HMP Gartree, HMIP Inspection

The last full HMIP inspection was in 2010 and is graded as a 3 by MoJ, (1 being serious concerns and 4 being excellent). The HMIP report said in its introduction

“Gartree is the largest of three dedicated prisons for indeterminate-sentenced prisoners in England and Wales. Its role is to help these prisoners come to terms with their sentence and begin work to reduce their risks. Previous inspections have raised a number of concerns, particularly that the prison lacked a sense of direction and that competition for scarce rehabilitative resources between prisoners sentenced to indeterminate sentences for public  protection (IPP) and ordinary lifers was leaving both populations frustrated. This full announced inspection found an improved and much less tense prison, particularly now that many IPPs had been relocated, but further work was still needed to clarify and develop Gartree’s role.

In contrast to our last visit, the prison was calm and ordered, and prisoners said that they felt safe. This improvement had much to do with having a settled population of life-sentenced prisoners, now that most of those serving IPPs had been moved to other prisons. Systems to support safety were essentially sound: early days in custody were generally well managed; violence reduction arrangements were satisfactory, as was support for those at risk of selfharm; and some innovative work was beginning with prisoners who had particular vulnerabilities. There was little use of force, the segregation unit was well run, and drugs were not a serious issue.

Staff-prisoner relationships were reasonably positive, but the personal officer scheme was underdeveloped. Prisoners felt the food had deteriorated. Efforts were being made to address diversity issues, but perceptions of the prison among various minority groups were poor and needed to be addressed. There was also evidence that not all those with disabilities were being identified and that their needs were, therefore, going unmet. Health care was good and was expected to improve further with the imminent opening of a new health care centre.

There was not enough purposeful activity for all prisoners, which left some spending too long in their cells. Education provision was generally good and most workshops offered structured training, although progression was not always formally recognised. Library and PE facilities were good.

Gartree’s reducing reoffending policy was still not sufficiently focused on the prison’s principal role as a first- and second-stage lifer prison. A clearer vision was required and this needed to be communicated to prisoners, together with information on the type and sequencing of interventions that they could legitimately expect. Offender management arrangements had been extended to lifers and were generally sound. The therapeutic community continued to provide an excellent facility. Few prisoners were released from Gartree, and work along some of the resettlement pathways was adjusted to meet the needs of the population.

Gartree has improved considerably since our last visit. It now has a more settled population of life-sentenced prisoners, and our previous concerns over safety have largely been assuaged. Relationships between staff and prisoners remained generally good, although minority groups had more negative perceptions of the prison. There were some good quality activities, but more were needed. There also continued to be a need to set out a clearer vision of the prison’s specialist role, and communicate this to prisoners so that their expectations can be properly structured. Overall, however, Gartree is to be commended for moving in the right direction.


Nigel Newcomen July 2010

HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons”


.Return to Gartree

To see the full report go to the Ministry of Justice web site


This section contains the reports for Gartree from 2001 until present

Report on an announced inspection of HMP Gartree (10 – 14 May 2010) by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (PDF 0.58mb)

Report on an unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Gartree (28-30 April 2008) by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (PDF 0.29mb)

Report on an announced inspection of HMP Gartree 9-13 May 2005 by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (PDF 0.55mb)

Report on an announced inspection of HM Prison Gartree 2-6 July 2001 (PDF 0.28mb)