HMIP Reports, HMP Dartmoor

The prison was given an inspection in Summer 2017, 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 Dartmoor was established in 1809 and over the years has had many roles within the prison system. During the inspection, it held over 600 high-risk prisoners deemed suitable for a category C training prison environment. The population was a mix of men convicted of sexual offences and those serving long sentences for violence and other serious offences. The make-up of these two groups had changed since our last inspection and 70% of men were now in the former group. The prison had taken the bold step of integrating the two populations.

Located in the heart of Dartmoor and built on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, the prison remained under threat of closure. Local managers felt this had resulted in a degree of ‘planning blight’, as evidenced by a reluctance to invest in upgrading the poor infrastructure. Nevertheless, we saw some real progress in some key prisoner outcomes, although this was balanced by some significant challenges, particularly in ensuring that men released from the prison were supported through the process and that the public were adequately protected.

Support for men arriving at the prison was generally very good and the prison prepared prisoners well, which ensured they understood the integrated regime. While levels of violence were very low, more men than previously told us they had felt unsafe at some time and that they had been victimised by other prisoners. Some excellent work had been done to facilitate the transition to a fully integrated regime, but more work was needed to embed the changes, ensure the risks of men in this context were well understood and develop the support package for those who still felt anxious. There had been a good focus on recommendations arising from deaths in custody, and men vulnerable to self-harm were generally well cared for.

The built environment was extremely limited and in some aspects poor, with pervasive damp in many cells. Nevertheless, men were generally positive about the amenities offered, and staff-prisoner relationships were very good. Some good work had taken place to support disabled and elderly men at the prison, but a significant investment in adapting the buildings was needed if these men were to receive consistently good treatment.

The prison had had staff vacancies for some time and this, along with a combination of other factors, led to a significantly curtailed regime. Prison managers had made efforts to offset the impact on time out of cell and access to services, but regime curtailments were a daily occurrence and were often unpredictable. Nevertheless, the focus of the governor, her management team and partners on providing enhanced purposeful activity places was bearing fruit, and most men who wanted to undertake good-quality work and activities could do so.

Our most serious concerns related to resettlement. Dartmoor was not a designated resettlement prison, which meant it did not have adequate resources to effectively engage in re-release planning. Despite this, over 200 men in the year leading up to the inspection had been released from the prison. Our projections indicated the number would be even higher next year. In addition, offender management provision did not ensure that men received support to reduce the risks of harm they might pose to the public on release, or that release planning for the highest-risk men was timely or comprehensive. This was a shocking and totally unacceptable situation, given the generally high-risk population being released from Dartmoor. The situation was exacerbated by the prison’s inability to move men to resettlement prisons in the local area and the hiatus in the delivery of specialist offending programmes for men convicted of sexual offences.

Overall, the prison was very well led and we considered outcomes in three of our four healthy prison tests to be reasonably good. However, we had significant concerns about the lack of clarity relating to the prison’s resettlement and risk management responsibilities, and in particular its inability to carry out adequate pre-release planning for men being released from the prison. While we considered Dartmoor to be well led and making strides in some important areas, it was being hampered by confusion nationally about its role, doubts about its future and inadequate resources to do the job it was being asked to do. The solutions to many of the most significant concerns we raise in this report are not in the gift of the governor; the active support of HM Prison and Probation Service is needed.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
September 2017
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

 Return to Dartmoor

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

  • HMP Dartmoor (639.72 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Dartmoor (14–24 August 2017)
  • HMP Dartmoor, Unannounced inspection of HMP Dartmoor (2-13 December 2013)
  • HMP Dartmoor, An announced inspection of HMP Dartmoor (12 – 16 December 2011)
  • HMP Dartmoor, Unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Dartmoor (10-19 March 2010)
  • HMP Dartmoor, Announced inspection of HMP Dartmoor (11-15 February 2008)