HMIP Reports on HMP Eastwood Park

The prison was given an inspection in May 2019, 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:

HMP Eastwood Park is a closed women’s prison situated in a semi-rural area to the north of Bristol. At the time of this inspection, it held slightly fewer than 400 prisoners. It was last inspected in November 2016. At this inspection our findings resulted in similar gradings to 2016, with the exception of ‘Resettlement’ where the outcomes had declined from being ‘reasonably good’ to ‘not sufficiently good’. It is notable that Eastwood Park has a huge catchment area, including much of Wales. Consequently, half the women were being held more than 50 miles from home, and over one-third never received any visits. As with all women’s prisons, the population included many with very complex needs, and many who had been victimised in a variety of ways before coming into custody. Overall, we found that Eastwood Park remained a safe, respectful and purposeful prison.

In terms of safety, there was a need for the prison to think very carefully about the arrangements for those women being segregated for extended periods, and indeed whether it was necessary to do so. More attention needed to be given to planning for reintegrating such women back into the mainstream of the prison. The practice of segregating women on residential wings also had a detrimental knock-on effect on the regime of the rest of the prisoners who were not in segregation.

Despite the fact the use of force by staff had declined since the last inspection, we had concerns about its oversight. Although we had to alert the prison to an incident that had some worrying aspects, it is important to note that this did not have any influence on the grade awarded for ‘Safety’ as it had yet to be fully investigated. Nevertheless, the incident was only going to be properly investigated after inspectors brought it to the attention of senior managers, and so was perhaps symptomatic of our broader concerns over the governance of the use of force.

As in other women’s prisons, the complexity and vulnerability of many of the prisoners meant that there were a high number of women subject to assessment, care and casework teamwork (ACCT) documents. However, we formed a clear view that far more attention needed to be paid to the documents’ quality, although we found the actual levels of care received by women was good.

Although, by and large, living conditions in the prison were good, the accommodation provided on Units 1-3 were completely inappropriate for a women’s prison. These units were poor in comparison with the rest of the prison. Women were locked in their cells for far too long, and there was a backlog of repair jobs to bring the decaying fabric back up to acceptable standards. On entering these units, I was immediately struck by the sight of rows of women’s faces pressed against the open observation hatches of their locked doors, peering out into the narrow, dark, cell block corridor. It was as if they were waiting for something or indeed anything to happen, however mundane, to relieve the monotony of their existence. It is my belief that unless something radical can be done to improve the conditions on these units, then serious consideration should be given to closing them. At present they are simply not fit for purpose.

Most prisoners told us that staff treated them with respect, increasingly they were being consulted about their experiences in the prison, and we saw many positive interactions with staff. It was noticeable that the number of complaints had significantly decreased since the last inspection.

The details of why our judgement for ‘resettlement’ had declined are set out in the report, and the complexity of the population clearly has an impact on the provision of effective offender management and resettlement services. For instance, 73% of prisoners told us they had mental health problems, and around half had problems with illicit drug use. These issues were compounded by the fact that many women were serving short sentences of less than six months, reducing the opportunity for effective interventions. Of particular concern was the fact that in the months leading up to the inspection, about a half of women had been released homeless and were left either to live on the streets or to go to temporary emergency accommodation. I spoke to several prisoners who had previously experienced this and had either re-offended or felt it was inevitable that they would do so if released again in similar circumstances. In many ways this is an issue that is beyond the control of the prison, but more support does need to be given before release.

Finally, I would encourage the leadership to look very carefully at the recommendations contained in this report. On the last occasion we made 48 recommendations, of which only 19 were fully achieved. Although we neither reward nor penalise prisons for their success or failure to implement inspection recommendations, it remains the fact that it is possible to see a correlation between achievement of recommendations and performance.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                             July 2019

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: