HMIP Report, HMP Usk

The combined prisons were given an inspection in early October 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:

“Usk and Prescoed are two distinct prisons, in different locations, but are operated under the same management team, and we bore this in mind when we inspected them. Located in south east Wales, Usk is a small category C training prison built in the 19th century that for many years has specialised in delivering sex offender treatment programmes. At the time of this inspection, it held 274 men, nearly all of whom were convicted sex offenders. Prescoed, located three-and-a-half miles away, is an open prison holding 252 men. Its key aim is to prepare men for release back into the community, and it uses release on temporary licence (ROTL) extensively to this end.

For many years we have reported that both Usk and Prescoed are fundamentally successful institutions delivering their key responsibilities very well. This was again the case at this inspection, where we found some good work taking place at both institutions. We do, however, also identify some issues where some improvement is needed.

Both prisons were safe with very little violence. Most men reported that they were safe and formal disciplinary processes were rarely needed. The most vulnerable me n were generally well cared for and there were few open assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management documents for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm opened, or incidents of self-harm. Nevertheless, management oversight of suicide and self-harm prevention needed to be improved.

Both were fundamentally respectful prisons with good staff-prisoner relationships, and most men told us they had a member of staff who would help them if they had a problem. This had improved since the last inspection. However, black and minority ethnic men were less positive about staff-prisoner relationships, and the reasons for this needed to be better understood. The environment at Usk was limited and most men lived in overcrowded cells. However, both prisons were clean and prisoners received what they needed to live decently. The population at Usk contained a high proportion of older men. Despite the environment’s limitations, good work was undertaken to support them, including the best provision relating to the Care Act we have seen. Health care provision overall was reasonably good, and some delays with dental treatment had started to be addressed during the inspection. The Collectively Heightening Awareness of Substance Misuse through Education (CHASE) programme at Prescoed, for men with substance misuse problems, was excellent and had helped a number of men in gaining paid employment.

Time out of cell at Usk was good and a positive range of extracurricular activities was offered. Men at Prescoed were only restricted to their units overnight. A good range of education and work opportunities, which were appropriate to the population held, was offered. Nearly all men were in activities and many were gaining relevant skills to help them in the future and on release. However, quality assurance of education, skills and work activities needed to be better across both sites. This undermined confidence that the delivery of activities was consistently effective in supporting men to progress, or that good practice was identified to drive improvement. Nevertheless, overall, we stil considered that purposeful acti vity provision at Usk and Prescoed was reasonably good.

Prescoed continued to use ROTL extensively to support men through to release back into the community. However, it was unclear to us how the community resettlement company provision was supporting these efforts, although men were often able to influence their own arrangements for release while on licence.

Rehabilitation support at Usk was a more mixed picture. The prison now offered even more opportunities for men to reduce their risk through offending behaviour work, and it was particularly positive to see that the new range of programmes allowed men otherwise in denial of their offence to participate. Despite Usk not being a designated resettlement prison, it did release a small number of men each year, and it was again positive that some provision to support men through the gate had been retained. However, oversight of offender management arrangements at the prison was weak, and offender supervisors did not actively support all men in reducing their risk and progressing.

Communication with offender managers based in the community was weak, which again undermined efforts around risk reduction, progression and release planning. These deficiencies particularly impacted on the third of men who would not undertake offending behaviour programmes at Usk, and a strategy for the management of this group needed to be developed. Finally, the arbitrary limits and restrictions on moving sex offenders to Prescoed needed to be reconsidered to ensure they were given equitable access to the progression opportunities available in the open conditions.

Overall, Usk and Prescoed remained successful institutions. The new governor was making a positive impact and there was clear evidence that his staff group felt re-energised and focused on further improving the prisons. At the previous inspection in 2013 we cautioned the prison to guard against complacency, and we saw no evidence of this in the new governor and his team. Nevertheless, deficiencies previously identified in offender management work were still evident, and this aspect of work in particular needed renewed attention. In other areas where we were critical at the last inspection, there had been clear progress and we hope the energy and enthusiasm we observed among managers and staff will improve even further the generally positive outcomes for prisoners we report on at this inspection.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
December 2017
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: