HMIP Reports on HMP Eastwood Park

The prison was given an inspection in November 2016, 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:

“Eastwood Park, a women’s resettlement prison in Falfield, Gloucestershire, held around 400 women, 100 more than at the last inspection in November 2013. The prison housed women with varied circumstances, including those remanded by the courts, a number serving very long determinate sentences and a small group serving indeterminate sentences. It continued to hold a few young adults aged 18 to 21. However, most of the women spent relatively short periods at the prison before being released or moving on to another prison. The mother and baby unit was temporarily closed during the inspection, but was due to reopen again in January 2017. The prison’s catchment area remained wide, and had been extended further following the closure of HMP Holloway to encompass nearly all the south-western quarter of England and Wales.

The population remained vulnerable; many women were a long way from home, which was a problem for the large number who had dependent children. Nearly half of the women had a disability, and over three quarters reported mental health or emotional well-being issues. Eighty-four per cent of women said they had various problems on  arrival at the prison, and over half said this included issues with drugs, while over a third reported having alcohol problems. Levels of self-harm had increased and were overall relatively high. Many  of the women continued to report a history of abuse, rape, domestic violence and involvement in prostitution. At our last inspection we found that outcomes were strong across the board and that  women were held safely and respectfully.

The care provided to women newly received into the prison remained a strength, but we considered the prison to be less stable than previously. There had been three self-inflicted deaths in 2016, the first at Eastwood Park for many years. Levels of violence had increased, and while most problems were minor, and the number of serious violent incidents was not high, more women in our survey than previously and compared with similar prisons said they had felt unsafe at some time or that they had been victimised by other prisoners. Some processes to address minor antisocial behaviour concerns needed to be improved. On the other hand, care and support for the most vulnerable women in the population was generally strong, and good relationships and reliable access to time out of their cells and activities mitigated some of these problems. Issues with illegal drugs and the diversion of prescribed medications were generally well managed, and disciplinary processes were used proportionately. While we were concerned about the increases in disorder, and in particular recent self-inflicted deaths, we considered that overall the prison remained reasonably safe for most.

The living environment was generally decent, although we were disappointed to see our previous criticisms of the accommodation in residential unit 8 had not led to improvements. Health care provision was mixed and some aspects of clinical governance and primary care needed attention. However, reassuringly, the high levels of mental health need in the population were being matched with some very good interventions. Staff-prisoner  relationships remained strong, although staffing shortages had led to some staff being very stretched and less able to take a proactive approach to interactions with the women in their care.

Work and activities were generally well managed and it was positive that there were sufficient purposeful activities for all women. Nevertheless, we again found that the allocation process was not always ensuring that women were quickly offered an activity. Speeding this process up would benefit the women concerned and help ensure the stability of the prison.

Resettlement provision remained reasonably good. The new ‘through-the-gate’ resettlement arrangements had made good progress, and all women had either a sentence or custody plan. However, more needed to be done to discuss these plans with women and to ensure they felt involved in the process. Like other women’s local resettlement prisons, Eastwood Park had significant problems supporting women to find secure accommodation on release, and we considered that a more strategic response was required. More needed to be done to work with those who had experienced domestic violence or been involved in sex work, and to identify those who might have been trafficked. Support in maintaining and developing contact with families was generally good, but many women had not had a visit while at the prison; the prison needed to explore the reasons behind this and offer support if appropriate. Nevertheless, some good practical assistance was available for women being released from the prison, and the Nexus programme was a positive initiative that addressed the risks of those serving longer sentences who had committed violent offences.

Overall, we still considered Eastwood Park to be a well-led, generally safe and decent prison, but an institution that was showing signs of being under strain. Staffing levels had not kept pace with the rise in the population nor  with  its increasing complexity. This had been recognised by the National Offender Management Service and the prison was included among 10 prisons that would be prioritised to receive additional resources and support over the coming months. Efforts to understand the recent self-inflicted deaths needed to continue, and urgent action should be taken to address any deficiencies. Similarly, the increase in violence needed to be addressed with renewed vigour, and aspects of the prison’s activities and resettlement work required further work. Nevertheless, the prison had a good staff culture that underpinned decent and respectful relationships with the women held. The prison’s committed leadership and staff group needed to galvanise their efforts to address challenges, capitalise on the opportunities presented by the forthcoming injection of additional resources, and build on the strengths of the institution.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

January  2017                                                                          

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Eastwood Park

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