HMIP Reports, HMP Bristol

The prison was given an inspection in May and June 2019. This inspection gave rise to a Urgent Notification report (click here) The full inspection report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

HMP Bristol is a category B local and resettlement prison, holding male adult and young adult prisoners. At the time of this inspection 464 men were resident, a slightly reduced roll, caused by the temporary closure of the prison’s D wing for refurbishment.

Following this inspection of HMP Bristol, and because of our findings, in accordance with the protocol I have with the Ministry of Justice, I wrote to the Secretary of State invoking the Urgent Notification (UN) process (see Appendix V) on 11 June 2019.1 In that letter, and in the inspection debriefing paper that accompanied it, I set out in detail my concerns and the judgements that had caused me to follow that course of action. Under the protocol, the Secretary of State commits to respond publicly to the UN within 28 days, explaining how outcomes for those detained will be improved. The Secretary of State’s response, for which I am grateful, is also detailed in Appendix VII of this report.

As I indicated in my letter of 11 June, prior to this inspection we last inspected Bristol in March 2017 when we reported on declining standards and either poor or insufficiently good outcomes across all our tests of a healthy prison. These findings followed similarly poor inspections in both 2013 and 2014. Despite expressing some optimism at the time of the last inspection and despite subsequent important initiatives within the prison (including the recruitment of many staff, some new investment and the designation of Bristol by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) as a prison under ‘special measures’), at this inspection we were again unable to report on any significant improvement to overall outcomes.

Healthy Prison assessments since 2013
Safety Respect Purposeful


Resettlement and


2019 1 2 1 2
2017 1 2 1 2
2014 2 2 2 2
2013 2 1 1 3

We last reported more positively about this prison some nine years ago in 2010, but since then, as the chart shows, it has been a record of seemingly intractable failure. Outcomes in safety for example, have been poor for two consecutive inspections, as they have been in the provision of purposeful activity. It was striking that of the 76 recommendations we made in 2017 we found that only 23 had been achieved or partially achieved; some 52 (68%) having not been achieved. Moreover, the prison met all seven of our criteria for invoking a UN.

My detailed findings for this inspection are contained within the summary and body of this report, and were similarly summarised in my letter to the Secretary of State. I will not repeat them here. As I have indicated previously, Bristol may not have reached the extreme lack of order and crisis seen in some other prisons and this report acknowledges some developments and some improvements, but many initiatives were poorly coordinated, applied inconsistently or not well embedded. Our repeated requests for the prison to provide us with meaningful objectives or an assessment of the impact of ‘special measures’ in driving improvement were unsuccessful. We were left with little confidence that the prison had a coherent and robust plan to impact and improve outcomes meaningfully. In 2017 the cautious optimism to which I referred gave me grounds to think that the leadership at Bristol, supported regionally and nationally, might be able to make progress. The current reality however, shows this did not happen. I hope this report and the UN that preceded it constitute a timely reminder that HMP Bristol needs to be gripped and supported at all levels of management in HMPPS.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                 July 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Bristol

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