HMIP Inspection of HMP Ford

The prison was inspected in March/April 2021. The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their last report the inspectors said:

“HMP Ford is a category D open prison near Arundel in West Sussex. At the time of our scrutiny visit, the prison held 418 prisoners, having reduced numbers following the closure of some old billet accommodation.

Like all prisons, Ford had been operating on a restricted regime for most of the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This had a significant impact on the many prisoners who had worked hard to progress to open conditions, only for further potential progress to be frustrated by a national ban on temporary release. Prisoners who had expected to be working in the community and rebuilding family ties on resettlement licence instead found themselves, literally, confined to barracks. Less than a third of prisoners had accessed any purposeful activity for most of the last year and, even though the prison was   now in stage three of the national recovery plan (see Glossary of terms), too many were still unemployed or under-employed.

The prison had not experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 and very few prisoners or sta ff had tested positive for the virus in the last year. However, there was the potential for a virus to spread rapidly due to some poor hygiene and cohorting practices.

Published data and our experience during the visit demonstrated that Ford remained a safe prison. Despite this   , some leaders and staff had developed a narrative that suggested it was more violent and volatile than the statistics indicated. Some also expressed low expectations of prisoners, even though they were category D. Ford had one of the highest rates of return to closed conditions i n the open estate, which supported the view of many prisoners who said the threat of recategorisation was   used unfairly to control their behaviour and sometimes deterred them from speaking out about issues affecting them. All  of this was   contributing to a culture that felt  far from rehabilitative.

While we acknowledge the inherent limitations of the old and worn accommodation at Ford, this did not excuse the poor cleanliness and shabby conditions we found. It was   clear that there had been little oversight of standards in the residential accommodation. It was unacceptable that, during a pandemic, access to laundry facilities and the provision of s oap was so poor. We saw prisoners cleaning their underwear and dishes in buckets in shared toilet areas, which we would not expect to see in a modern prison service, let alone in an open prison that should be promoting and supporting independent living skills.

The prison had recently moved to stage three of t he national plan for recovery and w as working to ease the previous restrictions. Despite this, at the time of o ur visit, there were few prisoners in education, vocational training or community placements, which indicated weaknesses in the planning for recovery. Release on temporary licence had started to ramp up, but ultimately there were too many unemployed and unoccupied prisoners who were bored, demotivated and unable to progress in the way they had expected.

Leaders asserted that their focus over the last year had been to keep people safe from the virus. This was clearly very important, but should not have been to the exclusion of progressing other priorities. Leaders at Ford were not faced with some of the challenges that the restrictions had presented in closed conditions; prisoners were grateful for their place in an open site and were mostly compliant, yet progress in some important areas had been slow. For example, although our previous reports had highlighted major weaknesses in the strategy to improve equality and diversity, work to improve this had only recently commenced.

There were several examples of promising work to help prisoners. Good family support work was greatly valued and some prisoners were now able to see their families on temporary release into the community. We also identified notable positive practice in the appointment of peer mentors who supported fathers at Ford. There were many examples of active work by some prison offender managers to support prisoners through their sentence.

This was a disappointing visit and we urge leaders at national and local levels to address the concerns we have highlighted with urgency. The first challenge is to assess the extent to which the problems have been caused by the pandemic and how much they are specific to the culture of the prison. The former will, we hope, be resolved as restrictions are lifted,  but the latter will require more focused leadership and support from HM Prison and Probation Service to make sure that Ford fulfils its rehabilitative purpose in the future.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
May 2021


Return to Ford

 To read the full inspectors reports follow the  links below

  • HMP Ford – report (PDF) (4 MB), Report on a scrutiny visit to HMP Ford by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (29–30 March and 13–14 April 2021)
  • HMP Ford (537.39 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Ford (6-17 June 2016)
  • HMP Ford
  • Announced full follow-up inspection of HMP Ford (13 – 17 August 2012)
  • HMP Ford
  • Announced inspection of HMP Ford (29 November – 3 December 2010)
  • HMP Ford
  • Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Ford (27 – 29 October 2008)

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