HMIP Inspections, Buckley Hall

The prison was given an inspection in summer 2019 and 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 Buckley Hall is a category C training prison located near Rochdale in Lancashire. A relatively modern facility, the prison was rebuilt and reopened in 1995. Comprising four house blocks, the prison can hold just over 450 adult male prisoners (459) and, at the time of our inspection, was full, with a population ranging in age and sentence length. Of those held, however, nearly a third were serving indeterminate sentences and 45 men were serving life.

This was an excellent inspection and we are pleased to report that we judged outcomes for prisoners to be ‘good’ – our highest assessment – in three of our four tests of a healthy prison. Our one concern was that more work was still needed to improve the quality and outcomes of education and work. Our assessments also recognised and recorded significant improvement since our last inspection in 2016.

Buckley Hall is a very safe prison. Reception and induction arrangements were thorough and our survey suggested they were appreciated by prisoners. Our survey also indicated that just 7% of respondents reported feeling unsafe, which was very low and much lower than in comparable establishments. Recorded violence and use of force had reduced since our previous inspection and work to reduce it further was robust and multi-disciplinary, with initiatives informed by good data and leading to good practice. The rehabilitative ethos that pervaded the prison was, in our view, key to the quality of engagement seen among prisoners, which in turn was reflected in the calm and settled atmosphere in the prison and the sense of well-being expressed by many of those we spoke to.

The application of security was generally proportionate but more needed to be done to reduce the availability of illicit substances. The number of positive mandatory drug tests for the six months prior to our inspection stood at 15%, although notably comparatively few were for psychoactive substances, reflecting some very good multidisciplinary work and health promotion initiatives intended to combat this problem.

Self-harm had increased since our last inspection but remained comparatively low. Tragically there had also been one self-inflicted death. Work to reduce self-harm and support those in crisis was very good. The prison’s approach was multidisciplinary, based on evidence and good supervision but, most importantly, afforded men in need of support good quality of care.

Staff-prisoner relationships were a strength. Some 88% of prisoners told us they felt respected and we saw lots of evidence of a confident, caring and supportive staff group. The key worker scheme was embedded and effective with nearly all prisoners telling us they had a personal officer and 78% telling us they thought their personal officer was useful. Living conditions were generally very good, the prisoners were very positive about the food and work to deal with complaints or ensure meaningful consultation with prisoners was effective. The promotion of equality and diversity was similarly much improved and based on a good understanding of need and useful consultation, while ensuring reasonably equitable outcomes and perceptions among groups with protected characteristics. Primary health care, substance misuse services and mental health support was good, with some excellent elements.

Time out of cell for prisoners remained very good and much better than we often see. Daily routines, including evening association four times a week, were delivered in accordance with published routines and access to library and gym facilities was also good. The quality of education, work and skills provision had, however, deteriorated and our colleagues in Ofsted rated the overall effectiveness of provision as ‘requires improvement’. Engagement by prisoners in activity and learning was excellent, but recent improvements to provision had yet to have sufficient impact and the quality of teaching and learning, as well as achievements and progress made by learners, needed to be better.

 Work to support and promote family ties was excellent. Work to reduce the risk of reoffending was similarly very good and despite many prisoners presenting a high risk of harm, assessments (OASYs) were reasonably up to date, and all prisoners had a sentence plan. Most men understood their objectives and contact with prison offender managers was better than we often see. In our survey prisoners indicated that they thought their experiences at the prison had made them less likely to offend in the future. Buckley Hall was not a resettlement prison but for the few who were released there was good one-to-one engagement and resettlement support. Re-categorisation arrangements were managed well and men who qualified could move on to open prisons promptly. Public protection arrangements were robust.

Buckley Hall is a very good prison. It had got the basics right and there was meaningful attention to detail that supported good outcomes for those detained. Prisoners could see this, and were personally incentivised to respond positively. Work undertaken throughout the prison was usually multi-disciplinary, and often based on useful evidence and an effective use of data and subject to effective governance and oversight. A culture of respect and rehabilitation, led from the top, permeated all aspects of the prison’s work and culture, and was a quality that seemed to be embraced by all departments. Good leadership and a confident and respectful staff had achieved much through hard work, underpinned by an ethos and culture they had created. They should be congratulated.

Peter Clarke                                                    September 2019                         

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

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

Return to Buckley Hall

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