HMIP Reports, HMP Ashfield

The prison was given an inspection in early springr 2019.To read the full report on the prison, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below: In their report the inspectors said:

“HMP Ashfield is a category C prison for men who have been convicted of sexual offences. It is operated by Serco and situated in Pucklechurch a few miles to the east of Bristol, and has been fulfilling its current role since 2013.

At the time of this inspection it held some 400 prisoners, of whom 85% had been assessed as presenting a high or very high risk of harm to the public. This fact is directly relevant to the main concerns that we had as a result of this inspection, and our judgement that in terms of rehabilitation and release planning, the outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good. In all other areas the prison inspected well, and we had no hesitation in awarding our highest grade of good for safety, respect and purposeful activity.

The prison was very safe, with only one fight and seven assaults recorded in the six months prior to the inspection. As one would expect, the use of force was similarly low, with six incidents in the same period. However, and perhaps as a consequence of the rarity of violence, the oversight of the use of force was poor and needed focused management attention. Similarly, the response to the few violent incidents was not as thorough as it should have been. It was also notable that in our survey around a third of prisoners told us that they had felt unsafe at some point during their time in Ashfield. This was somewhat at odds with the reality that the prison was generally a very safe place, and the reasons for these perceptions need to be understood so that they could be addressed.

We found that the prison provided a respectful environment, and relationships between staff and prisoners were particularly strong, with 86% of prisoners saying that the staff treated them with respect. This was an exceptionally high figure, and was reflected in the positive views prisoners held about the way in which applications and complaints were dealt with. The buildings were in good condition, there was no overcrowding, and there were areas devoted to gardens and animal husbandry. The food was well liked by the prisoners, health and social care provision was good, as was consultation with prisoners. In light of all this, it was slightly surprising to find that the strategic management of equality and diversity was weak, and was in need of senior management intervention. As with the management weaknesses in the area of safety, this was perhaps due to the fact that there were no obvious negative outcomes. However, of course this did not absolve management from the need to maintain monitoring and oversight.

Purposeful activity had improved significantly since the last inspection in 2015. Our colleagues from Ofsted found that provision across the board in education, skills and work was good. When this was combined with high quality facilities for sports and exercise, a good library and exceptionally good time out of cell, we concluded that the outcomes justified the award of our highest grade, good, in this area. This was two levels up from the previous inspection, and was a significant achievement.

However, this was to some extent balanced by some disappointing findings in rehabilitation and resettlement planning. The section of this report that sets out in detail our findings is worthy of scrutiny as we believe the weaknesses we found were serious, and were exacerbated by the specialist requirements of the prisoner population at Ashfield. We found that the level and quality of contact between offender supervisors and prisoners had declined since 2015. The ability of the prison to reduce the risk posed by this high risk group of prisoners was inhibited by the fact that some 45% of them did not have an up to date OASys assessment. To make matters worse, offender supervisors were not sufficiently trained or properly supervised in working with prisoners convicted of sexual offences. In addition, the number and range of interventions to enable prisoners to address their offending behaviour and to make progress through their sentence towards the eventual point of release was insufficient. There was very little provision for those who maintained their innocence. This was all very concerning, particularly as these issues had been the subject of recommendations at the last inspection, and they had not been addressed in the intervening four years. The problems had been made worse by some systemic failures, such as the fact that there were insufficient category D  places for prisoners to move to in open prisons. This meant that Ashfield, a prison with no formal resettlement function, was having to release prisoners back into the community. At the time of the last inspection the prison was releasing on average around four prisoners each month, but by the time of this inspection the figure had doubled. Given the high risk nature of the vast majority of the prisoners at Ashfield, this was an issue of great concern.

With the exception of the serious problems in rehabilitation and release planning, we found that there had been an unusually good response from the prison to the last inspection. Of the recommendations that we made in 2015, 71% had been fully or partially achieved. The progress in purposeful activity was particularly noteworthy, as was the maintenance of high standards in safety and respect. The prison is aware of what needs to be done to address the risks presented by the weaknesses highlighted in our main recommendations, and my hope is that on this occasion they will be properly addressed.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                              May 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Ashfield

To read the full reports on the old (closed) prison, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:

  • HMP Ashfield (874.31 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Ashfield (25 March – 12 April 2019)
  • HMYOI Ashfield (decommissioning), Unannounced inspection of the decommissioning of HMYOI Ashfield (11 – 14 February 2013)
  • HMYOI Ashfield, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMYOI Ashfield (11 – 13 October 2011)
  • HMYOI Ashfield, Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (25 – 26 September 2012)
  • HMYOI Ashfield, Summary of questionnaires and interviews (19 – 20 September 2011)
  • HMYOI Ashfield, Full unannounced inspection of HMYOI Ashfield (10-14 May 2010)
  • HMYOI Ashfield, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMYOI Ashfield (26-29 August 2008)