HMP Drake Hall, Inspections

The prison was given a full inspection in the spring of 2020. In the report the inspector of prisons said:

HMP/YOI Drake Hall is a training and resettlement prison in Staffordshire holding 324 adult and young adult women. While being a closed prison, Drake Hall has an open regime within the perimeter of the fence. Prisoners are never locked in their rooms and have free access around the site during the day; at night they are only locked in their house blocks leaving them able to move around their unit. Just outside the main prison is a fully open facility that accommodates up to 25 prisoners. Drake Hall promoted a community ethos where prisoners lived together, were involved in the running of the prison and were given the responsibility to behave well and determine their own progression.

We last inspected Drake Hall in the summer of 2016 and judged that outcomes for prisoners were good in three of four of our healthy prison tests, with outcomes under respect judged to be reasonably good. At this inspection we made similar judgements, with outcomes under respect having improved to good, our highest grade. However, outcomes in purposeful activity had deteriorated to reasonably good under Ofsted’s inspection framework.

Drake Hall remained a safe place to live with hardly any serious violence, and prisoners were positive about the community ethos and their role in developing this. However, in our survey, half of the prisoners said they had been intimidated, bullied or victimised by others and we found that some anti-social or violent incidents noted by wing staff had not been reported to the safer custody team for investigation. Some house units were not staffed and we found that the level of staff engagement with the prisoners was too limited at times. It did not always provide adequate protection for the more vulnerable or challenge those involved in bullying others. It also meant that prisoners found it more difficult to get simple tasks done and this was the most common complaint we heard from prisoners throughout our inspection weeks.

 The availability of illicit drugs was one of our key concerns. Much of the evidence suggested that drugs were too easily available and the prison needed to do more to stem the flow. The proportion of    prisoners who said they had developed a drug problem while at Drake Hall had increased since our last inspection and was higher than in similar prisons. Although use of force had increased over recent months, incidents were very low level and did not involve the use of full restraint. The use of segregation was appropriate but had some weaknesses around the quality of reintegration planning. The proportion of self-harm incidents was lower than we have seen in similar prisons and care provided was good.

Progression opportunities within the prison community stemmed from the use of release on temporary license (ROTL) and Drake Hall far exceeded other closed prisons in the number of events completed each year. The open unit provided a further incentive to behave well, although other incentives were not very effective in this. Interactions between staff and prisoners were good but were not supported by an effective personal officer scheme. The use of peer workers, however, was good overall which further promoted the community ethos and empowered prisoners to support each other. Management of equality and diversity work was well established but consultation with prisoners from every protected characteristic was not very effective and there was too little direct support for some groups.

Living conditions were reasonable overall but were poor on two units. Richmond and Plymouth units were World War II prefabricated buildings which had been in need of replacement for many years. Some refurbishment to the showers had been made but it is our view that these two buildings were not fit for purpose and were in urgent need of demolition and replacement. It was disappointing that Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) had not committed resources to this despite previous promises to do so. The food provided was good and some positive steps had been taken to enable prisoners to buy clothing and accessories from the prison-based charity shop.

Healthcare provision had improved since our last inspection and was now good, which is especially important in a women’s prison. Prisoners had good access to a range of primary care services which now included a female GP. The addition of specialist counselling was very good, enabling prisoners to address the impact of trauma on their lives and develop coping skills for the future.

Ofsted considered Drake Hall’s education, skills and work activity as good. There were enough activity places, with good attendance and punctuality. Most prisoners achieved their qualifications. However, there was no strategic oversight of the curriculum and a lack of data made it difficult to evidence useful outcomes after release.

Offender management and resettlement work remained good overall and was supported by an effective CRC provision. Work to help prisoners maintain contact with children and family members remained positive and most of the other resettlement pathways were well developed. However, this work was not yet informed by a comprehensive analysis of needs across the population. ROTL continued to be well managed and used effectively, including good links with national employers so that prisoners could continue their employment upon release. Some home detention curfew (HDC) releases were hindered by the lack of Bail, Accommodation and Support Service (BASS) places. Few prisoners were released homeless but there was a lack of monitoring of longer term outcomes which made it difficult to evidence the effectiveness of this work.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
April 2020

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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