HMIP Inspections of Deerbolt

The prison was given an inspection in December 2014, 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 Deerbolt is a young adult establishment managing male prisoners aged 18 to 21. Located near Barnard Castle in County Durham it provides a place for up to 513 convicted young men who come from across the north of England. At our last inspection in 2011 we considered it to be a safe and respectful prison that provided a fairly purposeful regime and some solid resettlement support. At this inspection, the evidence again suggests that the prison is performing reasonably well.

Most prisoners felt safe and early days support was particularly good. The population however, had changed and it now held mainly those convicted of violent or other serious offences. While most violent incidents were low level, some were more serious, and the emerging problem of prisoners using new psychoactive substances, such as Spice, meant that the prison had to be vigilant in responding to these challenges. It was however, commendable that the prison had not had any self inflicted deaths since opening, which was testament to some good work supporting those deemed vulnerable to self-harm. Substance misuse support provided on the recovery unit was excellent but needed to be extended to those requiring such assistance on other units. Use of segregation was not high and relationships on the unit were good, although the regime was somewhat limited. However, while use of force was not high, we were concerned about the management and application of some aspects of force at the prison. We found examples where de-escalation had not been used effectively, and overall arrangements did not provide reassurance that all force used was proportionate.

Relationships between staff and prisoners were strong and staff had appropriately high expectations of the behaviour they expected from the young men held. While strategic elements of diversity work were in need of development, and despite negativity in our survey from black and minority ethnic and disabled prisoners, we found outcomes for the protected groups were reasonable. Health services were very good and valued by prisoners. The general environment and cleanliness was also good, but some residential areas were in a poor state of repair – many windows were broken and some cells were in a particularly poor state. Significant investment was needed to bring all the buildings up to a decent standard.

Time out of cell for most was reasonable and although too many prisoners were locked up during the core day, most had some activity. Leadership and management of learning and skills was good and some excellent work was taking place to improve the range and amount of activities available. There were now sufficient activity places for the population held and unemployment was low. The focus on vocational training was particularly strong, with some good opportunities offered, although some waiting lists were poorly managed. However, attendance and punctuality were poor and aspects of the education provision needed urgent attention, particularly the quality of some teaching and outcomes in functional English and maths. Given the age, profile and needs of the population this was surprising and was a key area for improvement.

Pre-release resettlement support was very strong and it was notable that in our survey more prisoners than the comparator said they had done something, or something had happened to them at the prison, that would make it less likely that they would offend in the future. Work to support prisoners in maintaining contact with family, friends and the outside world was particularly encouraging, and important for this age group. However, offender management arrangements were underdeveloped and many key assessments were overdue or had not even been started. While some work with higher risk prisoners was better, as was most public protection work, this was a key area for improvement to ensure everything possible was being done to reduce the risk of future reoffending.

Overall, while Deerbolt remained a decent and generally safe prison, some key challenges were evident. Action to address the supervision of force started as soon as we raised concerns with the prison management, and needed to be quickly resolved. Deficits in the key areas of functional skills teaching and achievements, and offender management, needed close management attention, but we were confident that this would happen and that in time progress would be made. The quality of the buildings’ infrastructure is more difficult for local managers to address and support is needed from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to resource the improvements required. This is a challenging agenda but Deerbolt remains one of the better young adult prisons we have inspected. 

Nick Hardwick                       May 2015

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Deerbolt

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