HMP Stocken, HMIP Inspections

The prison was subjected to an inspection during summer 2015. In the latest inspection the report said:

“HMP Stocken is a category C training prison near Oakham in Rutland that, at the time of this inspection, held 672 adult men. The prison performed its central training function well but other outcomes were more fragile and needed to be strengthened in a number of important areas.

Most prisoners had good time out of their cells and, other than on the induction wing, we found few locked up during the working day. The prison had an effective partnership with Milton Keynes College and together they provided a generally good range of purposeful activity with sufficient fulltime places to meet the needs of the population. There were good relationships between teachers and their students, prisoners behaved well in classes and workshops, and effective use was made of prisoner peer mentors. Together they helped prisoners to achieve. Most prisoners therefore spent their days busy in purposeful activity. Most communal areas and cells were clean and in good condition. Health care was good. Prisoners were also more positive about the food than in similar prisons. These were considerable strengths and made the prison a reasonable place for most prisoners, most of the time.

Nevertheless, weaknesses in other areas risked undermining these strengths. The good quality activities supported the rehabilitation of prisoners but were not linked to offender management processes or sentence plans. There was a large OASys (the main risk assessment and sentence planning tool) backlog and although offender supervisors were diligent and enthusiastic they received inadequate supervision, their work was too reactive and they had too little contact with individual prisoners. Offender management did not sufficiently drive individual prisoners’ sentence plans and was not central to the work of the prison. Nevertheless, important core processes such as public protection were delivered well. Stocken had not been designated a resettlement prison and few prisoners were released directly from it. Specific resettlement services had been dismantled and offender supervisors normally made adequate ad hoc arrangements for those who were, but these needed to be more systematic. The good range of offending behaviour courses available was important and it was pleasing to see good work to help prisoners maintain or develop healthy relationships with their families.

Some poor relationships between uniformed staff and prisoners created a significant weakness. Fewer prisoners than in comparable establishments and at the last inspection said staff treated them with respect or that they had a member of staff they could turn to with a problem. Forty per cent of prisoners told us they had been victimised by staff, which was also higher than at similar establishments (29%) and at the last inspection (34%). We saw distant and dismissive behaviour that bore out prisoners’ perceptions and staff spent too much time in their offices, out of contact with prisoners. Prisoners from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, Muslim prisoners and prisoners with disabilities reported more negatively than the rest of the population and some monitoring data suggested unequal outcomes. The prison’s work on equality and diversity issues had deteriorated and too little had been done to investigate and address these findings. The quality of responses to complaints was too variable and the complaints system did not provide a reliable mechanism for resolving legitimate concerns.

Weaknesses in relationships undermined dynamic security. Almost half of the prisoners told us they had felt unsafe at some time in the prison and almost one in five told us they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. Over a third told us they had been victimised by other prisoners. The number of violent incidents was high, although it had reduced over the last year. There had been a number of serious incidents before the inspection which had culminated in a serious disturbance that resulted in the closure of a wing. Like too many other prisons we have been to recently, the availability of new psychoactive substances appeared to be a significant factor in these concerns. Half of the prisoners in our survey told us it was easy to get drugs in the prison. The prison had been too slow to get to grips with the problem, although by the time of the inspection an appropriate strategic response was in place. Other procedural safety and security measures were reasonable. The care for men at risk of suicide or self-harm was good despite high levels of need and there had been no self-inflicted deaths in the prison for a long time.

HMP Stocken’s very good purposeful activity pulled the rest of the prison up and provided good outcomes for most prisoners by equipping them with the skills they needed to get and hold down a job after release. However, Stocken had significant weaknesses and determined efforts will need to be made to address them if they are not to threaten the prison as a whole. The prison is not safe enough and it has a significant drugs problem. The systems and processes in place to tackle this are mostly appropriate but their effectiveness is undermined by some poor staff attitudes. Prisoners with protected characteristics report more negatively than the population as a whole and much of the prison’s own monitoring data supports their concerns. Offender management is not sufficiently central to the work of the prison and so good work, learning and skills is not properly linked to clear plans to address attitudes and behaviour. The prison needs to respond effectively to these weaknesses if the good work it does is to be sustained.

Nick Hardwick September 2015

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

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

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