HMP Gartree, HMIP Inspection

The last full HMIP inspection was in September 2020. To read the full report follow the links below. In the latest  report the inspectors said:

” HMP Gartree is a category B adult male prison in Leicestershire. At the time of our scrutiny visit the prison accommodated 645 prisoners serving indeterminate and life sentences. The roll was lower than usual due to a wing closure for maintenance work. This had enabled the transfer out of a significant number of category C and D prisoners to appropriate prisons,  and had eased the burden on staffing at a challenging time.

The senior management te am had implemented all relevant COVID-19 procedures as directed by the HMPPS National Framework (see Glossary of terms), and by and large prisoners and staff were being kept safe from the virus. However, as we are finding in many prisons, social distancing was not always possible or enforced. A small number of prisoners and staff had tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020, but none at the time of our visit. Under new procedures there was no requirement for a dedicated reverse cohort unit (RCU), prisoner isolation unit (PIU) or shielding unit (see Glossary of terms). Instead, symptomatic prisoners or those transferring in from a prison where there was an outbreak of the virus were isolated on their current unit and provided with a separate regime. Given the low numbers of transfers in and the procedures in place,  this was a proportionate response.

Some of the indicators of safety were concerning. The number of prisoner assaults and the seriousness of the violence remained similar to the period before the regime was restricted, even though prisoners were locked up for most of the day. Levels of self-harm and the use of force were higher than before March, and we had some concerns about oversight of segregation. When the restrictions were first imposed, the prison had stopped most of its strategic functional meetings to focus on the emerging crisis. While this might have been proportionate at the time, there seemed to be less justification six months on.  A weakened strategic oversight of safety meant that although the prison was collecting and analysing data, the results were not being used effectively to learn lessons and drive improvement. The promotion of equality and diversity had also suffered because it too had been given insufficient priority when compared to the continued focus on managing the impact of the pandemic. The governor had, however, recognised this and recently taken action to start necessary improvements.

The condition of the older residential accommodation was poor. Despite many bids to fund the refurbishment of the prison, and efforts to keep the units clean, much accommodation needed refurbishment or replacement. The showers on A to D units were unacceptably poor and,  given the importance of cleanliness during a pandemic, this needed to be addressed with urgency. There was no privacy screening around most toilets,  and an outdated heating system meant cells could be oppressively hot or very cold.

Good staff-prisoner relationships mitigated some of the negative aspects of the restrictions in place.Staff were knowledgeable about the prisoners in their care,  and most prisoners said they had someone they could turn to. Unlike some other prisons we have visited during this period, most prisoners had benefited from a key work session (see Glossary of terms)  in the last month,  and the quality of the interaction was good, even though some of it was by telephone.

Since the last inspection, there had been improvements  to the provision of health care. We were particularly encouraged to see the use of information technology to facilitate psychiatric consultations with patients. However, we were concerned about the continued delay in reinstating a full dental service due to a national industrial relations dispute; this had created a significant backlog of appointments and put the oral health of prisoners at risk.

The prison had retained essential work for about 12% of the population and these prisoners had more time out of cell than the majority,  who were locked up for over 22 hours a day. Almost every prisoner could shower daily, and PE staff made the morning exercise period more purposeful by leading circuit classes on the exercise yard. Prisoners who were studying for GCSEs and AS levels were supported through regular calls from tutors and assistance from trained peer mentors, and the success rate in the summer exams had been good. There were plans to return prisoners to work and education part time to enable social distancing, but these were not yet timetabled.

Purple Visits (see Glossary of terms) had been in place since June, but social visits were only reintroduced in early September. Take-up of both was disappointing, and adjustments were needed to make visits more attractive to prisoners and their families.

Rehabilitation and the ability for prisoners to progress were perhaps the greatest casualties of t he pandemic. The prison was a national hub for programmes and therapeutic interventions, but both had been greatly affected by the restrictions. That said, it was reassuring that public protection work had not halted.

In conclusion, managers and staff at Gartree had responded well to the threats presented by the national pandemic. However, it is important that the senior team seeks to strengthen oversight and delivery of the prison’s c ore work. This is needed to improve the outcomes for prisoners who have been subject to an extremely restricted regime for over six months. More specific and time-bound recovery plans would help the prison to do this more quickly in the move to the next stage of the national framework for easing restrictions.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
October 2020


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This section contains the reports for Gartree from 2001 until present

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