HMP Dovegate, HMIP Inspections

The HMIP carried out an inspection on the main prison in September 2019, 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,

“Located near Uttoxeter in Staffordshire and built in 2001, HMP Dovegate, a privately-run prison operated by SERCO, is a modern and complex institution that comprises a self-contained therapeutic community (TC), a separate training prison for category B prisoners and a small local prison function. It holds up to 960 adult men. This inspection concerned only the training and local prison functions at the establishment as the TC is inspected separately.

In comparison to our inspection in 2017, we are pleased to report that this inspection found some notable improvements. Outcomes in safety and rehabilitation and release planning, like respect, were now reasonably good, although they remained insufficiently good in purposeful activity.

Dovegate is a safer prison than in 2017. Appropriate attention was given to individual risk among newly arrived prisoners, and reception procedures and induction arrangements were generally good. More prisoners in our survey told us they felt safe on their first night than we usually find in similar prisons, with other survey evidence suggesting this positive sense of safety continued throughout their stay. Work was in place to address violence, although more needed to be done to ensure it was sufficiently impactful, as the number of violent incidents, some of them serious, continued to fluctuate. However, after a recent peak in 2018, violence had fallen in the months before our visit and was now more in keeping with the level seen in similar prisons.

The evidence suggested that prisoners felt reasonably incentivised to behave and engage with the prison, and the number of formal adjudications had halved since we last inspected. The use of force had similarly fallen, although oversight of it was weak and paradoxically the use of segregation was increasing. Prisoners were reasonably positive about their treatment and their relationships with staff while in segregation, although we found some aspects of the way the unit was managed to be restrictive and unnecessary. Security procedures were proportionate, and a comprehensive and joined-up approach to combating the misuse of drugs was now in place. But despite this, drug availability remained a key concern. We were told that since we last inspected there had been two deaths linked to the use of illicit substances and a further three self-inflicted deaths. The level of self-harm, in contrast, was relatively low. The prison seemed to have responded adequately to recommendations made following enquiries into the deaths and those in crisis we spoke to told us they felt supported.

Except for some inertia in respect to minor rule breaking, supervision was generally good and staff-prisoner relationships constructive. The prison was clean and well maintained, and prisoners’ access to amenities and kit was good. There were good prisoner consultation arrangements in place, although some improvement needed to be made in regard to how complaints were dealt with. More prominence was now given to the promotion of equality but there needed to be greater determination to improve the work of the equality action team in addressing negative perceptions among some minority groups. Health provision was good overall.

We found about a quarter of prisoners locked in cell during the working day although this was the case predominantly in the local part of the prison, with the proportion falling to 16% on the training wings. There were enough activity places for most prisoners although fewer for vulnerable prisoners. The availability of education was better than the more limited availability of vocational provision, but attendance generally was not good enough. Productive links with external employers ensured some demanding commercial standards in workshops, although there were missed opportunities in terms of recording skills acquisition and achievements. Most learners in education were making progress but our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of provision as ‘requires improvement’, their second lowest level of assessment.

The support prisoners were given to maintain their family ties was encouraging, with very good visits and enhanced family visits arrangements. Family support and parenting courses were also available.

The prison held many high risk of harm prisoners serving long sentences. The majority had an offender assessment (OASys) although sentence plan reviews were often missed. Contact between offender supervisors and prisoners was reasonable. Public protection arrangements, including planning for release, were robust. Offending behaviour work was well managed but provision for vulnerable prisoners and one-to-one interventions was more limited. Support for the considerable number of prisoners being released needed to be better, with meaningful reviews of resettlement needs and plans prior to departure currently lacking and many individuals being released without a settled address.

Despite this, we found the prison settled. Prisoners were confident and engaged, and staff were knowledgeable. The Director and his team were ensuring the prison was well run and we had every confidence that the establishment would continue to improve. This report provides a number of recommendations which we hope will assist in that process

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
October 2019
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”

Return to HMP Dovegate

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


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