HMIP Inspections at Leeds

The prison was last inspected in early December 2015. The inspectors report said in their report:

HMP Leeds is a large Victorian inner city local prison serving the courts in Yorkshire. At the time of this inspection, it held 1,149 adult male prisoners. For many years the prison had a poor reputation but at our last visit in January 2013 we found a very different picture. While the prison, at that time, remained hugely overcrowded, outcomes for the men held here had improved and we assessed them to be reasonably good or better in all four of our healthy prison tests. At this inspection, however, we saw that in some significant areas outcomes had deteriorated markedly, particularly in safety. Despite this, we left with some confidence that the good leadership we observed at the prison, and an essentially positive staff culture was starting to get to grips with the challenges the prison faced.

Levels of violence at the prison had increased significantly since the last inspection and were now double what we typically see in local prisons. The prevalence of new psychoactive substances (NPS) was a major factor in this increase and despite some robust action being taken to address the challenges this presented, it was having a pervasive and destabilising effect across the prison. Levels of need and vulnerability in the population had also increased, and there had been several self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection. Staff were caring, but it was concerning that some issues identified following PPO investigations into recent deaths still needed to be fully addressed. These included frailties in early days processes, where we saw a poor reception environment, the failure of reception staff to pass on key information about vulnerabilities, over-spill away from the first night landing and some poor management of ACCT processes for those prisoners at risk of self-harm or suicide. Some good initiatives to address these problems were ongoing, and security arrangements were well focused on the challenges, but many of these initiatives had only very recently been introduced and it was too soon to see if they were effective. Not surprisingly given the problems faced, use of force and segregation was high and we were concerned about the poor oversight of special accommodation. For men with substance misuse problems, including issues with NPS, support was generally good although there were problems with a lack of first night prescribing.

Prisoners in our survey were negative about many aspects of life at the prison, including their ability to obtain sufficient bedding, clothing and cleaning materials. Despite this, we found that given the age of the prison, the accommodation was reasonably well maintained and the environment clean. Nevertheless, this continued to be undermined by levels of crowding which were very high and poorly equipped cells. The number of staff in daily contact with prisoners had decreased significantly since the last inspection and this was having a significant impact. We found the staff culture to be basically positive and decent, but wing-based staff were stretched and this limited their ability to interact with and supervise in a proactive way, the men in their care. The promotion of equality and diversity had seriously dipped in the previous year but was now returning to its previous good level. The management of complaints needed to improve but despite some frailties, health care support was basically sound.

Time out of cell was reasonable for a local prison with the majority of men having about seven hours out of their cells during the working week. The learning and skills leadership was strong and provision had improved somewhat since the last inspection. There were sufficient activity places for all men to work at least part-time, and the prison was having a real push to improve the previously poor attendance rates. Most teaching, learning and achievements were good.

Partnership working in resettlement was very strong and the new community rehabilitation company (CRC) resettlement arrangements had quickly bedded in and were working efficiently. Some aspects of offender management arrangements had deteriorated and there were weaknesses in important aspects of public protection work. Nevertheless, resettlement support and through the gate work was strong. It was particularly pleasing to see the impressive and broad based support provided to help men maintain contact with their families and friends.

Overall, this was a disappointing inspection of a prison which we assessed to have deteriorated in three of our four healthy prison tests. Fundamental issues around safety were having a significant destabilising impact across the prison and needed to be addressed urgently. It was also concerning that some aspects of early days support were too frail to provide reassurance, that the many vulnerable men received into the prison were provided with an appropriate level of care. The new governor and his team had made a good start in getting to grips with these challenges and it was positive to see that they had a good understanding of the issues faced, as well as plans or ongoing actions to address them.

Martin Lomas                                                February 2016

HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Leeds

 The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below:

  • HMP Leeds (PDF, 832.20 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Leeds (30 November – 11 December 2015)
  • HMP Leeds, Announced inspection of HMP Leeds (8–18 January 2013)
  • HMP Leeds, Unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Leeds (3-12 March 2010)
  • HMP Leeds, Unannounced inspection of HMP Leeds (5-14 December 2007)