HMIP Inspection, Holme House

The prison was given an inspection in July 2017, 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:

Holme House, near Stockton on Tees, is a category B local prison holding just under 1,200 prisoners. We inspected at a time of significant change for the institution as it was part of a group of establishments being designated as reform prisons. This change agenda brought with it the potential for greater devolved powers for the governor and new ways of working. It also placed the establishment in a cluster with neighbouring prisons. As part of these plans it was intended that Holme House would lose its local prison function and become a category C training prison. During the inspection we were told of the new management structures being developed as well as the plans for the future of the prison. The full impact of changes was emerging but had yet to be fully realised.

This was the first inspection of Holme House since late 2013 and we found a significant deterioration in outcomes across most of our assessments. The prison was not as safe as it had been and at the heart of our concerns was a very serious problem with drugs. Mandatory testing suggested a positive rate within the prison of 10.45%, which was bad enough, but this rose to nearer 36% when synthetic cannabinoids or new psychoactive substances (NPS) were included. Nearly 60% of prisoners thought it was easy to get drugs in the prison, and a quarter suggested that they had acquired a drug problem at the prison. The threat to the well-being of individuals was manifest and rarely have we seen so many serious and repeated incidents of prisoners under the influence of clearly harmful substances. Despite this, the prison did not have an integrated or effective supply reduction strategy in place. Stopping drugs from entering the prison was the prison’s main priority in our view, and we have made this challenge the subject of one of our main recommendations.

Some good work had been done to try to reduce violence, but it needed to progress with greater urgency. Violence had risen since we last inspected and was now similar to levels we see in comparable prisons. There had also been six self-inflicted deaths since we last inspected and it was concerning that not all the recommendations made following the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s (PPO) investigations had been implemented effectively. The care offered to those in crisis was inconsistent. Again, this was an issue of sufficient seriousness to be the subject of another of our main recommendations.

In keeping with other safety concerns, use of force and use of segregation were also higher than we had seen previously at Holme House, and supervision and governance, as well as the outcomes experienced by detainees, required improvement.

Holme House is a relatively modern prison and internal communal areas were clean, but too many cells were in a poorly equipped and often unhygienic condition, or were overcrowded. Many prisoners similarly had difficulty in accessing the basics of daily living, although the recent introduction of in-cell telephones was a step forward in supporting family ties. Most prisoners felt respected by staff but relationships were often strained and consultation was limited. The identification of and support offered to minority groups were reasonable overall, but there was evidence of worse outcomes for black and minority ethnic prisoners. Health services had deteriorated – largely owing to staffing shortages – and we identify a number of concerns, although the deterioration was being arrested.

Fully employed prisoners could expect to be out of cell for about 9.5 hours a day, but time out of cell was much worse for those without employment. During the working day, we counted about 35% of prisoners locked in cell. Regular regime restrictions, in large part due to the need for staff to deal with incidents, were causing significant disruption and unpredictability for prisoners. For those who were able to attend learning or vocational training, however, the provision was good, with effective skills acquisition, good quality work and high achievement of qualifications. Plans were advancing to equip the provision of activity to meet the needs of a category C prison, and our colleagues in Ofsted assessed the overall effectiveness of the provision as ‘good’.

Work to support rehabilitation was not good enough. Plans and structures were in place but coordination of offender management work and resettlement work was poor. If completed, offender assessment system (OASys) assessments were often of good quality but staff shortages had led to a significant backlog. Overall, there was a lack of systematic assessment or support for individuals to reduce their risks. The community rehabilitation company was energetic and effective but not well integrated. Offending behaviour work, for those who accessed it, was useful and some good work was also undertaken to support family connections.

Holme House is an ambitious and aspirational prison with plans to deliver a significant programme of change. Our commentary in no way seeks to undermine those ambitions, but there was a significant gap between aspiration and the day-to-day reality. This inspection was disappointing and demonstrated a need for greater attention to the fundamental requirements of safety, decency and prisoner rehabilitation. We make a number of recommendations which we hope will assist that process.

Peter Clarke C VO OBE QPM

September 2017

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Holme House

To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:

  • HMP Holme House (661.44 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Holme House (3–4, 10–13 July 2017)
  • HMP Holme House, Unannounced inspection of HMP Holme House (19–30 August 2013)
  • HMP Holme House, Full unannounced inspection of HMP Holme House (19–23 July 2010)
  • HMP Holme House, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Holme House (16-18 March 2009)
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