HMP Drake Hall, Inspections

The prison was given a full inspection in the summer of 2016. In the report the inspector of prisons said:

“Drake Hall is a training and resettlement prison in Staffordshire holding approximately 340 adult and young adult women, most of them within a secure fence. Since our last visit in 2013, a 25-bed open unit had opened outside the prison gate.

When we last inspected Drake Hall we reported that the prison was producing reasonable or good outcomes for the women held. This remains the case.  We found a safe prison despite some  changes in its population demographic. Some women who had moved to Drake Hall in recent months as a consequence of  HMP Holloway’s closure had found the relative freedom around the site difficult to adjust to. A small number of mainly younger women with more challenging behaviour were also causing some difficulties, although  most incidents involved inor antisocial behaviour rather than violence. Staff managed these challenges well and sought to deal with most conflicts through mediation and lower level interventions, such as the incentives and earned privileges scheme. Force was rarely needed and segregation was only used as  a last resort. Levels of self-harm were lower than in many other women’s prisons and goodcare was provided to those needing support. Challenges with drug use and hooch (illicit alcohol) were well managed and security arrangements were appropriate.

Drake Hall was a respectful prison with good staff-prisoner relationships at its core. Staff were clear about their roles, challenging women when needed , supporting them when required and motivating them to engage with the activities and resettlement work of the prison. The prison had recently received the Enabling Environment award from the Royal College of Psychiatrists. This is a quality mark for organisations that can show they promote good relationships and wellbeing; commendably it was the first prison in England and Wales to receive the award. There was a good focus on equality and diversity work, although some aspects of the work with foreign nationals needed improvement. While most living accommodation was reasonable , the two older units, Plymouth and Richmond, were poor. Built in 1940, these units needed to be replaced. However, it was positive to see that the food provided was good and plentiful, and that women were encouraged to eat together in the pleasant dining room.

Purposeful activity provision had improved since the last inspection and was now good overall. Prison managers had driven change and there was a good partnership working.

 A focus on employability and a culture of mutual respect and personal development were now part of the prison’s ethos and the experience of women in their daily working lives. Nearly all women were occupied purposefully, and most achieved good outcomes. Some aspects of attendance needed to be addressed, and opportunities to accredit some work were being missed, but overall we were impressed by what had been achieved.

Similarly, the focus on resettlement was a strength  right across the prison. Staff supported women’s efforts to develop their skills for living in dependent, crime-free lives. Offender management arrangements were better than we usually see and release on temporary licence (ROTL) was used well to support women. The new open unit was excellent and provided opportunities for women to further build their independent living skills, demonstrate a reduction in risk and enhance their employability skills. It will be interesting to see how this initiative evolves, but what we saw was immensely encouraging. Work to support women in maintaining contact with their children and families was very well developed. We were, however, somewhat disappointed with the range of  support offered to women who had been abused, victimised or trafficked before coming into prison; the lack of professional counselling in a population such as Drake Hall was a significant omission. Nevertheless, we considered resettlement support to be good overall.

The one area of major weakness at the prison was health care provision. While the new provider was adequate overall, there were some notable failings which contributed to women’s overwhelmingly negative perceptions of the provision. Delays in accessing many of the services were evident, and several aspects of medications management were deficient. Both the managers of the prison and the managers of the health care provision needed to work together more closely to ensure the treatment provided met the clinical needs of the women held more consistently, and to collectively address some aspects of the prevailing negativity about the service.

Overall, this was a very positive inspection of a safe, decent and purposeful prison that was doing well at what it had set out to do, namely to support women in taking steps to become more independent, reduce their risks to others and resettle back into the community. The governor and his staff should be commended for this.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                                                       September   2016                                                                          

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons


For a copy of the full report go to the Ministry of Justice web site or follow the links below:

This section contains the reports for Drake Hall from 2001 until present


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