HMP Dovegate, HMIP Inspections

 The HMIP carried out an inspection on the main prison in early 2017, and the full report can be found on the links below. The therapeutic community division of the prison is subjected to separate inspection (see below)  In the summary to the main inspection report the inspectors said;

HMP Dovegate is a modern, privately managed institution operated by Serco. Built in 2001, it has a self-contained therapeutic community (TC) and a separate training role for category B prisoners, although it also has a small local prison function for about 130 prisoners. Of 858 men in total held, over three-quarters are serving sentences well in excess of four years. Half are serving upwards of 10 years to life. This inspection concerns only the training and local prison functions as the TC will be inspected separately.

When we last inspected Dovegate in early 2015, we found an establishment that was in managerial transition and was in many respects  struggling to maintain stability and ensure good outcomes for a challenging population of experienced and often violent offenders. At the time we expressed some optimism about the potential for progress and our hope that improvement could be achieved. Unfortunately, that optimism was misplaced and it  would seem the prison has experienced a number of difficult years since.

Our findings at this inspection in many ways mirrored our findings in 2015. A newly appointed director seemed to be getting to grips with the problems the prison faced and improvements were beginning to gain momentum, although it remained early days. Our healthy prison scores reflected this assessment and remained similar to last time and disappointing overall.

Of key concern was the fact that the prison was still not safe enough. New arrivals were well received and helped to settle, but levels of violence remained too high despite some recent improvement over the last year. About a fifth of assaults were also serious in nature so it was little surprise that in our survey about a quarter of prisoners told us they felt unsafe. Encouragingly, the prison seemed to be putting in place meaningful strategies to reduce this problem, with some emergent evidence suggesting they were beginning to be effective.

There had been one self-inflicted death since our last  inspection and self-harm in general was high.  Again, the prison’s response to this problem was encouraging, with case management getting better and those at risk telling us they felt supported.

The prison was having to contend with a number of  physical and operational security challenges, and in general was doing so appropriately. The key operational challenges included confronting organised criminality, mobile phones and drugs. Improvements  to the management of intelligence were evident and interventions were beginning to be effective. Despite this, drug testing, the views of prisoners and contraband finds indicated the availability of illicit substances, including brewed alcohol and new psychoactive substances (NPS), was considerable and the prison needed to have a more coordinated response to reducing drug supply. Substance misuse interventions to help  reduce demand were, in contrast, excellent.

Use of force was also high and often required the use of full restraint. Supervision and arrangements to ensure meaningful accountability were weak, with management oversight only recently prioritised.  Use of segregation was similarly high and outcomes were not good enough. We also heard a number of concerns from prisoners about mistreatment in  segregation. These accusations, we were told were being investigated by managers but accountability in general for segregation needed immediate improvement and is the subject of one of our main recommendations.

We found Dovegate to be a generally respectful prison. Living conditions were good for most and most prisoners felt respected by staff, although  supervision needed to be better and there was evidence that some staff struggled to set boundaries on behaviour. The promotion of equality and diversity was limited, with some evidence of more negative perceptions amongst minority groups, but health care provision had improved and was very good. The chaplaincy was also very supportive of the prison’s work and prisoners were generally appreciative of the food.

A significant number of prisoners were engaged in fu ll-time work or training and had a reasonable amount of time out of cell, although we still found over a quarter of prisoners locked up during the working day. There was, however, an overall shortfall of activity places, leaving 160 prisoners unemployed and 133 occupied on a part-time basis. The range of education on offer was good and prisoners had opportunities to progress, but the quality of teaching was inconsistent and  improvements to quality were relatively recent. Those engaged in learning achieved well and behaviour, punctuality and attendance were all good.

Most sentenced prisoners presented a serious risk of harm to others and offender supervisor contact was fairly frequent, with many encounters focused on risk reduction and sentence progression. However, risk management planning for the release of some high-risk prisoners was not good enough. Assessment and planning for resettlement was poor, with not enough done to address basic needs. Work to support family ties was an exception: it had improved and was providing good outcomes.

