, “which was simply not good enough for a training prison.”

“In addition to this, some 33% told us that they were out of their cells for less than two hours per day which, given the age of the population, was unsatisfactory.” Work to prepare prisoners for release had also declined to ‘not sufficiently good.’

Overall, however, Mr Clarke said:

“There was much that was very positive about HMYOI Deerbolt…The issues that have been identified where some improvement is needed, particularly in those areas where there has been a decline since the last inspection, are actually amenable to management intervention. Much can be done within the establishment, but some matters will require support from regional or national management, and I hope very much that this will be forthcoming.”

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

“As the Chief Inspector makes clear, there is much that is positive about the work being done with young men at Deerbolt. Safety and respect have been prioritised as they are fundamental building blocks for successful rehabilitation but we accept more needs to be done to improve activity levels and release planning. Prisons across the estate will benefit from the £30m investment we are making to improve safety and maintenance, which will include more and better tools to tackle the spread of drugs. Work is already in hand to respond to the recommendations in this report and the Governor will receive support to improve the performance of the prison over the next 12 months.”

– End –

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report, published on 11 September 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. The prison opened in 1973 on the site of a former military camp and was originally a borstal.  Located in the historic market town of Barnard Castle, County Durham, HMYOI Deerbolt has an established history of managing young adult men between the ages of 18 and 21. In January 2018, Deerbolt began taking some adult men up to the age of 24. Deerbolt holds convicted young men from all over England and Wales who have at least six months left to serve.
  4. This unannounced inspection took place between 16 – 27 April 2018.
  5. For more on how HMI Prisons inspects prisons and places of detention, see here.
  6. Please contact John Steele at HM Inspectorate of Prisons on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452, or at, if you would like more information.