HMIP Inspections of HMP Durham

The prison was given an inspection in November 2021 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:

Largely rebuilt in 1881, HMP Durham is a men’s category B reception prison that accepts prisoners from across the north of England. At the time of our inspection there were 959 prisoners, of whom 606 were on remand. More than a third of the prison’s population were receiving support for substance misuse.

Much credit must go to the impressive governor and to what was a generally strong leadership team, who had worked together to reduce the supply of drugs into the prison. This had contributed to a more than 60% fall in violence since our last inspection, making the prison one of the safer locals in the country. Throughout the inspection the prison felt calm and generally well-ordered.

We also saw a commensurate fall in the use of physical intervention, but during the inspection we uncovered some examples of staff appearing to use force in improper and disproportionate ways. Leaders needed to take urgent action to make sure that staff were sufficiently trained and had effective systems for reviewing incidents.

Like most local prisons the jail had a large population of prisoners who came in with often serious mental health difficulties or who misused drugs or alcohol. This meant that, particularly in their first days in custody, they could be at risk of suicide or self-harm. We were therefore concerned that late in the evening or at particularly busy times, the prison was not able to offer full health care screenings to new arrivals. These prisoners often had to be dispersed around the jail because the induction unit was full, which meant they did not always get the care and the attention they needed.

The quality of health care in every area, from GP appointments to mental health provision, was suffering from some serious staff shortages. Prisoners frequently complained to inspectors about the difficulties in getting treatment or medication. These issues were compounded by problems with the application system that meant prisoners could not submit a second application to a department before a previous application had been resolved – for example, a prisoner who had put in an application for a visit could not make an application to see the GP until the visit had been agreed. This issue also impacted on family contact: slots for visits remained unfilled, with families often only being told the day before that there was an available time. Many prisoners remained locked in their cells for too long, particularly those on the induction wing. The prison could have done more to provide activities and work, but they were hampered by an education provider that had been slow to restore services.

The prison had worked to refurbish much of the indoor and outdoor communal areas in this historic prison, but many cells were overcrowded and dilapidated. While staff from the former community rehabilitation company continued to provide some support to prisoners on remand, the future of this provision was uncertain with the reunification of probation services. This and the fact that the senior probation officer was leaving to be replaced by a temporary appointment, meant the provision of resettlement work and sentence planning was fragile. Inspectors were very concerned that 43% of prisoners left the jail without suitable accommodation.

Durham prison has showed some impressive improvements since our last inspection and the governor and his team should be proud of the progress the jail has made, particularly considering the challenges caused by the pandemic. The inspection team left optimistic that if senior leaders remain in post and the issues raised in this report are addressed, the prison can continue to make good progress.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
January 2022

Return to Durham

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

  • Inspection report (920 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Durham by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (15 and 22-26 November 2021)
  • HMP Durham (604.64 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Durham (24 September–5 October 2018)
  • HMP Durham (656.83 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Durham (3-14 October 2016)
  • HMP Durham , Unannounced inspection of HMP Durham (2 – 13 December 2013)
  • HMP Durham ,An announced inspection of HMP Durham (3 – 7 October 2011)
  • HMP Durham ,Unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Durham (12-16 October 2009

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