HMP/YOI Drake Hall – safe and respectful women's prison promoting community ethos

Read the report: HMP/YOI Drake Hall

HMP/YOI Drake Hall, a training and resettlement prison in Staffordshire holding 324 adult and young adult women, was found by inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons to have remained a safe and respectful establishment.

Drake Hall, a closed prison, has an open regime within the perimeter fence. This means prisoners are never locked in their rooms and have free access around the site during the day. At night they are only locked in their house blocks, leaving them able to move around their unit. Just outside the main prison there is a fully open facility that accommodates up to 25 prisoners.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the prison, which was last inspected in 2016, remained a safe place to live with hardly any serious violence.

However, half of the prisoners said they had been intimidated, bullied or victimised by others. Some house units were not staffed and inspectors found that the level of staff engagement with the prisoners was too limited at times. Mr Clarke commented: “It did not always provide adequate protection for the more vulnerable or challenge those involved in bullying others. It also meant that prisoners found it more difficult to get simple tasks done.”

The availability of illicit drugs was a key concern for inspectors. Evidence suggested that drugs were too easily available and the prison needed to do more to stem the flow. The proportion of prisoners who said they had developed a drug problem while at Drake Hall had increased since 2016 and was higher than in similar prisons. However, the proportion of self-harm incidents was lower than inspectors have seen in similar prisons and the care provided was good.

Progression opportunities within the prison community stemmed from the use of release on temporary license (ROTL) and Drake Hall far exceeded other closed prisons in the number of ROTL events completed each year. The open unit provided a further incentive to behave well

Living conditions were reasonable overall but Richmond and Plymouth units were World War II-era prefabricated buildings which had been in need of replacement for many years. Mr Clarke said: “It was disappointing that Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) had not committed resources to this despite previous promises to do so.”

Healthcare provision had improved since the 2016 inspection and was now good. The addition of specialist counselling was very good, enabling prisoners to address the impact of trauma on their lives and develop coping skills for the future. Ofsted inspectors considered Drake Hall’s education, skills and work activity as good. There were enough activity places, with good attendance and punctuality.

Offender management and resettlement work remained good overall and was supported by effective community rehabilitation company (CRC) provision. Work to help prisoners maintain contact with children and family members remained positive. Few prisoners were released homeless but there was a lack of monitoring of longer-term outcomes which made it difficult to evidence the effectiveness of this work.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“Drake Hall promoted a community ethos where prisoners lived together, were involved in the running of the prison and were given the responsibility to behave well and determine their own progression.”

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

“The Governor and his staff have achieved something truly impressive at Drake Hall – it is a safe prison where women learn and work, have good relationships with staff, maintain ties with their families and receive specialist counselling treatment. The prison has one of the lowest positive drugs tests in the country but we will continue to do more to help them tackle illicit substances.”

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Notes to editors

1. A copy of the full report, published on 22 May 2020, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.

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. During World War II, Drake Hall provided accommodation for women munitions workers. It became a men’s open prison in the 1960s, but has been a women’s prison since 1974. Most accommodation was rebuilt in 1994–1995. In January 2002, Drake Hall was re-designated from an open prison to a semi-open establishment. In March 2009, it became a closed prison.

4. HM Inspectorate of Prisons assesses women’s prisons against four ‘healthy prison tests’ – safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement. There are four grades – good (4), reasonably good (3), not sufficiently good (2) and poor (1). In 2016, Drake Hall scored 4-3-4-4. In 2020, it scored 4-3-3-4.

5. Notable features from this inspection: prisoners were never locked in their rooms and had good access to the prison grounds throughout the day; in our survey, 62% of prisoners said they had a mental health problem on arrival at the prison; in the previous six months, release on temporary licence had been used over 5,000 times to support a variety of resettlement activities, including contact with children; and the prison had an open unit outside the prison, which accommodated up to 25 prisoners who were all in full-time employment.

6. This unannounced inspection took place between 27 January and 6 February 2020.

7. Please contact John Steele at HM Inspectorate of Prisons on 07880 787452, or at, if you would like more information.