Overall we remain positive about Dovegate’s future. The prison was well led and staff seemed to be growing in confidence. Meaningful work was being undertaken to address weaknesses and some early successes were evident. We left the prison with a number of recommendations which we trust will assist the process of improvement.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
July 2017
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”


and on a report in 2018 on the therapeutic community arm they said:

Dovegate Therapeutic Prison (TP) held up to 200 men in one of five therapeutic communities (TCs) and an induction unit. Although managed as part of Dovegate prison, its functions are very specific, most facilities are discrete to the TP site and it is largely self-contained. We inspect Dovegate main prison separately.

Men held in the TP were referred or referred themselves for the accredited TC process, which aims to help them reduce their risk of harm to others by providing them with a structured community and a range of therapeutic work. The underlying ethos of TCs is that both staff and prisoners have a real say in how the communities are run. Men involved must be willing to be open about their offending and related institutional behaviour and to being challenged by their peers and staff. Therapy is embedded into all TC activities, not just in individual and group therapy sessions. It is a structured, externally validated intervention, and for men who go through the whole process, it lasts approximately two and a half years. Most men in the TP were serving very long determinate or indeterminate sentences and the TCs had to operate within the security imperatives of a category B prison.

Dovegate TP was a safe prison. There was very little violence, and when incidents occurred, appropriate formal disciplinary action was taken, including deselection if the matter was serious. Most incidents, however, related to minor antisocial behaviour or verbal exchanges, and they were mostly managed within the communities themselves through community challenge, individual self-reflection or community sanctions. Men received good support on arrival, including the small number who felt vulnerable and were at risk of self-harm. There had been no self-inflicted deaths since our last inspection.

Dovegate TP was also a respectful prison. Good staff-prisoner relationships were at the core of the therapeutic approach and held the communities together. After a short induction, all men lived on one of five TCs, where physical conditions were excellent, as was the external environment. Men felt well cared for, both by staff and their peers. Consultation arrangements were very strong, and the food provided was good. Some strategic arrangements relating to equality and diversity were being developed, but support for those with protected characteristics and faith provision were very strong. Health care was reasonably good, but there were some issues, particularly with waiting lists, which were too long.

Time out of cell was good and delivered reliably, although outside exercise opportunities were somewhat restricted. Leadership and management of learning, skills and work activities were not effective in ensuring that the provision was sufficient to meet prisoners’ needs or that it fully supported the therapeutic process. The range and breadth of work and the curriculum was not wide enough, teaching and learning was not consistent and activities were not regarded as essential to supporting the therapeutic process.

Most men felt they were making progress through the work they were undertaking in the TCs and we were struck by the insights they had about their past behaviour and offending and about how different and productive their future could be. This was testament to the impact of the therapy and the hard work of the men and staff. However, the clinical model used to support therapy was undergoing significant change, and many specialist staff were not yet in post, which was having an impact on what could be done. Therapy staff did not have a good enough understanding of why so many men dropped out of therapy or how they could retain them, and some aspects of the work to prepare men for progressive moves was not coordinated well enough. Very few men were directly released from the TP, but overall staff were undertaking excellent work to reduce the risks and doing their best at an individual level to assist progression.

Dovegate TP was impressive. A national resource, it was part of the offender personality disorder pathway. It worked with men intensively over a period of years to better understand their problematic behaviour, attitudes and thinking patterns and to help them change. Most men who reached the end of the process made progress, and over 80% of respondents in our survey said they felt they had done something at the prison to make it less likely they would reoffend in the future. Learning, skills and work activities needed to better complement the prison’s therapeutic aims, and the clinical model underpinning therapy work needed to be implemented in full. However, in nearly all other respects the work the prison was carrying out was excellent.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
May 2018
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

To read the full report go to the Ministry of Justice website or follow the links below: This section contains the reports for Dovegate from 2003 until present

Return to HMP Dovegate

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