HMP/YOI Moorland - significant improvements in safety and respect but must address public protection weakness

HMP/YOI Moorland, an adult and young adult men’s resettlement prison near Doncaster, showed “reassuring” improvements since its previous inspection, particularly in reducing violence overall.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that in February 2016 Moorland was uncertain about whether it would be privatised and was suffering very badly from the impact of illicit drugs, particularly new psychoactive substances (NPS).

It was therefore heartening, Mr Clarke said, to see the progress in the past three years. Safety and respect had both gone up from an assessment of ‘not sufficiently good’ to ‘reasonably good’, and purposeful activity, including training and education, remained sufficiently good. However, its work on rehabilitation and resettlement remained ‘not sufficiently good.’

The improvements in safety and respect were a “significant achievement, and testament to a huge amount of hard work by all the leaders and staff at Moorland.

“Levels of violence had not only stabilised, but had actually decreased – clearly bucking the national trend over that period.” However, despite this overall reduction, assaults against staff had doubled and were higher than at similar prisons. Use of force by staff had increased since the last inspection, though levels were now similar to other category C prisons. It was also notable, Mr Clarke added, “that the prevalence of NPS seen at the last inspection has decreased.”

Self-harm was very high and it was disappointing that there were insufficient Listeners – prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to fellow prisoners. Staff-prisoner relationships had improved considerably since 2016 and the prison’s key worker scheme was having a beneficial impact. In-cell telephones were “beneficial in many ways.” The prison was urged, though, to develop a better understanding of survey data suggesting adverse results for black and minority ethnic and disabled prisoners.

The most serious concern for inspectors was the lack of effective public protection measures. Over half the population, 530 men, were assessed as presenting a high risk and about a third were convicted sex offenders.

Mr Clarke said: “It was unacceptable that high risk prisoners approaching release were not receiving the detailed consideration that their potential risk to the public should have demanded.” Inspectors also noted that “arrangements to conduct and review telephone monitoring were chaotic and unmanageable. Child contact restrictions were poorly managed, and there were no assessments to support decisions.” Mr Clarke added: “Moorland has now been a resettlement prison for a number of years, and this whole area of responsibility, not only to the prisoners but also to the public, needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Overall, however, Mr Clarke said:

“This was a good inspection, and although there were some vital areas where improvement was still needed, it was obvious that the findings of the last inspection had been taken seriously… I would urge the leadership and staff at Moorland not to feel defensive about some of the issues raised in this report, which some might interpret as criticism. It is the duty of HM Inspectorate of Prisons to report on what we see, and if there are shortcomings we will point them out, in the spirit of helping to secure further improvements through recommendations. This was a reassuring inspection, and shows what can be achieved even in difficult and testing times, but it would be unduly complacent not to acknowledge that further improvement is necessary and achievable.”

Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Director General of Prisons, said:

“This is a very promising report, and the decrease in violence and use of drugs is a testament to the huge amount of hard work by staff at HMP Moorland. We take the concerns raised around public protection very seriously and the prison is already implementing new plans for managing offenders’ release. We are also rolling out the key worker scheme – which gives each prisoner a dedicated officer for engagement and support and has led to a reduction in attacks on staff elsewhere – which should help the prison to build on the good progress that the inspection team have highlighted.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report, published on 11 June 2019, 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 Moorland opened in 1991, with a remand and young offender institution (YOI) function. It expanded in 1998 and 2011, when it started to receive sex offenders from Yorkshire and Humberside. In September 2002, HMP/YOI Moorland merged with HMP/YOI Hatfield. In July 2011, Moorland and Hatfield were subject to market testing and placed into the ‘South Yorkshire cluster’, which included HMP Lindholme. This became HMP South Yorkshire. In January 2014, HMP/YOI Moorland reverted to a single prison.
  4. Notable features from this inspection: over half the population, 530 prisoners, were assessed as presenting a high risk of harm; about a third of the population were convicted of sexual offences; nearly 20% of the population were foreign nationals; all residential prison officers were now trained and working as key workers; about a third of prison officers had less than one year’s experience in post; overall, levels of violence had reduced since the previous inspection; levels of self-harm were consistently 50% higher than the average for category C prisons.
  5. This unannounced inspection took place between 11 and 21 February 2019.
  6. Please contact John Steele at HM Inspectorate of Prisons on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452, or at john.steele@justice.gov.uk, if you would like more information.