The prison was last inspected in October 2014, after the announcement of the partial closure which was subsequently reversed. In their report the inspectors said:
“HMP Hull is a classic inner city Victorian prison holding over 1,000 adult men and young offenders. It is more complex than most prisons of its type because as well as managing a rapid turnover of men with the typical needs and challenges of an inner city local prison, about a third of those held are serving longer sentences of four years or more for serious offences. Many of these men are sex offenders. The prison had seen a recent increase in population after two Victorian wings that had been closed were brought back into use as part of efforts to cope with the national increase in the prison population. The prison had weathered the population and resource pressures within the prison system over the last year better than most, and while it had significant weaknesses in a number of areas there was much good work, and overall outcomes for the prisoners held were reasonably good. In the circumstances, this was a real achievement. However, there was no room for complacency. Some outcomes were borderline and we were reassured that senior staff knew there was more to do if the prison was to achieve acceptable standards on a sustainable basis.
The hard data about safety at Hull was generally better than, or comparable to, similar prisons, although the number of incidents was still too high. Levels of violence were similar to other local prisons and levels of self-harm were lower. There were comparatively few incidents involving the use of force and only about half of these involved full control and restraint. We did not find evidence of a ready supply of drugs and the prison had a rigorous supply reduction policy, although more prisoners told us that drugs were easily available than elsewhere. Reception was well organised and support for prisoners on the drug recovery wing was excellent. The newly opened ‘well-being centre’ offered an opportunity to work with prisoners with the most complex and challenging behaviour who would otherwise be in segregation. It was a good initiative but its role required greater clarity and development. The prison was calm, the regime was predictable, prisoners had appropriate freedom to move around it and security was generally proportionate.
More prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some time in the prison and at the time of the inspection (50% and 22% respectively) than the comparator (42% and 18%). The overall management of violence reduction was weak and vulnerable prisoners who were held on the first night wing in close proximity to other new arrivals were subject to unacceptable abuse and threats which staff did too little to challenge. The vulnerable prisoner section of the wing was gated off but we saw prisoners crawling under the gates in an attempt to get to the doors of vulnerable prisoners. Prisoners who were subject to suicide and self-harm prevention measures told us the care they received was poor, and documentation suggested the standard of care was too variable. Some night staff did not carry anti-ligature knives and did not understand why this might be a problem. The incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme needed to be better managed; some prisoners were kept on the entry level with limited privileges because of administrative errors and too little was done to encourage prisoners on the basic level to improve their behaviour. Support for prisoners with substance misuse issues who were not held on the drug recovery wing was inconsistent. The segregation unit was an oppressive environment and although relationships between staff and prisoners were reasonable, the regime and management of the prisoners held there were poor.
Despite the largely Victorian environment, external areas were clean and in generally good condition. Relationships between staff and prisoners were mostly reasonable and the prisoner information desks ensured most prisoners could get their basic practical needs sorted out efficiently. There was good external scrutiny of complaints about discrimination. The prison held 50 men over 60, the oldest of whom was 92, and these men were positive about their treatment. Some staff had received dementia awareness training. Faith provision was good and chaplains were well integrated into the life of the prison. Health services were good and prisoners were positive about them, and men with mental health problems were well cared for. Those who needed it had access to a specialist learning disabilities nurse, and men with the most severe problems were moved quickly to secure mental health units. The quality and quantity of food was better than we often see.
Far too many prisoners were in very cramped cells that the Victorians had designed for one prisoner. Men had to eat their meals in their cells next to unscreened and uncovered toilets. Some men used food trays as toilet covers. Prisoners told us with justification that cells were cold and there was a shortage of clothing and bedding.
The prison’s overall work on equality and diversity was weak. Some of the monitoring data we saw was a concern: it indicated that prisoners from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were more likely to have faced adjudications and Muslim prisoners were more likely to be on the basic level of the IEP. Nothing had been done to investigate this. The identification and awareness of prisoners with disabilities was weak. Men on some wings who needed assistance had a paid prisoner carer, but the supervision and training of carers was poor, and they were not available on all wings. A number of prisoners identified as gay or bisexual, but there was no support available for them. Young adults were dispersed around the prison and there was no plan for how they should be supported and managed, despite the fact that they were over-represented in violent incidents.
The poor condition of the cells was mitigated because men had more time out of their cell than we normally see in a local prison. A fully employed prisoner had eight hours out of their cell during the day, but an unemployed prisoner had about three hours. There was good range of activities available for the longer-term, vulnerable prisoner population and there was an effective strategy for increasing the number, quality and range of activities based on a good assessment of the needs of both prisoners and potential employers. Vocational training was good and prisoners achieved well. There was good library and PE provision. However, at the time of the inspection there was not enough activity for the whole population and some places were unfilled. We found 25% of prisoners locked in their cells during the working day and prisoners were sometimes unlocked late, and locked up early. The prison insisted, in principle rightly, that prisoners had to improve their English and maths before being allocated to a training or work place, but there was not enough English and maths provision, and this meant some prisoners stayed in their cells doing nothing while there were unfilled activity places available. The quality of some teaching was weak.
The range of prisoners held meant that offender management and practical resettlement services were a challenge. Offender management was much better organised than we normally see, with dedicated and experienced staff. Very unusually, there were no assessment backlogs, and far more prisoners than in comparable prisons told us they were getting help to achieve their sentence plan targets. There were good arrangements to identify and meet the needs of short-term prisoners and to make sure they knew where to go for help, and the establishment of a new, dedicated resettlement wing was a good initiative. There was an impressive range of sex offender treatment programmes. The psychologically informed planned environment (PIPE) unit – one of a number now being developed in the prison system – was an impressive and very positive resource to enable indeterminate sentence prisoners to put into practice the skills they had learned in offender behaviour programmes and provide evidence to support their progression.
The good offender management and resettlement work carried out on the ground was not embedded by a clear strategy based on an effective analysis of needs. Although offender management work was generally good there were some serious gaps. Contact between offender supervisors and high-risk sex offenders was much too infrequent in a small number of cases. Arrangements for the management of some high-risk offenders after release were not sufficiently well coordinated. Final checks on resettlement needs for all prisoners were carried out too near to release.
There were a significant number of sex offenders in the prison who were not suitable for sex offender treatment programmes because they were in denial about their offence and no alternative interventions were made available.
Outcomes for prisoners at HMP Hull were very mixed. On balance, we judged that enough of the basics were in place for most prisoners for outcomes to be reasonably good overall. The prison was certainly working well in comparison with others we have inspected recently. Nevertheless, there were some serious concerns in all areas and we will return to HMP Hull more quickly than usual to make sure that the necessary progress has been made.
Nick Hardwick March 2015
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”
The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below: