HMIP Inspections of Feltham

The Feltham A side of the prison was given an inspection in January/February 2017, as was the Feltham B side. The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said of Feltham A:

“Feltham A young offender institution (YOI) held 126 boys at the time of this inspection, the vast majority of whom were 16 or 17 years old. This inspection can only be described as disappointing, with a decline in standards in three of our four healthy prison tests since the time of the last inspection in 2015. While this decline was of great concern, it was also deeply troubling that in an establishment of this kind the judgments awarded in the key areas of safety and purposeful activity had sunk to the lowest level.

As far as the safety of the establishment was concerned, levels of violence and the use of force had increased since the last inspection. Some of the violence was very serious, involving multiple assailants and the use of weapons. However, the response in terms of behaviour management was ineffective, with a focus on sanctions and regime restrictions. This had resulted in a cycle of violence and punitive responses, with no obvious strategy to break it. At the last inspection we made 17 recommendations to improve safety, and a mere three had been achieved.

Bearing in mind the age of the boys held at Feltham A, the restricted regime to which they were subjected did little or nothing to contribute to their education, socialisation or, clearly, their safety. Every single meal was taken alone, locked in their cells. We found that 40% of the boys were locked up during the school day, and 30% of the boys were out of their cells for just two hours each day. On average, boys were out of their cells for about 4.5 hours, a decrease from the still totally inadequate 5.5 hours at the time of the last inspection. The lack of exercise and sunlight must carry implications for the health and well-being of teenage boys.

There were sufficient school places and teachers, but fewer than half the boys were getting to school, and during the last year some 19,000 hours of schooling had been lost through non-attendance and cancellation of classes. On average, boys were receiving around 7.5 hours of schooling a week. The awarding of our lowest grade for purposeful activity was inevitable.

However, there was an extent to which Feltham A was a place of contrasts. There was no doubt that staff were working in very challenging circumstances, yet most of the interactions we observed between staff and the boys were polite. Inevitably relationships were hindered by the lack of time for meaningful contact because of the amount of time that boys were locked up. Nevertheless, health care was good and the work of the mental health team was excellent. Resettlement provision was also reasonably good, and preparation for release or for transition to the adult estate was well managed.

It would be wrong not to recognise the challenges faced by staff at Feltham A in creating a safe and decent facility. Violence was a serious problem, and during the inspection there was a serious assault on an officer. I understand very well that staff should be able to work in a safe environment, and not be in constant fear of being assaulted. The current approach is failing to deliver that reasonable expectation and, from the evidence available to us, is actually making it worse. The focus on keeping people apart rather than trying to change their behaviour has not worked. Feltham A is, quite simply, not safe for either staff or boys.

Perhaps one should not be surprised at the failure to improve when a mere 11 of the 55 recommendations made at the time of the last inspection in 2015 had been fully achieved. Thirty-four of those recommendations were not achieved, and nine were partially achieved. I would urge the leadership at both Feltham A, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and the Youth Justice Board (YJB) to study this report carefully and, on this occasion, take its recommendations seriously.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

March 2017

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

And in their report on Feltham B they said:

“This inspection of Feltham B, following a rather more optimistic inspection in July 2014, was disappointing. Despite some good work being carried out by staff across many areas of the prison, this inspection found that the young men being held there were living in an unsafe environment, were often afraid for their own safety and were enduring a regime that was unsuitable for prisoners of any age, let alone the young men at Feltham.

Since the last inspection there had been a significant increase in violence, and nearly half of the prisoners told us they had felt unsafe during their time at Feltham. One in four of those we surveyed – double the number in July 2014 – told us that they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. The response to this increase in violence had been ineffective, and the prison seemed to be locked into a negative cycle of responding to violence with punitive measures and placing further restrictions on the regime to keep people apart. This response had not worked and there did not appear to be any coherent plan to address the issue of behaviour management in a different or more positive way.

Some of the young men held at Feltham were locked in their cells for more than 22 hours each day During the inspection we found that around a third of the prisoners were locked up during the core day, and were therefore not getting to training or education. Every meal at Feltham was taken alone in the prisoner’s cell. Meanwhile, violence had risen, as had the use of force, and a large backlog of adjudications – which were largely in response to the violence – had accumulated.

The violence at Feltham is often serious, and one should not underestimate the risks faced by staff on a daily basis. During the course of this inspection an officer was seriously assaulted, and there were many examples shown to us of large-scale fights which could easily have led to tragic consequences but for skilled and courageous intervention by staff. Nevertheless, a new approach is needed. The incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme did not appear to be having any significant impact on behaviour, while the strategy for dealing with gang-related issues was largely ineffective and mediation was no longer being used as a means of reducing violence. We were told this was because of objections from the staff association, which, if true, is troubling.

While the violence and the poor regime overshadowed this inspection, it would be wrong not to recognise that, despite everything, there was some very good work being carried out by dedicated staff. We identified four examples of good practice in the provision of health care, and it was most impressive that the mental health team contacted patients seven days after discharge to check up on their welfare. Many examples of good work are described in the body of this report and there is. indeed much that the committed members of staff who work at Feltham can be proud of.

In this introduction I have focused on the subject of violence and the response to it, as these have shaped so much of what happens at Feltham B. There are many other important issues that the inspection identified that are described in this report and which, in many cases, have given rise to recommendations. I would urge the reader to look carefully at the detail of the report, and those to whom recommendations are made to take them seriously.

 Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

April 2017

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Feltham

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