HMYOI Brinsford, HMIP Inspections

The prison was given a full inspection in November 2017. In their report the inspectors said:

“HMYOI Brinsford is situated near Wolverhampton and holds 473 men, the vast majority of whom are young adults aged 18 to 21. Around 10% of the men held there are category C prisoners of all ages. In 2013, the prison was inspected and at that time was in urgent need of improvement. In fact, on that occasion we awarded the lowest possible assessment of ‘poor’ in all four of our healthy prison tests. Following that inspection, the prison benefited from new leadership and a very significant injection of resources.

When the prison was next inspected in 2015, an inspector commented that in many ways it resembled a ‘brand new prison’. The inspection assessments in 2015 reflected this investment and were a huge improvement; they included the highest possible assessment of ‘good’ in the area of respect. However, since 2015, in common with the rest of the prison estate, Brinsford had felt the impact of reduced resources, and the improvements proved to be fragile, as the assessments on this occasion showed. Brinsford had been on a difficult journey, but there were grounds for optimism for the future.

So far as safety was concerned, self-harm had increased quite dramatically, and this needed to be understood and addressed. The use of force had also increased, but it was to the credit of the prison that they had managed to buck the broader national trends in violence. Indeed, overall levels of violence had not increased and Brinsford had managed to avoid the enormous increases in violence that have afflicted so much of the prison estate in recent years. However, given the severe increase in self-harm, we had no choice other than to reduce our assessment in the area of safety from ‘reasonably good’ to ‘not sufficiently good’. In order to understand the dreadful increase in self-harm, it is impossible to ignore the potential impact of the regime at Brinsford, which was particularly poor for a population consisting mainly of young adults. For those who were supposedly in full-time employment, five-and-a-half hours out of their cell each day was typical, and was simply not good enough, leaving very little time for access to showers or telephones. For those who were unemployed, an hour out of their cell each day was typical. For the prison to make meaningful progress in many other areas, these unacceptable figures must be improved.

In terms of the area of respect, the gleaming paint and brand new furniture that inspectors saw in 2015 had begun to fade. The lack of new investment , compounded – we were told – by frustration with the facilities management contract, meant that there had been an inevitable decline in living conditions. Despite the problems with the facilities management contract, there were some issues that were in the gift of the prison to rectify, particularly around basic cleanliness.

It was obvious that the current enthusiastic yet realistic leadership at Brinsford was determined to implement successfully the many credible plans that they now had in place. It is to be hoped that their plans will succeed. The improvements we saw in 2015 turned out to have been fragile and built on weak foundations that did not endure. An inspection is inevitably a snapshot, reflecting the treatment and conditions we see at the time. We cannot give credit for future plans that may or may not come to fruition. However, it is perfectly reasonable to recognise that Brinsford had been on a journey of peaks and troughs in performance. The deepest trough was in 2013, and a peak was reached in 2015 when resources had been poured into the prison. There was then a decline, and it is not unreasonable to suggest that if this inspection had taken place a year ago, the situation would have been far worse than we found on this occasion. It is also not unreasonable to hope that if the plans of the current senior leadership come to fruition, the results of the next inspection would be markedly better; but that is speculation. For the moment, Brinsford is a prison that is working hard to bring about some much-needed improvements, which we hope will prove to be more durable than in the past.

 

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
January 2018
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

To read the full report follow the links to the Ministry of Justice web site below

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