HMIP Reports, HMP & YOI Peterborough (Female)

The prison was given an inspection in the September 2017.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:

“HMP & YOI Peterborough remains the only prison in England and Wales that holds both women and men on a single site. In the past we were confident that the challenges of this arrangement were well managed, but at this inspection we had concerns that instability on the male side was affecting the prison’s ability to focus sufficiently on the relatively more settled female prison. The women’s local prison serves a wide range of courts in the east of England. It is also a designated resettlement prison, which in the six months prior to our inspection had released nearly 500 women. At this inspection over 360 women were held there, including a small number of young adults. As we usually find in women’s local prisons, the churn in prisoners was significant and the population complex. Most women only stayed at Peterborough for a few weeks and in our survey 89% said they arrived at the prison with problems; 65% of women said they felt depressed and over a quarter said they felt suicidal. Worryingly, 66% said they had mental health problems.

Early days support was generally good. While levels of violence at the prison remained relatively low and similar to other women’s local prisons, the findings of our survey were far more negative than previously about safety: 60% of women told us they had felt unsafe at some time since arriving at the prison and 28% felt unsafe at the time of the survey. In addition, more women than at our previous inspection and than in comparator prisons said they had been victimised by either prisoners or staff.

Women we spoke to and data we reviewed indicate d that verbal bullying and antisocial behaviour were the main reasons for these perceptions. Some interventions were in place to address minor antisocial behaviour, but far more needed to be do ne to understand and respond to the issues and to support victims of bullying.

Levels of self-harm were high, but it was the case that a small number of women accounted for a significant proportion of these incidents. While most care provided for these women was good, we were concerned about how the use of strip-clothing was being managed. Work with women who had complex needs was generally good. However, one woman with very challenging behaviour and complex needs had been in the segregation unit for a considerable period of time, and while we did not doubt that local managers wished to provide her with good care, they needed more support from HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to work with her constructively.

Use of force was far too high at more than double what we usually see in women’s prisons; we saw examples where not every opportunity to de-escalate the situation had been used. Use of strip-searching was also too high, which was particularly disappointing given the heavy investment in training staff about how past trauma can be reignited in the prison setting.

The environment was generally excellent and women were well supported in day-to-day life. Staff-prisoner relationships were good overall, but many staff were relatively new and inexperienced, and women in our survey were less positive than at the last inspection about whether they were being treated respectfully. Equality and diversity work was well developed and some good support was provided to those with protected characteristics. Health care, on the other hand, was very mixed. While mental health and provision related to the Care Act were good, there were weaknesses in leadership, clinical governance was underdeveloped and some primary care outcomes were not good enough.

Learning, skills and work had benefited from some excellent attention from prison managers, and all women now had good opportunities to undertake purposeful activity, enhance their education and develop employability skills.

Resettlement work remained very strong. A range of innovative and creative opportunities supported women pre-release and through the gate. Outside Links was a model of good practice, both in terms of the support offered inside the prison and post-release. Resettlement provision for women who were vulnerable or who had been abused was good, and children and families work Introduction remained a strength. We were, however, concerned about the number of women being released with no settled accommodation. There is a need for the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS to review this, specifically in women’s prisons, to be sure that everything possible is being done in this regard.

Overall, this is a more mixed report than when we last inspected this prison. We were particularly concerned about safety, and this is the first women’s prison in several years to have been assessed as ‘not sufficiently good’ in this area. The prison remained basically respectful, but serious deficits in health care meant that the assessment in this area was not as positive as at our previous visit. On the other hand, outcomes in purposeful activity had improved and resettlement remained very strong. The leadership team at Peterborough were motivated to provide good outcomes for the women, but told us they were distracted by some significant challenges in the male prison. A renewed focus on the female prison is now needed to ensure the concerns we have raised at this inspection are addressed.

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

Return to Peterborough 

The full reports can be found by following the links below to the Ministry of Justice web site: