The prison was given an inspection in October 2015, 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 Doncaster is a modern local prison that opened in 1994 and has since then operated in the private sector. It is currently managed by SERCO and serves the community and courts of South Yorkshire. The prison normally holds just over 1,100 adult and young adult male prisoners but at the time of the inspection the population had been temporarily reduced by 100 as part of a response to the difficulties the prison was facing at the time.
We last inspected Doncaster in March 2014 when we found a poorly performing institution in a state of drift and with much to put right, some of it urgent. Eighteen months later, we found that many problems remained unaddressed and some had worsened, although the recent appointment of a new director had led to some improvements.
Doncaster is a prison on the front line. It receives new prisoners from the streets, many with pressing risks and needs. However, initial risk assessment remained inadequate and early days procedures did not focus sufficiently on prisoner safety. The number of prisoners feeling safe on the first night had reduced since our last inspection, despite some limited improvements to first night facilities and induction arrangements.
Safety was a major concern. In our survey, nearly half of respondents said they had been victimised by other prisoners and a quarter currently felt unsafe. Levels of assault were much higher than in similar prisons and many violent incidents had resulted in serious injuries for both staff and prisoners. Despite some efforts to understand these problems, initiatives to address violence were ineffective and investigations were weak.
The incidence of self-harm was similarly very high and there had been three self-inflicted deaths in the previous 18 months. In our survey, 44% of men indicated to us that they had emotional wellbeing or mental health problems, and 55 men were subject to self-harm case management (ACCT)1 during our inspection. Despite this and the generally caring approach of staff, ACCT procedures were not good enough, support was intermittent and we found too many prisoners in crisis left isolated in poor conditions. It was also a concern that the prison had not rigorously implemented recommendations following formal Prison and Probation Ombudsman investigations into recent deaths.
Staff on the wings were overwhelmed. Basic procedures were often dealt with in a perfunctory manner or not at all, and security, derived from good relationships and interactions, was weak. The number of security information reports received was falling despite the increasing challenges. In the preceding few months there had been numerous acts of indiscipline, including barricades, hostage incidents, and incidents at height. In addition, drugs were widely available. Positive test rates were high. Nearly half of prisoners in our survey thought it was easy to get drugs and many prisoners told us that undetectable NPS, with all its attendant problems of violence and debt, was a major problem.
Not enough was done to encourage good behaviour. Use of force and the special cell were high and increasing, but governance and supervision were inadequate. Some incidents we reviewed evidenced insufficient attempts at de-escalation or were simply not justified. The conditions in the segregation unit were mixed. Staff were generally caring and attentive but knowledge was not applied usefully in meaningful case management or re-integration planning. As with other indicators, the numbers segregated were much higher than we see in similar prisons.
Environmental conditions throughout the prison were very poor. We observed vermin and many cells were in a terrible state, with filth, graffiti and inadequate furniture. Many cell windows were missing and we found dangerous exposed wiring that had not been dealt with by staff. There was clear evidence that cleaning materials and clean bedding were difficult to obtain. Circumstances were slightly mitigated by prisoners having their own in-cell phones; they were also helpfully supported by peer advisers and able to use an electronic kiosk system to access various services.
We saw many good staff trying to do their best, but professional boundaries were not well managed and there was a lack of challenge to poor behaviour leading to a danger of collusion. There were too few staff and they did not have enough support.
There were early signs of improvement in the promotion of equality, but identification of prisoners with protected characteristics was inconsistent, and monitoring revealed many areas of prison life where minorities were disadvantaged, with little done in response. A key area of concern was the experience of young adults who constituted 15% of the population but were over-represented in many negative indicators. The prison had recently concentrated this group on two wings but had yet to develop a strategy to meet their needs. In contrast, the work with the 6% of the population who were foreign nationals was better than we usually see.
The chaplaincy provided a wide range of useful services but experienced difficulties in seeing all new arrivals. The way the prison responded to formal prisoner complaints was poor and replies were often late. Prisoners were more positive about the quality of the food but kitchen hygiene required improvement. Prisoners were negative about their experience of health care and there was evidence of deterioration in provision, mainly owing to staff shortages. Relationships between health and prison managers were strained and gaps in operational delivery were not being effectively addressed.
Time out of cell for prisoners was erratic and poorly managed. There were sufficient activity places for prisoners to have at least part-time activity but these were still underused. Staff failed to challenge prisoners sufficiently to attend and attendance and punctuality were poor, especially in education. For those who did attend, the quality of teaching and instruction was generally good, as were standards of work and the level of achievement by prisoners. Overall, our OFSTED colleagues judged provision as ‘requiring improvement’ although they did identify some ‘good’ elements.
The prison’s greatest strength was its provision of resettlement services, although public protection work lacked rigour. Offender management was contracted to an organisation called Catch 22 and most prisoners had received a basic screen and assessment on arrival. Offender management cases were allocated well and the quality of case management, contact and engagement was good. Assessments of risk were appropriate and sentence plans adequate. Overall, the quality of offender management was better than we usually see in local prisons and the delivery of resettlement services was generally good.
Doncaster has been a more effective prison in the past and we saw some very good people during our inspection. However, this report describes a very poor prison. The relative competence of the learning and skills and resettlement providers did not compensate for the inadequate standards across much of the prison and the lack of staff was a critical problem. The director and his management team were not in denial of the difficulties and there was evidence that the decline was being arrested; the prison certainly cannot be allowed to get any worse.
Martin Lomas January 2016
HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons”
To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:
- HMP Doncaster (PDF, 793.77 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Doncaster (5 – 16 October 2015)
- HMP Doncaster, Unannounced inspection of HMP Doncaster (24 March – 4 April 2014)
- HMP Doncaster, Unannounced inspection of HMP Doncaster (2–12 November 2010)
- HMP Doncaster, Unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Doncaster (11-15 February 2008)