HMP Featherstone, Inspections

The prison was given a full inspection in September 2018. The inspectors said in their report:

HMP Featherstone is a category C training and resettlement prison near Wolverhampton. Opened in 1976, the prison has seen additional house blocks added over the years and the establishment now holds up to 637 adult male prisoners. The majority of those held were serving more than two years and usually much longer than that, with about 170 men serving over 10 years or life. The prison was last inspected in 2016 when we found very poor outcomes in safety and outcomes which were not sufficiently good in our other three tests of a healthy prison. In contrast, at this inspection we were pleased to find evidence of significant improvement. Across all four tests we found measurable improvements with outcomes in respect, purposeful activity and rehabilitation now all sufficiently good. The prison was still not safe enough but here, too, meaningful improvements were evidenced.

Staff-prisoner relationships reflected this broad improvement and were now good. A largely inexperienced staff group were well supported by supervisors and managers and most prisoners indicated that they felt respected. Residential units were calm and ordered and staff demonstrated the confidence to challenge poor behaviour. Much of the site needed refurbishment but, again, living conditions were better than when we last inspected. Cells were cleaner and properly equipped and there was good access to kit and amenities. Prisoners disliked the food and arrangements to deal with applications and complaints needed to be better, but consultation with prisoners was good. The promotion of equality and diversity was better than we usually see and outcomes for protected groups were reasonable. Health services were similarly reasonably good.

The prison’s recent success was underpinned by a much more purposeful regime. Time unlocked was good and daily routines predictable. Only 29 prisoners had not been allocated to activity, and during spot checks we found just 12% of prisoners locked up during the working day. The range of education, training and work had increased but the prison held a substantial number of prisoners with low-level skills in English and maths and more needed to be done to improve their skills – an issue to which we refer in our main recommendations. Allocation to activity was, however, working well and taking proper account of prisoner need. Teaching, learning and assessment in both education and vocational training were effective, leading to progress for most and high achievement rates. Most prisoners could develop skills and confidence in education, training or work, although the overall work ethic was undermined by frequent late attendance at activity. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of provision as ‘good’.

Help for prisoners to maintain their family ties was useful and had been recently enhanced by the recruitment of a Barnardo’s family engagement worker. The visits hall was shabby and visits did not always start on time. The strategic management of reducing reoffending needed improvement, a priority in view of the high risk posed by many of those held. A recent analysis of need, for example, was too limited and had yet to influence the reducing reoffending action plan. Despite this, offender supervision was reasonable and the number of prisoners without an up-to-date offender assessment system (OASys) assessment had fallen. Public protection arrangements were sound. A key concern that we identified, and refer to in our main recommendations, was a lack of sufficient accredited offending behaviour work which would otherwise help men to reduce their risk and to progress.

More needed to be done to improve safety in the prison but, again, there was unmistakable evidence of improvement. In our survey about a quarter of respondents suggested to us they still felt unsafe and violence remained high, but it was falling, in recent times quite sharply. A range of initiatives had been put in place to confront violence and its causes and there were some encouraging indications that this work was having an impact. Linked to violence was the ready availability of illicit drugs, certainly one of the key challenges the prison still faced. The response of the prison was impressive with a whole series of active, intelligence-led measures in place to try to combat the problem. There was some early evidence that, like the initiatives to tackle violence, these measures were beginning to have an impact. In our main recommendations we argue that this work to confront drugs and violence must be sustained.

Use of force remained high but supervision and accountability was good. The use of segregation was more limited and not normally imposed for long. The facility itself was run down but the case management and care of those held was good. We considered care for those in crisis to be good overall. Although there had been a sizable increase in the amount of recorded self-harm, relatively few prisoners accounted for a disproportionate number of incidents. However, since we last inspected, several prisoners had died with one confirmed as having taken his own life.

The key message of this inspection was one of improvement. The prison had come a considerable distance in a relatively brief period of time. Staff were supported to do their job and, despite many having been recruited quite recently, they knew the prisoners well and afforded them meaningful care and support. Energy and initiative were evidenced throughout the prison, being reflected in tangible benefits for those detained and the improved assessments. The governor, managers and the whole staff group should be congratulated for what they were achieving.

 Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM              November 2018

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

To read the full report go to the Ministry of justice web site or follow the links below:

This section contains the reports for Featherstone from 2000 until present

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