The prison was subjected to an inspection in November 2015, and in his report the inspector said:
Highpoint is a large category C training prison located in rural Suffolk. The prison is an old RAF station, using many of the original buildings, and holds 1,300 men on two extensive and adjacent (North and South) sites. In addition to its training function, Highpoint has also been designated a resettlement prison serving the London and Essex regions. We last inspected Highpoint in 2012, when we described a complicated prison that was, in some ways, a microcosm of the issues in the prison system as a whole, but which was delivering some reasonable outcomes. This inspection found a similar picture. Despite some very serious challenges and contradictory evidence sources, we found a prison that was working hard to sustain generally reasonable outcomes.
In our survey many prisoners raised safety concerns and levels of violence were higher than we often see. The large extended site made supervision a challenge and there was clear evidence that new psychoactive substances (NPS), ‘hooch’ and the associated issues of debt, bullying and intimidation were serious concerns. This, however, was not the whole picture. The prison was well ordered and benefited from the confidence that comes through visible leadership. The reception of new prisoners needed some improvement but was reasonable. There were a number of initiatives in place to better understand and challenge violence and illicit drug supply. Prison staff were in control and intelligence was managed well. Prisoners told us that poor behaviour was dealt with robustly and there was a sense that enough prisoners felt incentivised, prepared and able to make some investment in their future while at the prison. The prison actively sought to improve safety, but would have benefited overall from a more considered and strategic coordination of these efforts.
Despite three self-inflicted deaths since 2012, self-harm was relatively low. Case management generally required improvement but the care of the most complicated cases was excellent. Use of force was relatively low and oversight had improved. Special accommodation was rarely used. Conditions in segregation had improved and it was not used excessively. The segregation regime was limited but reintegration planning was good. Staff in the unit dealt with a small number of very poorly behaved prisoners with sensitivity. There had been another death soon after our inspection which is the subject of investigation by the PPO.
Highpoint comprised many units of differing ages and types. Conditions on these units ranged from reasonable to very good, with a focus across the prison on maintaining or improving standards. Most cells were in good order and the grounds were well kept. Relationships between staff and prisoners were good, managers led by example and 82% of prisoners felt respected by staff. Consultation with prisoners was in place, although for prisoners with protected characteristics this required improvement. In general, however, the promotion of equality had improved, with some particularly useful support from the local Council for Race Equality in place. The chaplaincy was well integrated and appreciated by prisoners but the management of the high number of formal complaints, while improving, was still variable. Health provision was reasonable and also improving.
The amount of time prisoners spent out of their cells was adequate but some aspects of the daily routine were curtailed due to staff shortages. The provision and effectiveness of work and activity was judged by our Ofsted colleagues to be good overall with sufficient purposeful places for about 1,100 of the 1,300 prisoners. We found 67% engaged in activity but about 15% were still held in cell during the working day. The number formally recorded as unemployed was about 200, although this was mainly due to the tardiness of the work allocation process. The quality of teaching, learning and assessment was good and there was a very good learning environment and culture supported by respectful relationships between prisoners and tutors. Prisoner achievements were generally high.
Outcomes for prisoners remained weakest in resettlement. The prison lacked a meaningful assessment of prisoner need and offender management was ineffective and not well integrated. Many prisoners lacked a full assessment of their offending risk or a sentence plan. Public protection work and risk assessment concerning release on temporary licence decisions also required improvement. In general, services provided across the resettlement pathways were better and improving. Immediate needs were being assessed by the two community rehabilitation companies (Essex and London) operating in the prison and pre-release planning was developing.
Highpoint could have been a problematic prison. Sprawling multiple sites, disparate accommodation, limited staff numbers and a large population held some distance from home in a remote rural location are big risk factors. Highpoint’s achievement is that despite this, the prison is doing reasonably well and improving on many fronts. Good leadership, confident and reliable staff, a commitment to decency, a culture and approach that seems to incentivise prisoners, and a focus on the basics, makes Highpoint a competent institution, much to the credit of the governor and his staff.
Martin Lomas January 2016
HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons”
The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below:
- HMP Highpoint (PDF, 867.34 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Highpoint (26 October – 6 November 2015)
- HMP Highpoint, Announced inspection of HMP Highpoint (10-14 September 2012)
- HMP Highpoint, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Highpoint (4–7 October 2010)