HMIP Reports on Littlehey

HMP Littlehey was last inspected in early 2015. In their report the inspectors said:

“At the time of this inspection, HMP Littlehey, near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, held 1,200 adult category C sex offenders. At our last inspection in 2011, the prison was a split-site establishment holding adult category C prisoners – including a significant number of sex offenders – in one part of the prison, and young adults in a separate part of the prison. Six months before this inspection, the young adults had been transferred out to other establishments and were replaced by sex offenders from prisons less able to deal with their specialist offending behaviour needs. This was a fundamental change as the young adults had been replaced by a new population with very different offence backgrounds, many of whom were ageing and in poor health. In addition, the prison had had to cope with the national benchmarking process (a resources review) twice – once for its old population and once for its new. At the time of the inspection the prison health care services had been recommissioned and a new health care provider was due to start work a few weeks later.

The prison was managing these changes and pressures very well but the process of change was not yet complete. The transferring out of the young adults had been well handled and arrangements for receiving a large number of sex offenders over a relatively short period had been well organised. However, the replacement of young adults by sex offenders meant that safety and respect issues had become easier to manage and greater priority now needed to be given to ensuring that sufficient high-quality activity was available, and that offender management processes met the requirements of the new population.

It is fair to say that the new population was more compliant than that held previously, but nevertheless safety processes were effective and managers and staff could take credit for the fact that the prison was very safe. Reception and early days processes were good and new arrivals received good support. Fewer prisoners than at similar prisons told us they had concerns about their safety and there were few violent incidents. Formal processes for dealing with perpetrators and victims needed improvement, but victims of bullying told us they appreciated the support they received from peer supporters in the ‘buddy’ scheme. Prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm were generally well supported and the weekly complex needs meeting was effective in managing those with the most acute needs. The arrangements for safeguarding vulnerable adults were among the best we have seen and preparation for the implementation of the Care Act from April 2015 was well advanced. Security and disciplinary processes were proportionate and were appropriate for the new population. The availability of illegal drugs was lower than we see elsewhere and the support for prisoners with substance misuse issues was generally good.

The environment was reasonable and relationships between staff and prisoners were a real strength. Well-motivated peer workers complemented the work of staff and provided valuable assistance to prisoners who required additional support in a variety of areas. Work on diversity and equality issues was well led by the governor and the prison was adapting to the needs of a larger population of older prisoners and those with disabilities, although difficulties with access still remained for some prisoners with disabilities. The chaplaincy played an important role in the prison but staff shortages and regime clashes made it difficult for some prisoners to attend religious services. Health services were good and had not been disrupted by the recommissioning process. Health services were responding effectively to the growing needs of an ageing population.

The provision of purposeful activity was a weaker area, but there were credible plans for improvement. Time out of cell was reasonable for most prisoners, but there were not enough activity places for the whole population. The allocation of prisoners to activities was poor, with some prisoners being sent to workshops for which they did not have the relevant skills. The range of activity that was available was good and some, such as the motor body and paint spraying workshops, were outstanding. However, far too little of what was provided was accredited and outcomes were not good enough. The lack of qualifications was a crucial issue for this population, many of whom might need to change jobs on release because of their offence and would need to be able to demonstrate the new skills and experience they had learned in prison. The quality of teaching was too variable. Both the library and gym provision were good. The strategic management of learning and skills was good, and the prison’s self-assessment of the improvements needed was robust. New workshops were due to open shortly after the inspection which would help reduce the shortfall inactivity places.

Offender management and resettlement were the area of greatest change in the prison and where there was still most to do. The prison did not have a whole prison approach to offender management and too many wing staff saw prisoners as a compliant and easy to manage group without appreciating the wider risks to the community that some would pose on release. Offender management staff had a dual role and some offender supervisors did not have the skills or motivation to work with this group of offenders. These staff needed more support and training to assist them in their very new roles. There were good systems to identify and manage prisoners identified as a risk to children but planning for the risk posed by some high-risk prisoners was inadequate. Practical resettlement services were generally adequate at the time of the inspection, but were due to be decommissioned when the new community rehabilitation companies began work in designated resettlement prisons shortly after the inspection. At the time of the inspection, it was not clear how the release of low and medium-risk prisoners, who were not the responsibility of the National Probation Service, would be managed in future. The programmes available to address prisoners’ attitudes and behaviour were sufficient to meet the assessed needs of the population, but we were not assured the current assessment adequately identified need. There was good work to motivate prisoners in denial of their offence.

HMP Littlehey is a well-led prison and managers and staff should be commended on the way they have managed the substantial changes they have had to deal with. At the time of the inspection, this was still work in progress. Safety and respect were now good and necessary plans to develop the quality and quantity of activity available were progressing well. Improving the quantity and level of qualifications that prisoners were able to obtain needed to form a large part of this. The prison needs to step up its efforts to adjust its offender management processes to meet the needs of its new population, and to ensure that all those who work in the prison see it as their job to help reduce the risk these prisoners will reoffend after release. That is not yet the case and needs to be the priority going forward. 

Nick Hardwick July 2015

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

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The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below:

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