HMP Dovegate, HMIP Inspections

 The HMIP carried out an inspection on the main prison in early 2017, and the full report can be found on the links below. The therapeutic community division of the prison is subjected to separate inspection (see below)  In the summary to the main inspection report the inspectors said;

HMP Dovegate is a modern, privately managed institution operated by Serco. Built in 2001, it has a self-contained therapeutic community (TC) and a separate training role for category B prisoners, although it also has a small local prison function for about 130 prisoners. Of 858 men in total held, over three-quarters are serving sentences well in excess of four years. Half are serving upwards of 10 years to life. This inspection concerns only the training and local prison functions as the TC will be inspected separately.

When we last inspected Dovegate in early 2015, we found an establishment that was in managerial transition and was in many respects  struggling to maintain stability and ensure good outcomes for a challenging population of experienced and often violent offenders. At the time we expressed some optimism about the potential for progress and our hope that improvement could be achieved. Unfortunately, that optimism was misplaced and it  would seem the prison has experienced a number of difficult years since.

Our findings at this inspection in many ways mirrored our findings in 2015. A newly appointed director seemed to be getting to grips with the problems the prison faced and improvements were beginning to gain momentum, although it remained early days. Our healthy prison scores reflected this assessment and remained similar to last time and disappointing overall.

Of key concern was the fact that the prison was still not safe enough. New arrivals were well received and helped to settle, but levels of violence remained too high despite some recent improvement over the last year. About a fifth of assaults were also serious in nature so it was little surprise that in our survey about a quarter of prisoners told us they felt unsafe. Encouragingly, the prison seemed to be putting in place meaningful strategies to reduce this problem, with some emergent evidence suggesting they were beginning to be effective.

There had been one self-inflicted death since our last  inspection and self-harm in general was high.  Again, the prison’s response to this problem was encouraging, with case management getting better and those at risk telling us they felt supported.

The prison was having to contend with a number of  physical and operational security challenges, and in general was doing so appropriately. The key operational challenges included confronting organised criminality, mobile phones and drugs. Improvements  to the management of intelligence were evident and interventions were beginning to be effective. Despite this, drug testing, the views of prisoners and contraband finds indicated the availability of illicit substances, including brewed alcohol and new psychoactive substances (NPS), was considerable and the prison needed to have a more coordinated response to reducing drug supply. Substance misuse interventions to help  reduce demand were, in contrast, excellent.

Use of force was also high and often required the use of full restraint. Supervision and arrangements to ensure meaningful accountability were weak, with management oversight only recently prioritised.  Use of segregation was similarly high and outcomes were not good enough. We also heard a number of concerns from prisoners about mistreatment in  segregation. These accusations, we were told were being investigated by managers but accountability in general for segregation needed immediate improvement and is the subject of one of our main recommendations.

We found Dovegate to be a generally respectful prison. Living conditions were good for most and most prisoners felt respected by staff, although  supervision needed to be better and there was evidence that some staff struggled to set boundaries on behaviour. The promotion of equality and diversity was limited, with some evidence of more negative perceptions amongst minority groups, but health care provision had improved and was very good. The chaplaincy was also very supportive of the prison’s work and prisoners were generally appreciative of the food.

A significant number of prisoners were engaged in fu ll-time work or training and had a reasonable amount of time out of cell, although we still found over a quarter of prisoners locked up during the working day. There was, however, an overall shortfall of activity places, leaving 160 prisoners unemployed and 133 occupied on a part-time basis. The range of education on offer was good and prisoners had opportunities to progress, but the quality of teaching was inconsistent and  improvements to quality were relatively recent. Those engaged in learning achieved well and behaviour, punctuality and attendance were all good.

Most sentenced prisoners presented a serious risk of harm to others and offender supervisor contact was fairly frequent, with many encounters focused on risk reduction and sentence progression. However, risk management planning for the release of some high-risk prisoners was not good enough. Assessment and planning for resettlement was poor, with not enough done to address basic needs. Work to support family ties was an exception: it had improved and was providing good outcomes.

Overall we remain positive about Dovegate’s future. The prison was well led and staff seemed to be growing in confidence. Meaningful work was being undertaken to address weaknesses and some early successes were evident. We left the prison with a number of recommendations which we trust will assist the process of improvement.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
July 2017
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

and on an earlier report in 2014 on the therapeutic community arm they said

 The Dovegate Therapeutic Community (TC) is a distinct institution holding up to 200 men, contained within the larger HMP Dovegate. We inspect the main prison separately. Dovegate TC had improved since our last visit, although some of the core elements of the therapeutic approach, which were not working as they should have been, needed attention.

