HMIP Inspections, Full Sutton

The prison was inspected in January 2016, and in their report the inspectors said:

“Located not far from York, Full Sutton is one of only five high security dispersal prisons in the country, holding just under 600 adult men. Nearly all its prisoners present significant risks to both security and to the public at large. Almost half are serving life sentences, with a similar number doing in excess of 10 years or other indeterminate sentences. At the time of the inspection, 154 men were designated category A, with nine considered to be ‘high risk’. A small number of prisoners had committed offences connected or sympathetic to terrorist goals and some had achieved significant criminal notoriety for other reasons.

At our last inspection in 2012, we described an impressive establishment that was ensuring reasonably good or better outcomes against all our four healthy prison tests. At this inspection we found that this remained the case, with the prison continuing to meet its challenges calmly and competently. Against three of our tests of a healthy prison we found outcomes that were ‘reasonably good’ and concerning the provision of activity, outcomes were judged to be ‘good’.

Full Sutton, not withstanding the potential risks, is a safe prison. We describe reception arrangements as swift and welcoming and induction as both expedient and thorough. Violence remained rare and incidents were generally low level. The significant proportion of prisoners who were vulnerable mainly by virtue of their offence, generally received an equality of treatment and felt safe. Incidents of self-harm were relatively few and case management of those in crisis had improved. Those at risk felt well cared for, but despite this, two prisoners had taken their own lives since we last inspected. Adult safeguarding arrangements had become more established.

As a high security prison, physical and procedural security measures were extensive and inevitably intrusive, adding to the depth of imprisonment experienced by those held. Security was however, managed well with quite sophisticated arrangements in place. These included developed intelligence management arrangements to deal with gangs and potential radicalisation, which seemed to us to be applied with proportionality. Use of illicit drugs was very low level although there was some emergent evidence that NPS (new psychoactive substances) were becoming available.

Our one key criticism of the way safety was managed concerned the segregation unit; in contrast with our general findings in the prison. Significant numbers of prisoners had been segregated and some for extended periods of time. We did not underestimate the challenges faced by staff in managing the very difficult men held in the unit but in our view, management supervision was insufficient and accountability was lacking. We further questioned the adequacy and legitimacy of some risk assessments and the approaches taken to care planning. Relationships between staff and prisoners were not good enough. We have made a ‘main recommendation’ calling for improvements to this facility. The recently introduced reintegration unit on G wing was a good initiative that would help but its purpose required greater clarification.

The environment and quality of accommodation at Full Sutton was generally very good and prisoners had good access to amenities and services. Relationships between staff and prisoners were formal but respectful. The personal officer scheme and consultation arrangements with prisoners were very effective. The promotion of equality was improving and there had been detailed work undertaken to understand the perceptions and concerns of minority groups. Despite this, and despite some reasonably good work to support groups with protected characteristics, more still needed to be done to understand and tackle the negative perceptions, in particular, from prisoners of a black and minority ethnic background and Muslim prisoners. A very good chaplaincy team was supporting the faith interests of prisoners constructively and with sensitivity.

Overall, outcomes in the provision of health services were reasonable and the quality of food, which included a self-catering option, was appreciated by many prisoners.

Prisoners had good access to time out of cell, which approached 10 hours a day for those who were fully employed. There was enough activity for all to be employed at least part-time, and at any one time about 70% of prisoners were engaged in activity. The leadership and management of learning and skills was good and the range of work and training was reasonable, although there was some underemployment in some of the workshops. The quality of teaching and learning was good and achievements on most courses were similarly good. Our Ofsted colleagues assessed the overall effectiveness of learning and skills, along with all their component assessments, as ‘good’.

The provision of resettlement services had deteriorated somewhat since our last inspection. The risks managed by the prison demanded that the offender management unit had a higher profile within the prison and almost one-third of prisoners did not have an up to date OASys assessment, sentence planning was weak and offender supervision too variable. The sharing of information between the prison and the National Probation Service (NPS) was limited and responses and communication from NPS was often lacking and hindered risk management. Very few prisoners were released from Full Sutton but those who were, received a near bespoke service that ensured their needs were well met.

Full Sutton remains a high performing prison. We have raised some concerns in this report, notably regarding the segregation unit, the promotion of equality and the need for better offender risk management. That said, the establishment is well led, confident and capable. It has a clearly defined role holding long-term and in many cases, dangerous prisoners who have committed very serious offences. The prison discharges this responsibility with proportionality and ensures some good outcomes for those held.

Martin Lomas                                                February 2016

HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons”

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To read the full reports click on the links below