HMIP Inspections of Grendon

The prison was given an inspection in May 2017, 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:

Grendon is a category B training prison in Buckinghamshire holding just over 200 adult men, all of whom were serving long determinate or life sentences. All were at the prison to undertake accredited therapy in one of five democratic therapeutic communities (TCs). Grendon is one of only two prisons in England and Wales dedicated specifically to this type of work. Democratic TCs provide prisoners with a range of therapy so they can understand and address their offending behaviour and live in a collaborative setting with their peers and staff. Prisoners are given a real say in the day-to-day running of the establishment, which aims to equip them with greater insight into their own behaviour and instil in them a greater sense of responsibility for others. This all happens within the context of the usual security imperatives of a category B prison. At our last visit to Grendon in August 2013 we described a safe, decent prison with an excellent focus on therapy work, but felt some aspects of purposeful activity needed to be stronger.

In our survey, prisoners at Grendon were much more positive than those held in other category B prisons across a range of indicators. Most men reported feeling safe and secure and far fewer men than at the last inspection felt victimised by staff. Incidents of violence remained infrequent. Verbal tensions were sometimes generated through the therapeutic process, but were generally dealt with through the treatment process with little need for recourse to formal procedures or interventions. The prison operated without a segregation unit and very few men were required to move to other prisons for security or disciplinary reasons. Security generally supported the therapeutic aims of the prison.

The physical fabric of the prison was somewhat shabby, and the automated night sanitation system was outdated and presented real challenges for the men held. However, as far as was possible, the impact of the system was offset by the respect men showed to their living environment, and the efforts staff made to ensure they had the wherewithal to live decent lives. Food provision was excellent. Relationships between staff and the men, and between prisoners and their peers, were outstanding and underpinned much that was positive about Grendon. Equality and diversity work had developed, and real efforts were made to ensure all men had equitable opportunities at the prison, regardless of any individual differences. Health care provision was strong.

Therapy was the main purposeful activity and consumed a significant proportion of the core day. Time out of cell was excellent and a huge range of extracurricular activities were offered, many ofwhich aimed to support the therapeutic process. Learning, skills and work activities provision had improved, although still more focus was needed to ensure the benefits of work and any progress the men made in activities were recognised.

Men came to Grendon to undertake work that would help them understand and address their risk of harm to others, and nearly everything that happened at the prison was linked in some way to this key aim. Therapy was embedded throughout the regime, and prisoners and staff were expected to play their part in facilitating these aims. It was impressive that there was a whole prison approach to facilitating a rehabilitative culture and environment. Some aspects still needed attention, particularly the timeliness of post-therapy reports and moves to other prisons, but in most respects we considered Grendon to be doing what it set out to do. The focus on supporting relationships between the men held and their children, families and friends, and on how such support networks might assist in the management of their future risks, was impressive.

In conclusion, the strong picture we reported at our previous inspection had been enhanced, and outcomes were even better. Nearly all recommendations we made previously had been achieved, or significant progress made in doing so. Many men at the prison recognised the benefits of the opportunities offered and how they would help them live offending-free lives in the future. This was in no small part down to the strong, principled and focused leadership of the prison, which provided more junior staff and prisoners with role models, exemplifying the positive behaviour and thinking expected of them. Not every prison can or needs to be a therapeutic community, but the values, principles and practice seen at Grendon could provide positive lessons and inspiration for other prisons. HM Prison and Probation Service should ensure this example is shared more widely for the benefit of others.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

June 2017

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Grendon

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

  • HMP Grendon (939.42 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Grendon (8–18 May 2017)
  •  HMP Grendon, Unannounced inspection of HMP Grendon (5 – 16 August 2013)
  • HMP Grendon, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Grendon (15 – 17 August 2011)
  • HMP Grendon, Announced inspection of HMP Grendon (2-6 March 2009)