The prison was given an inspection in October 2013, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:
“Erlestoke is a category C prison for adult male prisoners located near Devizes in Wiltshire. Holding up to 488 prisoners, the establishment’s capacity had increased since we last visited, with the addition of some new accommodation. At our last inspection we identified an improving prison. This inspection found those improvements had been sustained and built on, with Erlestoke ensuring reasonably good outcomes across the full range of our healthy prison tests.
Erlestoke fulfilled a national responsibility, delivering a number of important, high intensity offending behaviour programmes. This complemented its declared purpose as an establishment providing rehabilitive services to longer-term prisoners. The prison population profile reflected this function with, for example, nearly half of all prisoners subject to indeterminate sentences and three-quarters aged over 30. This brought advantages in terms of the stability and maturity of the population, but also the recognition that many of those held had been capable of serious offences and that there were significant risks still to be managed.
Erlestoke was, despite those risks, a safe place. There was little violence and most prisoners reported feeling safe. The atmosphere in the prison was mature and calm. Some bullying was evident but the prison was addressing this adequately, with the management of risk and security both proportionate to such challenges. There were good arrangements in place to support those at risk of self-harm and there were few incidents. Initiatives to support isolated prisoners were innovative and the prison was usefully engaging with local authorities to develop adult safeguarding structures.
However, not all prisoners were subject to an adequate risk assessment before co-location, and more needed to be done to improve induction of new arrivals. The segregation environment and regime were poor and arrangements to ensure accountability in segregation and reintegration of prisoners following segregation also required improvement. There was a vigorous approach to supply reduction and mandatory drug testing suggested that illicit drug usage was being tackled, despite nearly half of prisoners still thinking it was easy to get drugs in the prison.
The quality of respect at Erlestoke was good. Accommodation standards varied, however, with newer facilities impressive but older units more rundown. Cleanliness was satisfactory and the external grounds were very good, contributing to a calming atmosphere. Relationships between staff and prisoners were a key strength of the prison, with engagement both respectful and purposeful.
Work to promote equality was generally good but negative perceptions from minority groups needed further scrutiny and action. Prisoner complaints were dealt with seriously and prisoners reported positively about their experience of health care provision. Prisoners had a good amount of time unlocked and most had access to purposeful activity, although about a tenth were recorded as unemployed and some were underemployed. There was effective development of employability skills and some impressive vocational training; but teaching and achievements in education, and functional skills in particular, were not good enough. Only a third of the population overall were involved in learning.
Prisoners were appreciative of the generally good resettlement provision. However, some aspects of offender and sentence management needed improvement, including better assessment of individual risk and need and more consistent contact from offender supervisors. The range of offending behaviour programmes was impressive but too many indeterminate sentence prisoners could only access them post-tariff. The prison was seeking to improve the use of temporary release to support resettlement work and there was an innovative initiative to help prisoners prepare for the transition to open prison conditions, an important issue for longer-term prisoners.
Overall this is a good report about a well-led and effective prison. Erlestoke is a safe, respectful and purposeful place that is working toward meeting prisoner need. We have identified a number of issues that the prison needs to address but most are well within the grasp of the governor and his staff to put right.
Nick Hardwick March 2014
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”
To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below: