HMIP Inspections of Huntercombe

The prison was given an inspection in early 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:

“Huntercombe is a category C establishment in Oxfordshire holding up to 430 adult male prisoners. Following several changes of role, in 2012 the establishment was designated a facility for holding convicted foreign national prisoners. At the time of our inspection, only a handful of UK nationals remained in the prison.

Despite experiencing change and transition, some of it rapid, Huntercombe was a good institution. Most prisoners felt safe and other indicators supported that perception. The exception was a small number of sex offenders, some of whom raised concerns that poor respect for their confidentiality had put them at risk. Self-harm had risen slightly, but prisoners were well supported. Segregation was overused and there was insufficient accountability for the use of special accommodation, but use of force generally was low and security procedures proportionate.

Environmental standards across the prison were reasonably good. Staff-prisoner relationships, similarly, were reasonable, although in our survey some prisoners perceived an element of victimisation from staff and also reported some insensitivity to cultural differences. We describe the promotion of diversity at Huntercombe as embryonic but it was improving. The provision of health care was good.

A key strength of the establishment was the quality of purposeful activity. Prisoners benefited from good time out of cell, and there was sufficient activity for the vast majority. Virtually all education, vocational training and work were accredited, and the breadth and quality of what was on offer was very good. The achievement of accreditations and qualifications by learners was outstanding. Three-quarters of prisoners regularly visited both the library and the gym, which was higher than we often see.

The prison had begun to assess the resettlement needs of its new population and a reducing reoffending strategy was developing. Engagement and communication with prisoners about resettlement worked well, and the prison used release on temporary licence in support of resettlement confidently. Most prisoners were subject to assessment and sentence planning. However, contact time with offender supervisors was limited and provision for those with higher risks needed to improve. Work to support resettlement and reintegration was generally good, although, as is often the case with a foreign national population, more could have been done to meet the needs of those due to be deported and it was difficult to assess actual effectiveness. Nevertheless, it is notable that Huntercombe had a more developed approach to reducing risk and resettling foreign nationals – a number of whom would ultimately be released into the UK – than we have seen at other foreign national prisons. This more responsible approach will need to be maintained and further developed.

Huntercombe is an example of a prison that has not been overwhelmed by change. It has embraced the challenge, exploited its strengths and planned effectively where it needed to develop new services. There were gaps, some significant, and some catch-up was required, but overall the prison was doing well in adapting to its new role.

Nick Hardwick            March 2013

HM Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Huntercombe


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


  • HMP Huntercombe, Announced inspection of HMP Huntercombe (7–11 January 2013)
  • HMYOI Huntercombe, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMYOI Huntercombe (9-12 December 2008)
  • HMYOI Huntercombe, Summary of questionnaires and interviews (23-24 November 2009)
  • HMYOI Huntercombe, Summary of Questionnaires and Interviews (12 November 2008)