HMP Humber – effective COVID-19 action but needs to refocus on rehabilitation and resettlement

Read the report: HMP Humber

HMP Humber, a large training prison in East Yorkshire, was found by inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMI Prisons) to have reacted quickly to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

A reduction in the number of prisoners sharing cells helped control the spread and many of the 925 male prisoners were positive about the steps taken throughout the last seven months to keep them safe. At the time of the HMI Prisons scrutiny visit in October and November 2020, few staff had tested positive and no prisoners were currently positive. Social distancing was very difficult in some parts of the prison, however.

Restrictions to the daily regime during the COVID-19 period meant that around three quarters of prisoners – those not in purposeful activity – spent 22.5 hours a day locked in their cells.

Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “Senior managers had planned and taken some important steps towards recovery. However, they were frustrated at the slow pace of recovery set out by national guidance from HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), which gave little room for local autonomy. In addition, plans for further recovery were in doubt following the start of a second national lockdown in the community.

“For the majority not in an activity, they remained locked in the cell for 22.5 hours a day, and some of those we spoke to clearly described the detrimental impact this was having on their health and well-being.” Inspectors noted that on Fridays, there was no outside exercise. This resulted in long periods (at least 40 hours) between Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning when prisoners were only out of their cells for a shower or cell clean and very short periods to collect meals.

Incidents of violence and self-harm had fallen considerably during the COVID-19 period. The number of times that force had been used against prisoners had also reduced since the end of March. Care for those at risk of self-harm was reasonable though inspectors were surprised to find that the formal Listener scheme – prisoners trained by the Samaritans to support other prisoners – had not been fully functioning since the end of March.

Staff–prisoner interactions were positive and living conditions were decent and clean. Prisoners had good access to essential items, and the regime was, on the whole, reliably delivered. The complaints process was a concern for inspectors, who found some serious complaints that had not been adequately dealt with.

Social visits had restarted but would be suspended again following the imminent further restrictions in the community. Video calling was available, but the uptake was low. In-cell telephones provided a huge benefit for prisoners.

Mr Taylor said: “Before the pandemic and the introduction of the restricted regime, HMP Humber had had a clear focus on progression and rehabilitation. For a prison of this type, where prisoners are eager to progress, the loss of many of the rehabilitative tools was a huge frustration. The delivery of offending behaviour programmes had restarted, albeit only one-to-one, and the Hope unit (a small unit aimed at supporting indeterminate sentenced prisoners in their sentence progression) had continued to provide some important progression work throughout the restricted regime.

“However, contact by prison offender managers with those on their caseload was variable. The quality of resettlement planning was poor, with resettlement plans still being developed with little direct engagement with the prisoner, either face-to-face or by telephone.”

In conclusion, Mr Taylor added:

“Managers, staff and prisoners had responded well to the pandemic some seven months ago and were still working hard to maintain an environment safe from COVID-19. At the time of our visit, it was unclear how the new restrictions in the community would affect the prison’s pathway to recovery, but it is important that the prison delivers on the improvements we identify in this report, particularly in regaining a clear focus on rehabilitation and resettlement.”

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Notes to editors

1. Read the report: HMP Humber. This report was published on 8 December 2020.

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. Read about the development of scrutiny visits (SVs) in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. These are short inspections which, while not as exhaustive as our full inspections, are more in-depth than the short scrutiny visits used in the early months of the pandemic. They include the reintroduction of a prisoner survey.

4. HMP Humber is a large category C training prison in East Yorkshire. It is an amalgamation of the formerly privately run HMP Wolds and the old Everthorpe prison. At the time of the scrutiny visit, the prison held 925 adult male prisoners, which was a slight reduction on the population held before the implementation of the COVID-19 restrictions.

5. On pages 11-13 of the report you can find a summary of key concerns and recommendations, and three examples of notable positive practice identified by inspectors.

6. This scrutiny visit took place between 27 October and 3–4 November 2020.

7. Please contact John Steele at HM Inspectorate of Prisons on 07880 787452, or at john.steele@justice.gov.uk, if you would like more information.