Inspections of Wetherby and the Keppel Unit

The prison inspectors carried out an  inspection at Wetherby and the Keppel unit March 2017.  In their report they said:

HMYOI Wetherby is a young offender institution which at the time of this inspection was holding 260 boys aged 15 to 18. Of these, approximately 40 boys were held on the Keppel unit, a specialist facility within the wider prison designed to manage some of the most challenging and vulnerable young people currently held anywhere in a custodial setting. As Keppel is a self-contained facility, we have assessed it separately against our healthy prison tests. As with all custodial facilities for young people, the risks and accountabilities prevalent require that we inspect these institutions on an annual basis.

When we inspected last year, we made clear that there remained much to commend at Wetherby but also identified some significant recent deterioration in outcomes. Failings in safety and a failure to deliver an acceptable and predictable daily routine, leading in turn to unacceptable shortcomings in the provision of activities, work and education, were clear themes in our report. We were reassured to find that the situation a year later appeared to be more stable. A new governor had recently been appointed and he, in our view, was a steadying influence.

It was particularly pleasing to see that a sense of purpose and confidence had been restored to Keppel. Good leadership on the unit was helping staff and boys alike, and overall the unit was showing clear evidence of improvement. The wider prison was still not safe enough and reported levels of violence were high, with increasing violence against staff evident. There were signs of improvement in behaviour management strategies, with more effort to incentivise boys, but the approach to violence reduction in general was still not adequate. Features of the problem were a general lack of confidence and an aversion to managing risk. Many approaches to, for example, security or the use of segregation lacked proportionality and were needlessly restrictive. On a more positive note, the number of boys exhibiting self-harming behaviours had reduced since the last inspection.

Keppel, being a more modern facility, provided a better environment than the rest of the institution ,but that in itself was no excuse for the dirtiness and graffiti we observed in the main units. Our survey provided reassurance that most boys felt respected by staff and we saw some good interactions, especially on Keppel. There remained, however, a minority of staff who retained low expectations of what could be achieved with boys, and who failed to challenge constructively anti-social behaviour they observed. Such attitudes held the institution back and needed to be confronted. Work to promote equality was weak, although healthcare was better despite the impact of staff shortages.

The provision of activities and learning had improved, but from a low base. The establishment was still operating a restricted daily routine and time out of cell was insufficient. During the working day we found nearly half of boys locked in cell, although the situation was much better on Keppel. The quality of education was improving, but it was still not given sufficient priority and too much was cancelled owing to staff shortages. Sufficient activity places were provided for all, but outcomes were undermined by poor attendance, poor punctuality and cancellations. It was a compelling observation that once in class most boys demonstrated good behaviour and, in the main, seemed to be acquiring useful interpersonal skills.

A strength of the institution was its work to resettle boys at the end of their sentences. There was a good understanding of need and community partnerships were improving, as was the use of release on temporary licence (ROTL) to support resettlement work. Training management plans, however, remained too variable and not all boys were engaged in the process, which represented a missed opportunity to focus effectively on reducing future risk of offending.

Overall we were more optimistic about Wetherby following this inspection than we were after lastyear’s. Stability was more evident and staff seemed to be recovering their confidence. The governor had a good understanding of the challenges he faced and was beginning the process of improvement.

Our report highlights a number of priorities, including work to tackle bullying, the promotion of equality and ensuring boys spend their time out of cell in constructive activity, which we hope will assist.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

June 2017

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

 Return to Wetherby

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

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