HMIP Report, HMP Usk

The combined prisons were given an inspection in early summer 2013, 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:

“Usk and Prescoed, although managed as a single entity, are in fact two quite distinct facilities serving very different purposes. Located in Monmouthshire, Usk is a small 19th century radial institution designated as a category C training prison for about 270 mostly convicted sex offenders. Prescoed, located about two miles away in a rural setting, is an open prison holding about 230 category D prisoners, including a small number of young adults.

At previous inspections we have reported very positively on outcomes for prisoners at both these prisons. At this inspection we again found two very successful institutions, with Prescoed awarded our highest assessment against all four tests of a healthy prison. Outcomes at Usk were similarly impressive, although we noted some need for further improvements in the overall quality of the environment and relationships and in the delivery of resettlement.

Both prisons were commendably safe. Prisoners felt safe and all indicators, such as levels of violence, bullying and self-harm, were very low. Security at Prescoed was proportionate but some aspects were unnecessarily restrictive at Usk. Disciplinary procedures were used sparingly, and it was a sign of the quality of life we found that both institutions could operate without the need for segregation units.

Environmental standards at both prisons were reasonable. Despite its age, cleanliness at Usk was satisfactory, although cell sharing brought some limitations. Standards at Prescoed were more mixed and some units were grubby. We observed very good staff-prisoner relationships at both prisons, but our survey indicated a concerning decline in prisoners’ perceptions of the quality of their relationships with staff.

Structures to promote equality, such as the deployment of peer supporters, were well established, although there was evidence that the perceptions of minority groups were more negative than those of the population as a whole. More rigorous enquiry into complaints and more systematic consultation with minorities would be beneficial. Prisoners, with some good reasons, had limited confidence in the way general complaints were dealt with, and there were issues with the quality of food. Health care provision at both prisons was good overall.

Both prisons had active regimes and were achieving good activity outcomes. Learning and skills were well managed and provision predicated on an analysis of need. There was enough activity, most of it of reasonable quality, to ensure all prisoners had something meaningful to do. Well over half the population were engaged in active learning, and success rates across learning and skills were good. At Usk the range of provision was satisfactory, although more limited in vocational training. At Prescoed there was a very clear and effective focus on moving prisoners toward work through temporary release in the community.

The use of temporary release generally to support resettlement at Prescoed was creditably high and was key to its function in managing sentences and preparing prisoners for release. The nature of the Usk population was different and, although risk of harm assessments were reasonable and sentence planning targets relevant, offender supervision was reactive and limited. It was also troubling, in view of the risk and complexity of the cases managed, that quality assurance and the supervision of case managers were very limited. However, public protection arrangements had improved considerably since. Overall, support across the key resettlement pathways in both prisons met need.

Usk and Prescoed are two very successful prisons. The institutions are well led and, in general, continue to deliver useful outcomes. An important message from this inspection, however, would be to ensure that there is no drift toward complacency, particularly at Usk. A priority would be to sharpen up offender management at Usk but also to ensure no further drift in the quality of relationships and the provision of some basic services, such as food and the management of complaints. 

Nick Hardwick                       June 2013

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Usk

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

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