HMIP Reports, HMP Channings Wood

The prison was given an inspection in October 2016, 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 Channings Wood is a category C training prison in Devon holding just over 700 convicted adult male prisoners. The full range of sentences and ages were represented in the population profile but well over half of prisoners were serving four years or more and a significant minority were serving indeterminate sentences. Three of  the prison’s eight living units housed vulnerable prisoners, separated mainly owing to their status as sex offenders.

We last inspected Channings Wood in 2012 when we  found reasonable outcomes in three of our four tests of a healthy prison, although our assessment was undermined by what we saw as an inadequate regime for a training prison. At this inspection we found that the prison had regressed markedly. Our assessments had deteriorated in three of our tests and all four – safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement – now evidenced outcomes that were not sufficiently good.

Safety at Channings Wood was a significant concern. Arrangements to receive new prisoners were not thorough and fewer prisoners now felt safe when they first arrived. Levels of violence had increased noticeably and were now comparable to  similar establishments, but action to address violence was poorly coordinated. Support for victims and more vulnerable prisoners was lacking. Use of force had also increased but oversight was not good enough. Two prisoners had taken their own lives since we last inspected and there had been a number of near misses or serious incidents of self-harm, yet attention to this important issue was limited  and the attitude to risk dismissive. As one of  our main recommendations we asked the prison to prioritise improvements concerning this work.

We were not assured that the supervision of prisoners was adequate and there had been a number of acts of indiscipline, some of  them serious and concerted. The prison’s response to security challenges we characterised as fractured. Over half the population indicated to us that it was easy to obtain illicit substances in the prison and there was compelling evidence that substance abuse, including the abuse of new psychoactive substances, was widespread. Understanding more fully the scale of this problem and putting in place a plan to do something about it are priorities we have identified for the prison.

The general environment and most accommodation in the prison were good and most prisoners suggested to us they felt respected by staff. Our own observation of staff-prisoner relationships was more mixed, with some staff we observed being unhelpful or diffident when it came to challenging poor conduct. The promotion of equality was reasonable overall although some gaps were evident, in particular for foreign nationals. Consultation arrangements with minority groups were better than we often see. The provision of health care was best described as inconsistent.

Channings Wood is a training and resettlement prison and yet a limited restricted routine has been in place for two years. Time out of cell was reasonable for those who worked but we still ound about a fifth of prisoners locked in cell during the working day. There was on paper sufficient activity, work and education for the whole population, with a good range of provision.  Teaching and learning as well as other characteristics of quality were, for those who attended, generally good in both education and vocational training. Achievement rates for qualifications were improving. However, too little of the prison’s managerial attention was given to ensuring prisoners attended their learning or work and many of the places available were not allocated or used. About 40% of prisoners did not do meaningful activity and staff were ineffective in supporting or requiring the attendance of prisoners at activity. This was an unacceptable situation which we asked the prison to address in another of our main recommendations.

The management of prisoners’ sentences and risks had deteriorated and offender management did not hold a high enough profile in the prison. Half of  all prisoners arriving at the prison did not have an offender assessment system (OASys) assessment , this despite the substantial number of high-risk cases being managed. Those plans that were completed were inconsistent and often of insufficient quality. Offender supervision was fitful and reactive, largely owing to the diversion of staff away from this core task. Again, we saw the improvement of outcomes in this core responsibility as a priority.

Public protection arrangements were mostly sound  and reintegration planning was reasonably good. The work of the community rehabilitation company (CRC) was becoming increasingly effective and embedded, and provision across the resettlement pathways was providing reasonable outcomes.

Channings Wood is a prison in decline. Four years ago we found a prison coping reasonably well with its challenges. This time we found a prison struggling to cope and the impact on prisoners was evident. The senior management team had a number of  vacancies, including that of deputy governor, all of which left substantial strategic and operational gaps. As a result, our major concern is that the prison just doesn’t have the necessary strategies, plans or resources at a senior level to halt the deterioration.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

                                                                         November                                                                           2016                                                                          

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Channings Wood

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