HMP Leicester, HMIP inspections

The last HMIP inspection of the prison was completed in 2015. The latest HMIP Report said in its introduction:

“HMP Leicester is a small, aging local prison, built in the Victorian era and located in the heart of the city. It held 325 adult male prisoners at the time we inspected, 50% more than the number for which it was built. Coupled with this unacceptable level of overcrowding was the high degree of prisoner need we commented on in our last report, plainly evident to anyone walking around the wings – wings which in this report we describe as chaotic. Unlike our last inspection, however, when we felt problems and difficulties were at least being addressed, this inspection found a prison that had deteriorated and seemed to have few ideas about what to do next.

In Leicester we judged safety outcomes for prisoners to be poor. Very little that was done to promote safety was done well. Reception staff were welcoming to new arrivals but the reception facility was grim and the management of risk and vulnerability were poor. Induction was adequate but there was no assurance that all new prisoners received it. Levels of violence were high, including a very high assault rate against staff. In our survey over half of prisoners indicated that they had felt unsafe in Leicester and 28% felt unsafe at the time we asked them. These findings were significantly worse than we would expect. The prison was aware of the problems because it collected good data and some reactive measures were reasonably effective, but there was no strategy and no plan to reduce violence and intimidation.

Since our last inspection there had been three deaths in custody; two of which were believed to be self-inflicted. Levels of self-harm had increased by 50% over the same period and were now five times the number in other local prisons. Many prisoners were subject to assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm, but the quality of support was inconsistent and night staff in particular seemed to find it difficult to maintain the required levels of observation, which was clearly a risk. The prison had an up-to-date adult safeguarding policy, but we had no assurance that work with vulnerable prisoners was embedded or that procedures were capable of providing support consistently.

Physical security was broadly proportionate. There were significant numbers of intelligence reports submitted, but although they were processed, responses were often inadequate. There was compelling evidence that new psychoactive substances (NPS) and alcohol were readily available in the prison. Well over half of prisoners thought they were easy to obtain and yet too little was done to disrupt supply. Support for those with a drug problem (about half the population) was better. Basic procedural security was poor. Staff often could not account for prisoners and we routinely found prisoners where they were not supposed to be.

Incentives and earned privilege arrangements were ineffective but the use of formal disciplinary procedures was three times what we would expect. Use of force was very high but arrangements to ensure accountability were very weak. The fabric and conditions in the segregation unit were terrible and in our view it should be closed immediately.

The wider prison was overcrowded and shabby. Prisoners struggled to access basic necessities such as toiletries, clean clothes and bedding. Amenities such as showers and access to laundries required improvement, and prisoners had little confidence that basic applications and enquiries would be dealt with. Despite our criticisms, most prisoners – about 80% – felt respected by staff and the familiarity between staff and prisoners, often seen in small local prisons, mitigated some of the problems they faced. That said, consultation was weak, we saw poor behaviour go unchallenged and prisoners felt that the way staff dealt with them was inconsistent.

Despite Leicester’s reputation as one of the most diverse cities in the country, the promotion of equality in the city’s prison had deteriorated. Little was done for groups with protected characteristics; perceptions among minorities were often worse; inequalities in outcomes, which were known, were not investigated; and discrimination incident reporting arrangements were not used. Faith provision, in contrast, was reasonable.

Complaints raised by prisoners were responded to in good time but often, particularly when the matter concerned staff, the response did not address the issue raised. Quality assurance arrangements were ineffective. Primary health services had improved but were undermined by the prison’s inability to get prisoners to their appointments either in the prison or at hospital outside. Mental health provision was, despite the level of need, under-resourced and essentially reactive.

The time prisoners spent out of their cells was poor. Neither staff nor prisoners seemed to know what to expect from the daily routine and the consequence was chaos. Employed prisoners seemed to get about five and a half hours out of cell, four days a week; the unemployed just over two hours. The routine regularly slipped and prisoner movements were poorly controlled. We were unable to undertake meaningful spot checks because there was no accurate account of where prisoners were. We estimated about half were locked in cell during the working day.

Partnership working between the education providers and the prison had resulted in some improvements but progress was slow. Attendance at work or learning was inadequate, sessions were cancelled too frequently and typically fewer than a third of prisoners were engaged in activity at any one time. There was sufficient activity to engage everybody on a part-time basis but weak allocation arrangements meant that places were unfilled. The education curriculum was sufficient for a shortterm population but vocational training was limited, although the quality was good. The quality of teaching in education required improvements but prisoners’ achievements, for those who attended courses in both education and vocational training, were generally high. The prison had a good library but use had declined. Similarly there was a reasonable level of gym provision but fewer prisoners were now using it.

Leicester, in common with other local prisons, had been designated a resettlement prison, but the strategic management of resettlement services had deteriorated. The prison lacked a comprehensive assessment of need and although structures had recently been put in place to develop and monitor strategy, the committee to oversee reducing reoffending was not well attended and the prison had no plan of action. Offender supervisors were routinely redeployed owing to staff shortages, which meant contact with prisoners was limited, and about a third of prisoners did not have an up to date assessment of risk (OASys) or sentence plan. Prisoners felt disconnected from offender management processes and too few knew about their targets. The management of home detention curfew arrangements was satisfactory and categorisation processes were generally up to date. Public protection protocols, however, required improvement.

The introduction of the new community rehabilitation company (CRC), which provided ‘through the gate’ interventions and support, had gone well and more prisoners now knew where to go to for help with resettlement. Prisoners were assessed on arrival by the CRC and pre-release planning was developing. Services and outcomes across the resettlement pathways were generally effective.

Overall this is a poor report. We found pockets, such as the gym, substance misuse services and the work of the CRC, where the prison was operating more effectively, but much of what we inspected had deteriorated. Managers were aware of the problems and data was being collected, but it wasn’t being used and problems were not being analysed. There were few meaningful plans to effect progress and we could discern no determination of priorities. Managers should start by making the prison safer and gaining control of basic operational routines.

Martin Lomas                                    November 2015

HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Leicester

To see the full report go to the Ministry of Justice web site

This section contains the reports for Leicester from 2001 until present