Damning reports slams Lindholme Prison as one of worst in country

HMP Lindholme.
HMP Lindholme.
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HMP Lindholme requires urgent improvements after being slammed in a damning report as one of the worst in the country.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the South Yorkshire training prison, said outcomes for prisoners across the prison as a whole were not good enough in too many areas - and the side for low risk category D prisoners was the worst establishment inspectors had seen in many years.

HMP Lindholme forms part of the ‘South Yorkshire cluster’ with HMP Moorland and HMP Hatfield and is a category C prison with a Category D wing that in total holds about 1000 adult men.

The category D side, ‘I wing’, had been used as an immigration removal centre (IRC) but this closed in January 2012 and the facility had been passed back for use by the Prison Service.

In November 2012 it was announced that all prisons in the South Yorkshire cluster would be moving into the private sector.

At the time of the inspection, the uncertainty this created added to the difficulty in running the prison. However, these difficulties do not excuse the very poor findings of the inspection.

The category D side, separate from the main prison, should have provided an environment in which low-risk prisoners were prepared for release with purposeful activity and rehabilitation work.

It appears that the funding had been lost when the wing stopped being used as an IRC and had not been replaced.

The wing had been forgotten and neglected. The inspectorate’s concerns about the category D side were brought to the attention of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) immediately after the inspection and the wing was closed shortly afterwards and remains so.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

* Reception, first night and induction arrangements on the category D side were perfunctory and there was too little contact between staff and prisoners;

* Prisoners on the wing were frightened, with 28% saying they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection;

* Drugs and alcohol were widely available;

* The most basic services were not provided on the wing, with no access to Listeners or work on diversity and equality and inadequate chaplaincy services

* There was no work or education available apart from a few domestic duties;

* It was difficult for prisoners to see a doctor if they were unwell;

* There was very little done to address prisoners’ offending behaviour or give them practical help to resettle after release.

There were also significant problems in other parts of the prison. Inspectors were concerned to find that:

* Procedures for supporting prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm were poor;

* Little support was available for prisoners who were vulnerable and being victimised or bullied by other prisoners;

* Drugs and alcohol were easily available here too, and action to address this was poorly co-ordinated;

* Prisoners from black and minority ethnic groups reported more negatively than white prisoners, there was little help for foreign national prisoners and the needs of prisoners were disabilities were not identified or met;

* Prisoners did not have confidence in formal processes for resolving problems;

* Offender management was under-resourced and practical resettlement services were very stretched; and

* Prisoners who needed to transfer to HMP Moorland to undertake offending behaviour programmes were often unwilling to transfer as they were anxious about where they would be accommodated or whether they would have a job when they returned.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

* The quality of the accommodation was reasonable and relationships between staff and prisoners, although mixed, were better than on the category D side;

* For those in work, education or training, outcomes were good, the quality of training and teaching was good and there was good leadership and management;

* Some vocational training, such as the construction workshop and bakery, was outstanding;

* Health care was reasonably good; and

* Resettlement work on employment and substance misuse issues was good.

Nick Hardwick said: “HMP Lindholme is a cause for real concern. The closure of the D side has reduced the immediate risks but legitimate prisoner grievances, the lack of activity, mixed staff-prisoner relationships and indications of some religious tensions, combined with the ready availability of drugs and alcohol, are an unhealthy mix.

“The uncertainty created by the prison’s move to the private sector cannot be allowed to delay the urgent improvements that are required.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said: “I accept that performance at Lindholme fell below an acceptable level in the period prior to this inspection.

“The I wing was converted from an Immigration Removal Centre to a category D unit holding 80 adult prisoners too quickly with insufficient planning.

“We got this wrong and will learn lessons so it does not happen again. The wing is now closed and will not reopen without a full and proper regime in place.

“The Governor has already taken action to address the main weaknesses identified in the rest of the prison. She will be provided with the support necessary to deliver the rapid and sustained improvement required.”