HMIP Reports on HMP Erlestoke

The prison was given an inspection in Summer 2017, 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 Erlestoke is a category C training prison in Wiltshire that holds just over 500 adult male prisoners. The vast majority of those held were serving lengthy sentences, often for serious offences, and nearly half were serving indeterminate or life sentences. Despite this, the prison did release about 10 prisoners a month, although the fact that it was not a designated resettlement prison limited the resources that could be allocated to support this aspect of the prison’s work.

It had been four years since we last visited Erlestoke. When we inspected the prison on this occasion, our findings were a disappointment. Deterioration was clearly evident and outcomes were now judged to be insufficiently good in three of our four tests of a healthy prison.

Safety in the prison was not good enough. Most prisoners suggested to us they felt safe but violence had increased and more of it was serious. Much of the violence and bullying that did exist was, in our view, linked to a significant drug problem, and yet the prison lacked an effective drug strategy. Work to confront and reduce violence was weak and uncoordinated, and staff confidence and competence in ensuring reasonable challenge and supervision needed improvement. Staff-prisoner relationships were superficially positive and staff were very busy, but rules and boundaries were not supervised with sufficient rigour.

Incidents of prisoners self-harming had doubled since we last inspected but, while some care was provided, many aspects of the prison’s support for those in crisis were partial and inconsistent. Governance of security, use of force and segregation similarly required improvement.

It was telling that upon arrival most new prisoners faced considerable stays at Erlestoke. Early days and induction arrangements provided an important opportunity to set a tone, build relationships and structure expectations concerning important work to be done by serious offenders. Yet we describe in our report the early days experience of most new arrivals as chaotic.

Erlestoke remained a reasonably respectful prison . The external environment was good, although standards of accommodation varied greatly, with much in disrepair or dirty. There was a commendable use of peer support, but too much of it lacked accountable supervision. Despite the settled nature of the population, consultation with prisoners was weak. Both these criticisms represent missed opportunities. Some recent corrective action had helped improve matters but, in general, the promotion of equality was poor. Healthcare provision was, however, improving and prisoners were more positive about the food.

During our spot checks we found 23% of prisoners locked in cell during the working day, with significant numbers of others not doing anything purposeful. Residential staff did not always know the whereabouts of their prisoners, routines were not reliable and not enough was done to address the unacceptably poor punctuality or non-attendance of those meant to be at work or training. There were sufficient activity places for most and, for those who attended, our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of learning, skills and work provision to be ‘good’.

The main purpose of the prison was to address the offending behaviour and reduce the risk of long-term offenders. Access to offending behaviour work was reasonably good but much offender management work was undermined by the lack of an up-to-date assessment of need or by the re-deployment of staff away from offending behaviour work. Many prisoners arrived without an up-to-date offender assessment system (OASys) assessment and public protection work had deteriorated. Resettlement work for those being released was limited. Visits arrangements were also poor.

Overall, and despite our criticisms, we do report on much that was positive in the prison. The management team was relatively new and evidenced an enthusiasm to make improvements. There was a sense that with a little more organisation and consistency, and with a determination to ensure policies and rules are complied with, the prison could become much better quite quickly. Many told us of the potential they saw in the institution. Improved structures of accountability and supervision would also help in sustaining improvement. In our main recommendations we list a number of issues we consider to be priorities for the prison. These include making better arrangements for prisoners on arrival, tackling the drug problem, the better promotion of equality, and ensuring prisoners attend activity.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

September 2017

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Erlestoke

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

  • HMP Erlestoke (861.26 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Erlestoke (26–27 June, 3–7 July 2017)
  •  HMP Erlestoke, Unannounced inspection of HMP Erlestoke (30 September –11 October 2013)
  • HMP Erlestoke, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Erlestoke (23 – 25 August 2011)
  • HMP Erlestoke, Announced inspection of HMP Erlestoke (28 April – 2 May 2008)