HMIP Inspection of Kirklevington Grange

The prison was given an inspection around Christmas and New Year 2014/5 and their report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

“HMP Kirklevington Grange is a small category D resettlement prison in Cleveland which, at the time of this inspection, held 273 adult men. The prison prepares men, most of whom are coming to the end of long sentences for serious offences, for their re-entry back into the community. At our last inspection in May 2011 we found that outcomes for prisoners were good against each of our healthy prison tests and we described the prison as performing its specialist function very well. This inspection found that the prison had maintained those high standards despite now holding a more complex population, and in some important areas had improved further.

The prison was very safe. Violent incidents and self-harm were rare and when they did happen, they were well dealt with. Prisoners responded positively to staff who expected high standards of behaviour and so the use of formal disciplinary measures was rare. Security measures were mostly effective and, with some exceptions, proportionate. Although there were some problems with the use of illegal drugs, this was less so than in comparable prisons. Prisoners told us that they were frightened of being arbitrarily returned to closed conditions and some were reluctant to use the complaints system because of this. We examined a large number of cases and checked these off against complaints data. In all the cases we examined, returns to closed conditions were made for good reasons and there was no link to complaints.

Safety and security were driven by very good relationships between staff and prisoners. Individual staff engaged positively and directly with the prisoners for whom they were responsible. There was an effective personal officer scheme and staff made excellent use of P-Nomis (Prison National Offender Management Information System) and prisoners’ individual electronic files to record progress and concerns. There were good consultation arrangements. Prisoners with protected characteristics also reported positively and work on diversity and equality was good. The prison had done some particularly good work with veterans to identify their needs and link them with available specialist services. The accommodation was mostly good but some was showing its age and in need of improvement. Health services were generally good but we were concerned to find some emergency equipment was out of date; although this was dealt with as soon as we brought it to the prison’s attention, it should have been picked up by its own procedures. Complaints were dealt with satisfactorily. The food was generally good and prisoners ate together. However, it was a shame that men who had often spent a long time in prison had no opportunity to learn how to cook for themselves.

Purposeful activity was very strong. Prisoners had a good amount of time out of their cells and all were engaged in work, training or education in the prison or paid and voluntary work in the community. There was an excellent and welcoming café outside the gate next to a car valeting service, and these were both run by prisoners. Local residents used the café while they had their cars cleaned and took the opportunity to purchase goods made in the prison’s excellent workshops, such as the metal workshop which produced high quality work. A small team of prisoners developed and ran a sophisticated process for ensuring eligible prisoners were quickly allocated to suitable activities.

Some quality improvement processes required further development, but work was in hand to progress this. A very high proportion of prisoners, more than 80%, entered employment or training on release but more could have been done to ensure this was sustainable by further embedding employability skills in the opportunities prisoners had while in prison.

Finding and keeping employment was crucial to a prisoner’s chances of not reoffending after release. Release on temporary licence (ROTL) played a crucial part in this and most of the permanent jobs prisoners found on release were linked to ROTL placement. Processes of assessing prisoners’ eligibility for ROTL were rightly cautious and well managed. There had been 22,000 ROTL events in the six months before the inspection and no prisoner had been unlawfully at large in this time. Offender management arrangements were excellent and among the best we have seen. The whole prison worked together with a clear focus on the prison’s central resettlement task and there was very good information exchange between different prison departments. Practical resettlement services were also very good. The ‘New Direction Centre’ staffed by prisoners under staff supervision was an important resource although, in a rare departure from the prison’s normally common sense approach, the prisoners working there had been prevented from having access to telephones. No prisoner left the prison without accommodation arranged and other practical resettlement services were well organised. Family work was also good but the visits hall was not big enough to meet demand.

It was unhelpful that in a prison like Kirklevington Grange, whose purpose was to prepare men who have been incarcerated for long periods for entry into the modern world, that prisoners had no access in the prison to the internet. The ‘virtual campus’, which might have provided a limited alternative, was underused. Therefore there was too little opportunity to equip prisoners with the skills and resources they needed for the 21st century and which could, at least, have taken some of the pressure off the visits hall. It was ironic that prisoners would have this access when they left the prison on ROTL or release, but unlike every other area of resettlement, very little was done to prepare and test them for this in the supervised environment of the prison. This was something over which the prison had very little control.

Despite our overall very positive findings, some aspects of our prisoner survey were more negative. It was clear that this was largely due to the lack of information about Kirklevington Grange that prisoners were given before they arrived. Prisoners believed they would have immediate access to ROTL but rightly had to wait while a period of preparation and assessment took place. The frustration and disappointment this caused coloured the overall atmosphere in the prison and much more needed to be done to ensure prisoners had good information and realistic expectations before they arrived. Prisoners were also negative about induction arrangements. The prison had recognised this as an issue and begun to address it shortly before the inspection but it was too early to judge whether this had led to an improvement. The induction process relied heavily on prisoner peer mentors and this needed effective supervision to ensure all parts were delivered appropriately.

Kirklevington Grange has a unique and important specialist role. It performs this role very well although there is absolutely no room for complacency. It holds a more complex population than before and the risks inherent in its work will always need careful management. The prison’s future role under the transforming rehabilitation agenda was not sufficiently clear at the time of this inspection but as we have said in the past, it should not be seen as an anomaly but a highly effective model from which other parts of the prison system could learn. 

Nick Hardwick June 2015

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Kirklevington

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

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