HMIP Inspection of HMP Garth

The prison was given an inspection in December 2018 and  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 Garth is a category B training prison situated near Leyland in Lancashire. It was originally opened in 1988, and is now part of the long-term and high-security estate. At the time of this inspection it held just over 800 prisoners, the vast majority of whom were serving sentences of more than 10 years and presented a high risk of harm. Around two-thirds of those prisoners had been convicted of serious violence and a quarter convicted of sexual offences. At the last inspection in 2017 we found that safety at the prison was poor, violence had increased and large numbers of prisoners were living in fear. The problems were compounded by the ready availability of drugs, and although there were some good features, such as the effectiveness of the learning and skills provision, we concluded that the prison was one of the most unsafe we had been to in recent times and that ‘violence and drugs dominated the prisoner experience’.

It is pleasing to be able to report that in the space of two years there had been significant improvements at the prison. Although there was still too much violence, it had not risen in line with the overall trend across the prison estate, and credit is due to the staff at Garth for working hard to understand and contain it. There is absolutely no room for complacency, but there were some early encouraging signs of improvement. As with many other prisons, the ready availability of illicit drugs drove much of the violence, and the scale of the challenge in this respect at Garth was daunting. Sixty per cent of prisoners told us it was easy to obtain drugs, 30% were testing positive for drugs and around a quarter had developed a drug habit since entering the prison. There was a drug supply reduction strategy in place and both it and the violence reduction work will need constant review if the progress that has been made is to be maintained.

Our assessments of safety and respect had improved since the last inspection, but there was still much to be done. My confidence that the prison can continue to make progress was strengthened by what I saw and heard during my meeting with the senior management team. It was very clear to me that they worked together in a highly collaborative way to address the serious challenges faced by the establishment. Members of the team, from whatever specialised function, were eager to contribute to what their colleagues were trying to achieve in their particular areas of responsibility. It was heartening to see this approach and to experience the obvious enthusiasm of the team for what they were striving to achieve. After the inspection had concluded I was also not surprised to learn that, in the space of only two years, around half of the recommendations made at the last inspection had been achieved, which is highly creditable given the very real challenges faced by the prison.

For the future, there will need to be a continuing focus on dealing with violence. Far too many prisoners still felt unsafe, and much of the violence was serious. Similarly, the impact of illicit drugs was still severe, and the whole-prison approach to problem solving noted above will be vital to making progress in this regard. Although the assessment of respect had improved, and health care is an important part of that healthy prison test, there was a serious concern around the high cancellation rate of external hospital appointments, with about half of them being consistently cancelled. This placed prisoners at unnecessary risk and needed to be addressed. So too did the issue of managing the potential risks to the public posed by those few prisoners who were released from Garth. Given the profile of the population held in the prison, this was a very serious issue and needed addressing. This report, in Section 4, sets out the details of where the weaknesses rest and what needs to be done to address them.

The leadership of HMP Garth were keen to point out to me that there were early signs of improvement, and it was to their credit that what had been achieved was sufficient to raise our assessments in two of our healthy prison tests. Given the overall context in which establishments such as Garth have been operating over the past few years, this is an achievement that should not be underestimated. For the future, dealing with the twin scourges of drugs and violence will be the key to making further progress, and I hope that when we next inspect HMP Garth we will be able to report that the momentum we saw on this occasion will have been maintained.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                                         March 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Garth

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

  • HMP Garth (601.54 kB), Report on an announced inspection of HMP Garth (17 December 2018 – 18 January 2019)
  • HMP Garth (680.51 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Garth (9-20 January 2017)
  • HMP Garth, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Garth (11 – 22 August 2014)
  • HMP Garth, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Garth (3 – 5 April 2012)
  • HMP Garth, Announced inspection of HMP Garth (30 March – 3 April 2009