HMIP Inspection of East Sutton Park

The prison was given a full inspection in summer 2016. 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:

” East Sutton Park is one of only two dedicated women’s open prisons in England. It holds around 100 women who have been deemed suitable to be moved to open prison conditions, where those held are allowed far greater freedom and the opportunity to take more responsibility for decision-making and their own lives. Therefore, many women at East Sutton Park regularly leave the prison on licence as part of a plan to prepare them for release back into the community. The main building was a grade II listed building dating back to Jacobean times, located in extensive grounds. In October 2013 the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) announced the closure of the two dedicated women’s open prisons, in favour of smaller open units outside larger women’s closed prisons. This decision was challenged in court, delaying implementation, but the threat of closure remains. In the meantime, the prison operates as normal.

As at the last inspection, we found East Sutton Park  to be an excellent prison where the very strong staff-prisoner relationships underpinned safety and a respectful and purposeful approach to preparing women for release. Violence of any kind was extremely rare and the tensions related to communal living were usually resolved through informal mediation rather than formal disciplinary processes. Some women continued to live in dormitory-style accommodation, and while in our view this was not ideal, women had more mixed feelings about its suitability, and all the women we spoke to told us that the opportunities provided  by the prison outweighed any disadvantages. Some areas were in need of refurbishment, such as the communal showers and toilets, but we were provided with evidence that funding had been allocated to do this work, and that it would start in the near future. Otherwise, outcomes for women around respect and decency were very good.

The general environment at the prison was excellent and women had easy access to the extensive and pleasant grounds. In addition, the general layout of the prison provided women with opportunities to build their self-confidence, esteem and ability to live communally and in harmony with others. These were essential elements in the rehabilitative approach of the prison. All women were required to engage in activities, which were  mainly very good, often equipping them with essential skills for gaining employment  on release or to live productive lives. To this end over a third of women were being released on licence on a daily basis to engage in community or paid work, and to support family contact.

Resettlement and offender management work was excellent, and it was notable that both the women and staff at East Sutton Park understood and saw the importance of its fundamental role around preparation for release and rehabilitation. Women were expected to take a measure of responsibility for this work, but were very well supported in this endeavour by prison staff and managers. Risk management and risk reduction work was very good, balancing well the needs of women with considerations of public protection. . Essential support around maintaining and developing links with children, families and other networks in the community was also very strong. We consider that controlled access to the internet for those women not yet eligible for release on temporary licence (ROTL) would significantly enhance their ability to  take responsibility for their own resettlement.

Overall we considered East Sutton Park to be a very  good prison, which did very well what it set out to do, namely to prepare women for release and resettle them back into the community. Leadership of the prison was very strong, with a clarity of vision and purpose, and staff understood this and the role they played in achieving the aims set. Given the prolonged and continuing uncertainty about the future of the prison, this was quite an achievement. Women were clear that they were benefiting from what the prison could offer them, and a number said it had helped turn their lives around. The future of East Sutton Park is not yet clear, but it is to be hoped that full account will be taken of the quality of service provided to the women under the current arrangements.

 Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM   October   2016                                                                             

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to East Sutton Park

To read the full reports, follow the links below: