Inspections at HMP Lindholme

The prison was inspected in March 2016, after the announcement that the prison was remaining under the control of the public sector. In their report the inspectors said

” Lindholme is a category C prison, situated on an old RAF station near Doncaster. In past years it was managed as part of a cluster of South Yorkshire prisons, but in 2013 was reconstituted as a separate institution in its own right. It is a designated ‘working prison’ and holds just over 1000 longer-term adult male prisoners.

When we last inspected in early 2013, we were critical of a prison that was then preoccupied by a possible takeover by the private sector; where staff-prisoner relationships were weak, and where the prison was being impacted by the inflow of drugs and alcohol. This inspection revealed a very complicated picture. There was definite evidence that the deterioration we had seen at Lindholme previously had been arrested, but it was clear that big risk factors were still to be addressed fully.This complexity was recognised in the unusual spread of assessments gained under our tests of a healthy prison. On the whole, we found Lindholme to be a more respectful prison and a prison performing reasonably well against the delivery of one of its core functions, the provision of education, training and work. And yet we had very serious safety concerns and structural and organisational issues were completely undermining its resettlement responsibilities.

We were confident that prison managers were taking seriously the need to improve safety at Lindholme and a number of useful initiatives were explained to us, and yet many outcome measures were poor. The level of assaults was almost twice that of similar prisons and much higher than when we last inspected. Over half the respondents in our survey told us they had felt unsafe at Lindholme, and a fifth still felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. Reported levels of victimisation were also very high and recorded levels of self-harm were far higher than at similar establishments. Since the previous inspection there had been six deaths in custody, two of which occurred immediately following our inspection and were apparently self-inflicted. We also observed too many prisoners who were effectively self-isolating themselves out of fear.

Clearly linked to this issue was the influx of drugs that the prison was experiencing and which, in common with other prisons we have inspected, was destabilising the establishment. Mandatory testing for drugs revealed a high positive rate of 14% but this took no account of NPS (new psychoactive substances – so called legal highs). The prison had seized considerable amounts of illegal substances, notably NPS, and yet nearly two-thirds of prisoners told us it was easy to get illegal drugs in the prison. The stories we were told, concerning the possible effects that NPS was having on individuals, including one young man who had literally blinded himself, were nothing short of horrific. It would be wrong to say the prison was not working hard to combat this problem, but their strategy was not working.

Lindholme’s other strategic problem was that it had no designated resettlement function, was not served by a community ehabilitation company (CRC) and was therefore unable to provide adequate resettlement planning and support. The establishment had released, on average, 16 prisoners a month over the previous six months. In our survey, too few prisoners knew who to turn to for resettlement support and problems were compounded by the prison’s inability to obtain places for prisoners at the appropriate resettlement prisons, as the resettlement model requires.

Over 90% of Lindholme prisoners were serving four years and over, with a quarter serving over 10 years. Some 160 prisoners were serving indeterminate sentences. Many prisoners presented a high risk of harm to others, and yet offender management was poor. The redeployment of supervisors meant that prisoner contact and motivational work was only reactive, if it happened at all, many assessments were out of date or had not been started, and the quality of many assessments, even in high-risk cases, was inadequate. As a consequence, risk management was insufficient and the potential for progress limited.

Despite these difficulties and the mixed quality of the accommodation, the prison was a reasonably respectful place. Older accommodation was in need of investment and refurbishment but the communal nature of this accommodation was popular with prisoners and their views generally were more positive. Staff-prisoner relationships were improved and 85% of survey respondents felt respected by staff, although again, this finding was more prevalent among those held on the older units. There was evidence of improvement concerning the promotion of equality, as well as some improvement in the provision of health care, but in health, access to GPs and hospital appointments still needed to be better.

With the exception of the unemployed and those who were isolating themselves, unlocked time was reasonable. More activity had been provided, but although activity opportunities existed for about 80% of the population, for a working prison the expectation needed to be higher than this. Our checks found 20% of prisoners locked up during the working day and surprisingly, punctuality was also poor. The quality of education, training opportunities and the usefulness of work available was generally good.

Overall, and in terms of what is an unusual set of healthy prison assessments, this is a mixed report. That said, it was clear to us that the prison was led by a focused and committed governor and management team, aided by a much better approach now being adopted by the staff. Lindholme was a recovering prison and we were confident that improvement could continue. The priorities were clear to us: a robust strategy to stop NPS, and linked to that, to reduce violence; significant improvements in offender management and proper arrangements to provide resettlement services.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

May 2016

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

 Return to Lindholme

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

  • HMP Lindholme (810.95 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP in March 2016
  •  HMP Lindholme Unannounced inspection of HMP Lindholme (11–15 February 2013)
  • HMP Lindholme Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Lindholme (18 – 20 January 2011)
  • HMP Lindholme Announced inspection of HMP Lindholme (29 October – 2 November 2007)