HMIP Reports, HMP Channings Wood

The prison was given an inspection in September 2018, 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 and resettlement prison near Newton Abbott in Devon. Holding up to 724 adult men, the prison’s campus comprises eight residential units, some dating back to the early 1970s when the prison first opened, others added more recently. Those held represented the full range of sentences, with the majority serving between two and 10 years and a small number serving indeterminate sentences. A sizeable proportion of those held were located separately as vulnerable prisoners, either because of the nature of their offence or because they were seeking protection.

Channings Wood was last inspected in late 2016 when we assessed outcomes as being not sufficiently good against all four of our healthy prison tests. At this inspection we were made aware of the problems the prison had faced in recent years and the view expressed that improvements had been made more recently. This was probably the case, although the picture remained very mixed and we again assessed outcomes in all four of our healthy prison tests – safety, respect, purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning – as being not sufficiently good.

There had been efforts to improve safety at the prison but these were often uncoordinated, which undermined their effectiveness. Our survey of prisoners revealed that nearly two-thirds had felt unsafe in the prison in the past, with a third still feeling unsafe at the time of the inspection. The reception and induction of mainstream prisoners was good but was in sharp contrast to the induction experienced by vulnerable prisoners, who were subject to squalid conditions and intimidation from others.

Violence was rising in the prison but the quality and understanding of related data, as well as the unsatisfactory quality of investigations, undermined the prospects for improvement. We were not assured that that the well-being of vulnerable prisoners was always sufficiently safeguarded and the prison lacked a coordinated approach to the reduction of violence linked to the problem of drugs. Testing indicated a positive rate for drug usage in the prison of around 30% and over three-quarters of prisoners thought illicit drugs were easy to access. Inadequate supervision of prisoners, for example, meant there were repeated opportunities for drug misuse and associated violence.

Since we last inspected, two prisoners had tragically taken their own lives and the number of self-harm incidents had doubled. Despite this, important recommendations following investigation of these deaths had not been implemented and case management support was often poor. The support from peer workers for those in crisis was better.

The environment in Channings Wood reflected stark contrasts. Much of the accommodation was of a good standard and prisoners appreciated their access to the pleasant surrounding grounds. On three units, however, in our view, failures of leadership had led to some very poor standards with prisoners living in often bleak and dirty cells. In addition, access to general amenities was at best mixed. Kit and cleaning materials were usually accessible but many showers, although again accessible, were in a poor condition. Prisoners expressed some negative perceptions concerning the quality of the food and the fairness of complaints arrangements, but our observations overall were more positive in these areas.

Most prisoners felt respected by staff and indicated that they knew who to turn to for help. Our own observations, however, suggested variability and polarisation. We saw much positive work being undertaken by staff of all disciplines working appropriately to set and maintain standards. On the poorer wings, in contrast, we found staff congregating in offices, failing to set standards or maintain supportive living conditions and failing to challenge delinquent behaviour on the part of prisoners. It was our view also that the significant number of newer, less experienced officers needed greater support.

Work to promote equality had deteriorated since we last inspected. Team meetings were poorly attended and action planning was weak. Consultation among prisoners with protected characteristics varied greatly, as did outcomes. Health care provision was stretched and was largely reactive, although waiting times to see clinicians were reducing.

Prisoners had reasonable access to time out of cell, although we found about 16% locked in their cells during the working day. Slippage in daily routines was a further source of frustration to many prisoners. The prison had sufficient full-time activity places for most but the management of attendance and punctuality was poor. Similarly, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment required improvement. That said, the provision benefited from some realistic working environments and peer mentors made a valued contribution. Most prisoners completed their qualifications and a small number could progress to higher learning. Our colleagues in Ofsted, however, judged the overall effectiveness of provision as ‘requires improvement’.

The prison’s reducing reoffending strategy was limited and needed review. Oversight lacked rigour and consistency, and many prisoners did not have an up-to-date offender assessment system (OASys) assessment or sentence plan. Added to this, contact between prisoners and their supervisors was often reactive and unfocused, which undermined the achievement of objectives. Public protection measures, as well as release and resettlement planning, were similarly weak and inconsistent.

Inconsistency of outcomes was a recurrent theme of our findings at this inspection. This was best exemplified in varying standards being accepted across the different accommodation wings, but also in the way initiatives to bring about improvement were often implemented in a partial or uncoordinated way. Managers were enthusiastic and open about making progress, but optimism and energy needed to be harnessed in a way that ensured leaders at all levels were visible, demanding consistent standards, and ensuring improvement was embedded and sustainable. We leave the prison with several recommendations which we hope will assist that process.

 Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                          November 2018

HM Chief Inspector of Prison

Return to Channings Wood

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