The prison inspectors have made a follow up IRP to Durham after their inspection in the autumn 2018. In the press release announcing of their report they said:
“HMP Durham, a 19th century prison in the centre of the city, was found to have improved in key areas of safety related to drugs and violence, which were highlighted by a troubling inspection in 2018.
Durham, a ‘reception’ prison with more than 100 new prisoners each week and a very high turnover, had been assessed in October 2018 as ‘poor’, the lowest grading, for safety.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that in 2018 very high illicit drug use had fuelled debt and violence. The prison was immensely frustrated by the lack of modern technology available to them to help stem the flow of drugs into the prison. Several prisoners had committed suicide while at Durham in the two years before the 2018 inspection and there had been five suspected drug-related deaths in eight months. However, the prison’s response to Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) recommendations after investigations into the deaths was weak.
At an independent review of progress (IRP) in July 2019, inspectors found reasonable progress had been made in improving the initial safety checks on new prisoners – though the very large number of prisoners going through reception each day often made it difficult for staff to complete these checks thoroughly. The very recent introduction of checks on new prisoners throughout the first night was a positive step.
Levels of violence were similar to those at the 2018 inspection, but the proportion of serious incidents had reduced, which was positive.
Good progress had been made in tackling the supply of illicit drugs, with a body scanner now proving effective in deterring drug supply and finding illicit items. Mr Clarke said: “Many other steps had been taken or were in progress to reduce the supply of drugs, which was promising. Staff and prisoners… felt safer and our experience reflected this as we walked round the wings.”
However, three prisoners had committed suicide in the nine months before the IRP and inspectors found that “attention to reviewing the implementation of PPO recommendations from previous reports was still insufficient.” Mr Clarke said: “More multidisciplinary planning and working were required to safeguard prisoners in crisis who had complex personal needs or were repeatedly self-harming.”
Staff were assessed in 2019 as better able to establish appropriate boundaries and challenge poor behaviour and managers and leaders now gave appropriate oversight of the quality of education, skills and work.
On a more negative note, inspectors assessed that not enough progress had been made to tackle weaknesses in rehabilitation and release planning. Some improvements had been made to the allocation of cases, staff training and support, but the quality of offender management in the cases inspectors reviewed remained weak. This was particularly concerning, Mr Clarke said, “in the high-risk cases where we found no recorded evidence of release planning with the community offender manager.”
Overall, however, Mr Clarke said:
“The outcomes of this independent review were positive. Senior managers had taken the recommendations from our last inspection seriously. Evidence suggested that the prison was becoming safer. Making it more difficult for drugs and other illicit items to enter the prison was having the desired effect and the prison was now better controlled and supervised. However, weaknesses in the suicide and self-harm prevention measures remained a significant concern and required urgent attention. Durham needed to give priority to improving the quality of risk management planning if we are to be confident that the public are protected when prisoners presenting a risk of serious harm are released.”
To read the full report click below
HMP Durham IRP (279.59 kB), Report on an independent review of progress at HMP Durham (1-3 July 2019)