HMIP Inspections of Elmley

The prison was inspected last during April/May 2019, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their report the inspectors said

“HMP Elmley is a large category B men’s local prison situated in the cluster of prisons on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. At the time of this inspection it held over 1,100 prisoners and, unusually for a local prison, significant numbers of foreign nationals and sex offenders. The prison was last inspected in 2015.

It was pleasing to see that there had been some improvements to the reception and induction of newly arrived prisoners, and that they were promptly allocated to activities. Although levels of violence were lower than in similar prisons, a quarter of prisoners still told us they felt unsafe. To address this, the prison should conduct more thorough investigations into violence when it occurs and gain an understanding of what is driving it. Despite nearly half of prisoners telling us that it was easy to obtain illicit drugs in the prison, and 22% testing positive during random mandatory drug tests, there was no comprehensive drug supply reduction strategy. Intelligence was not being used as well as it should have been, and there had been hardly any intelligence-led drug tests carried out, despite the ready availability of such intelligence.

It was pleasing to see that care for those in crisis or at risk of self-harm was reasonably good. There had been two self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, and the recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman had been followed, which was reassuring.

Managing behaviour needed to improve. The incentives and earned privileges scheme was not being used effectively either to deter poor behaviour or incentivise good. Inspectors saw too many examples of low level poor behaviour such as open vaping on wings, prisoners being inappropriately dressed, the use of bad language and play-fighting going unchallenged. Inexperienced staff needed to be given the confidence to do so, and this required them to be supported and mentored by their more experienced colleagues. However, we saw young, inexperienced staff being left alone on landings while groups of their colleagues congregated in wing offices.

Living conditions were variable across the prison, and overall standards of cleanliness were not good enough, given the very large numbers of prisoners allocated to cleaning work. There were no less than 180 prisoners allocated to working on the wings, but many were not fully or meaningfully employed or supervised. The prison had plans to generate vocational training and work opportunities, and to improve attendance and punctuality. These plans needed to become a priority, and the access of vulnerable prisoners to vocational training and work needed to improve.

A considerable source of frustration to prisoners was the quality and quantity of food available. Only a quarter of prisoners told us that there was enough food or that it was of good quality. This percentage was very low and needed to be addressed.

The strategic management of rehabilitation and release planning needed more attention. Although there was some good work being carried out, such as the management of multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) cases, significant improvement was needed in many other areas. For instance, some 40% of prisoners did not have an up-to-date assessment of the risks they presented and their needs. Meanwhile, the shortage of probation officers meant that most high-risk prisoners were managed by offender supervisors who were not trained to deal with the level of risk presented by those prisoners. This situation was exacerbated by frequent cross-deployments of offender supervisors, taking them away from the prisoners they were supposed to be managing.

While it was disappointing to find that the prison had not managed to improve since the last inspection, and that on this occasion all our judgements were ‘not sufficiently good’, the picture was not without hope. The prison had a number of credible plans to address the weaknesses, and those weaknesses were clearly acknowledged. There was also a full staff complement, so in terms of both plans and people, the prerequisites to make progress were in place. I was invited to regard Elmley as  an establishment that was going through a transitional phase. There could be little doubt that this was a genuinely held aspiration, and I was given the clear impression that the senior team were fully aware of the amount of hard work and focused leadership that would be required to turn the aspiration into reality.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                                 July 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Elmley

To read the full reports from the inspectors, follow the links below

  • HMP Elmley (634.02 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Elmley (23-24 April, 29 April – 3 May 2019)
  • HMP Elmley (PDF, 1.90 MB), Report on an announced inspection of HMP Elmley (19-20 October, 16-20 November 2015)
  • HMP Elmley, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Elmley (2 – 13 July 2014)
  • HMP Elmley, Announced inspection of HMP Elmley (19 – 23 March 2012)
  • HMP/YOI Elmley, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP/YOI Elmley (28-30 April 2009)
  • HMP/YOI Elmley, Announced inspection of HMP/YOI Elmley (11-15 December 2006)