HMIP Reports, HMP & YOI Doncaster

The prison was given an inspection in July 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 & YOI Doncaster is a category B local and resettlement prison situated near to the centre of Doncaster, and is operated by Serco. At the time of the inspection the prison held just over 1,100 adult and young adult males. The prison was last inspected in October 2015. In view of the significant concerns raised by that inspection and reported on in January 2016, it was decided by HM Inspectorate of Prisons that the establishment should be the subject of an announced inspection in July 2017. This report details the findings of that inspection, and records that while there has been significant progress in some areas, much remains to be done.

The summary section of this report gives a flavour of life in HMP & YOI Doncaster, but I would invite the reader to look at the report itself to gain a much fuller understanding of what has been achieved and not achieved. In this introduction I shall focus on the major concerns that arose from this inspection, but in so doing it is only right to give due credit to the leadership and staff at Doncaster whose hard work, in less than two years since the last inspection, has produced some impressive results. An indication of the very real effort that has obviously been directed towards securing improvement is that 32 out of the 58 recommendations made at the last inspection have been achieved or partially achieved in the intervening period.

Too many prisoners felt unsafe, and although levels of violence had reduced significantly, they were still too high. There had been some very good work done to reduce violence but this needed to continue and all elements of the violence reduction policy needed to be implemented. There were a large number of prisoners who were assessed as being at risk of suicide and self-harm, and the prison needed to ensure that there was a consistently high level of care afforded to them. In light of the high levels of self-harm, it was reassuring to see that the establishment had taken recommendations from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) seriously.

A major concern at the last inspection was that some staff struggled to maintain control on the residential units. This time we found a more stable prison overall, but staff supervision on some of the units remained a concern. As a consequence, it was sometimes the case that proper professional boundaries were not maintained, and prisoners did not always follow rules or instructions. This inevitably led to inconsistency and was unsettling for prisoners and staff alike. Clearly, staffing levels were a factor in this, but it needed to be addressed as a serious issue so that inappropriate behaviour by prisoners is challenged in a confident manner.

There was one issue which, to my mind, overshadowed many of the other challenges facing HMP & YOI Doncaster, and it has come about as a result of a change in the profile of the population at the prison. Over the course of the previous year, the number of men on remand for, or convicted of, sex offences had trebled, and many of them were longer-term, high-risk offenders. I was told that this was a deliberate policy in order to help to stabilise the prison in light of the serious problems with violence that had been identified at the last inspection. However, the support, offender management and programmes intended to reduce the risk both in custody and on release presented by this population were not present. In effect, this large cohort of men was being denied the opportunity to make progress. While it is perhaps understandable that, as a matter of policy, it might be decided that a prison should have a particular population profile, this should not be done in such a way that offender management of those prisoners is neglected.

A great deal has been achieved at Doncaster, and the challenge for the leadership of the prison now is to ensure that those achievements do not prove to be either fragile or transitory. The improvements need to be consolidated and built upon.

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

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

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