HMIP Reports, HMP Swansea

The prison was given an inspection in August 2017, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

HMP Swansea is a local category B prison. It is a fairly typical Victorian establishment in an inner-city location and on a fairly compact site. It was overcrowded and at the time of this inspection was holding 458 men in accommodation that was certified, in normal circumstances, to hold 268. It was last inspected in October 2014, and at that time we concluded that ‘Swansea has many positive features but there are obvious areas for improvement… Many of our positive judgements were only marginally so, and the prison needs to be energised, rejuvenated and refocused on delivering better outcomes.’ This latest inspection is a very disappointing one. Standards had slipped in three of the four healthy prison tests by which we judge the treatment and conditions of prisoners. It is clear that the complacency we warned about after the last inspection had been allowed to take hold.

For instance, there had been four self-inflicted deaths in the period before the 2014 inspection. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) had made a number of recommendations as a result of those deaths. On this occasion we found that since that inspection there had been four more such deaths, but significant and highly relevant PPO recommendations had not been implemented. This was inexcusable, particularly in view of the fact that in the previous six months there had been 134 incidents of self-harm – three times the rate that was recorded at the last inspection. Basic procedures designed to improve safety in our prisons, such as assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) documentation, were poor. In the context of the high levels of self-harm, suicide and prisoners presenting with mental health problems, this was inexplicable. Much more needed to be done to analyse and understand what sat behind the suicides and self-harm in the prison.

 As with so many prisons, the ready availability of illicit drugs was having a significant impact. Forty per cent of the prisoners we surveyed told us that it was easy or very easy to get hold of drugs. Seventeen per cent said they had acquired a drug habit while being held in the jail, against a figure of 11% seen in similar jails elsewhere. These figures were borne out by mandatory drug testing which, when combined with the figures for those testing positive for synthetic cannabinoids, showed that very nearly a quarter of prisoners were using illicit drugs. The drug strategy was neither comprehensive nor adequately implemented. In a three month period prior to the inspection, more than 200 intelligence-led drug searches had been requested, but less than half had been carried out.

In terms of living conditions for prisoners in HMP Swansea, far too little attention was being paid to ensuring that prisoners could obtain the very basics for everyday living, such as clothing and bedding. This report details the many areas that need to be improved, including access to telephone calls, monitoring the response to applications and answering cell call bells promptly.

The area of inspection which we term ‘purposeful activity’ was particularly disappointing, having fallen to the lowest possible assessment of ‘poor’. I would invite the reader to look at this section of the report in detail in order to understand how we and our colleagues from Estyn came to that judgement. Suffice to say that for a prison of this type to have a regime where half the prisoners are locked up during the working day, with unemployed prisoners locked up for around 22 hours each day, was unacceptable. There were not enough activity places available, nor was there sufficient effort being put into encouraging or ensuring that prisoners attended. A clear failure of leadership was that on one wing staff were unwilling to facilitate access to the library for prisoners, yet managers had not successfully addressed this.

An issue that needs further analysis to understand whether or not it is impinging on the successful resettlement of prisoners on release from HMP Swansea is that of the Welsh Assembly’s policy of not giving priority on housing lists to prisoners on release. This means that half of the prisoners being released from Swansea are not being sent to what is termed ‘sustainable accommodation’. It is beyond the scope of this inspection to ascertain the possible impact of this on the resettlement plans of prisoners and their success or otherwise in following a number of resettlement pathways. If we had been in a position to identify clear negative impacts of this policy, it is most likely that our judgement would have been that outcomes for prisoners in the area of resettlement had also sunk to ‘poor’, the lowest possible.

The response to the 2014 inspection of HMP Swansea was inadequate. At the last inspection we made five main recommendations and 58 other recommendations. On this occasion we found that none of the main recommendations had been achieved, and a mere eight of the remaining 58 had been fully achieved. 36 recommendations had not been achieved at all.

The current governor had a number of coherent plans for improvement and had made some progress. He was enthusiastic about the future and he has the opportunity to move the prison forward and to once again make it a decent, safe and productive establishment. However, in order to do so he will need the active support of his leadership team and staff at all levels within the prison and in Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). Grudging acceptance of change or passive resistance will not suffice.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
October 2017
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Swansea

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

  • HMP Swansea (733.04 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Swansea (7, 8, 14–17 August 2017)
  • HMP Swansea, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Swansea (6 – 10 October 2014)
  • CEM Abertawe, Arolygiad dilynol byr dirybudd CEM Abertawe (17–19 Rhagfyr 2012)
  • HMP Swansea, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Swansea (17–19 December 2012)
  • CEM Abertawe, Arolygiad lle rhoddwyd rhybudd CEM Abertawe (8-12 Chwefror 2010)
  • HMP Swansea, Announced inspection of HMP Swansea (8-12 February 2010)
  • HMP Swansea, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Swansea (18-21 February 2008)