Dovegate TC is based on the concept that democratic therapeutic communities, run by both staff and prisoners, should be at the centre of the prison. Prisoners are given a real say in the day-to-day running of the prison and therefore have far more influence over their experience of prison life than at normal prisons. This all happens within the context of the usual security imperatives of a category B prison holding men on indeterminate or long determinate sentences. Men arrive at Dovegate TC needing to be more open about their offending and related institutional behaviour and to being challenged by peers and staff within therapy and community groups. Often they have a history of serious violent offending, poor institutional behaviour and prolific self-harm. It is therefore impressive that Dovegate TC remains a safe prison.

Support on arrival was reasonable, but first night work needed to ensure any anxieties were identified and addressed. Men spent their first few months on the assessment unit and we were concerned that they had little to do that was purposeful; the lack of experienced TC members in the unit was affecting the transfer of some key elements of the TC’s ethos.

Crucial to the safety of the TC was the concept that, in addition to the prison’s own processes, prisoners themselves had responsibility for challenging anti-social behaviour – but this depended on them feeling confident enough to raise concerns in therapy about other prisoners’ behaviour, and this was not fully embedded. For example, prisoners told us that they were concerned about the common use of recreational drugs by a small number of prisoners. This needed to be tackled by stronger testing processes but it was also a concern that this was not being raised or challenged at therapy group meetings. Prisoners told us that they did not feel totally safe or secure in doing so; a fact that needed to be addressed head on and openly with prisoners. Nevertheless, there were very few incidents, and most day-to-day safety problems were being dealt with by the communities rather than by recourse to more formal processes. Better scrutiny and analysis of TC-specific safety data would have provided greater reassurance. There had been only one self-inflicted death since the TC opened and not for several years. Support for the small number of men vulnerable to self-harm was good. Support for men with substance misuse issues was also good.

The living environment and outside areas were very good, as were staff-prisoner relationships, which underpinned much of the work being done at the TC. Personal officers knew about the men they were responsible for supporting, including resettlement and family-related concerns. Equality and diversity work was reasonably well developed and most prisoners reported equitable outcomes. Faith provision was good but responses to complaints were poor, which was surprising given the generally respectful approach we saw elsewhere. Prisoners were negative about health services but we assessed outcomes to be generally good, although there were some areas which required improvement. Arrangements for sharing information between health care and therapists need to be strengthened. Prisoners were negative about the quality of food, but canteen arrangements were much better than we normally see.

Time out of cells was good but problems in reconciling the roll in the main prison were having an adverse impact on the delivery of the regime in the TC. Leadership of learning and skills was developing but some elements of quality improvement needed to be fully embedded. There were sufficient activity places for the population but they were not all being used effectively, and the essential focus of learning skills as complementing therapy needed to be better understood and Introduction supported by all staff. Men on the assessment unit had too little to do. It was very welcome that a new unit (Venture) for men with learning difficulties had been established but more thought needed to be given to how best to meet their education and training needs.

Resettlement support was good. A whole prison approach to resettlement supported the key aim of encouraging men to address their risks of re-offending. Offender management arrangements were well developed, although some elements of the reducing reoffending strategy needed to be sharpened up. Few men were released directly from the TC, with most moving back to mainstream prisons, but support was provided when this happened. There was appropriate support in the reducing reoffending pathways and some good support in maintaining contact with children and families.

The promise of the national integrated personality disorder pathways strategy had not yet been realised, which was a wasted opportunity to ensure men arrived at the prison at the right time, and that there was a structured plan for them to progress after completion of the programme. The strategy needed greater grounding in continuing research to assess its effectiveness in reducing reoffending. It was nevertheless positive that men no longer in therapy for some reason were promptly moved to the main prison, thus avoiding their presence undermining the work being done.

Therapy was the main activity delivered to assist men in addressing their risk of harm and reoffending and while some good work was being done in this regard, and men were very positive about what they were doing, problems in delivering some key aspects of therapy risked undermining the effectiveness of the TC. Staffing profiles were not supporting delivery and far too many sessions were being cancelled. Elements of the therapeutic approach were not being effectively reinforced.

Overall, Dovegate provided a safe, respectful but testing environment for the prisoners it held and the public as a whole benefited from its effective work to reduce the risk that they would reoffend after release. We identified some weaknesses, but we were reassured that management had already identified and begun to address most of them. This provided grounds for optimism that the good work of the prison would not just be continued but be enhanced.

Nick Hardwick                                                               January 2014

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

To read the full report go to the Ministry of Justice website or follow the links below: This section contains the reports for Dovegate from 2003 until present

Return to HMP Dovegate

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