HMIP Reports, HMP Guys Marsh

The prison was given an inspection in December 2018/January 2019 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:

Guys Marsh is a category C training and resettlement prison located near Shaftesbury in Dorset. Taking men from much of the South West, the prison held at the time of the inspection up to 396 prisoners. This was a reduction of about 60 compared to the last inspection, and was to facilitate a rolling programme of refurbishment. The prison held men subject to a full range of sentences but there was a preponderance of longer-term prisoners, with nearly half serving between four and 10 years, and a further 15% serving over 10 years. About 50 men were serving indeterminate sentences.

Guys Marsh is a prison the Inspectorate has considered to be high risk for a number of years. When we inspected in 2014 we found a prison we described as being out of control. Our subsequent inspection in 2016 saw only marginal improvements, when we found progress to be slow and judged outcomes for prisoners as insufficient or worse across all our assessments. It is therefore pleasing to report that, following this inspection, we found a prison where improvement was both substantial and significant.

While considerable concerns about safety remained, Guys Marsh was a safer prison and our overall impression was of a calmer, more settled institution. About a quarter of the prisoners we surveyed still suggested to us they felt unsafe, although this figure was now more consistent with findings at similar prisons. Levels of violence, driven by drug use and debt, were higher than at similar prisons. The prison had been slow to formulate strategies to improve the situation, but more recently had established a firmer grip, and we saw evidence of several useful initiatives to better understand and confront violence as well as improve support for more isolated individuals.

 Force had been used frequently but we were not assured that supervision and accountability concerning its use were adequate. We referred three incidents to the governor for further enquiry. The use of segregation was also up, but stays were not excessive and reintegration arrangements were satisfactory. Security was applied proportionately and considerable attention had been given to combating illicit drug use. However, many initiatives were new and untested and with the mandatory positive drug testing rate at 27%, the evidence suggested a still considerable problem.

There had been one self-inflicted death since we last inspected and a further four where evidence pointed to a connection to the use of illegal drugs. Recommendations following Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) investigations had been implemented but there remained a problem with increased self-harm among prisoners. There was a significant amount of work being done to try to improve the situation and support for those in crisis seemed good.

Staff supervision and visibility were reasonable. Staff-prisoner relationships were mostly good and the key worker scheme seemed to be helping greatly. The fabric of the prison needed renewal but this work had begun. The prison was cleaner than before and access to facilities and amenities was much improved. There was, however, still some overcrowding in cramped cells.

Consultation with prisoners was adequate and complaints were dealt with reasonably well. The management of general applications, however, needed to be better. The promotion of equality remained weak but the prison had recently begun to refocus on this work. The newly appointed equality officer was greatly valued by prisoners so it was a disappointment that he was often transferred to other duties. Four prisoner equality representatives showed great commitment and seemed to exercise a positive influence. Health service provision was very good overall.

Daily routines in the prison were no longer as restricted as we have seen previously and were now far more predictable. Despite this, we still found a quarter of prisoners locked in cell during the working day. Progress in developing learning and skills provision had been slow and, despite there being sufficient activity places, punctuality and attendance were poor. Achievements for those who  attended training and education were mixed and teaching was inconsistent. Our colleagues in Ofsted assessed the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work as ‘requires improvement’. In contrast, the management of rehabilitation was much improved and robust. There had been a useful assessment of need and the offender management unit functioned well. Public protection work was similarly effective and resettlement work was reasonable.

This inspection of Guys Marsh evidenced tangible progress for the first time in many years. There was still much to correct and improve but managers were visible and there was good leadership, as well as commitment and enthusiasm among those who worked there. The prison was far more settled and there was an underpinning commitment to promoting well-being among all those held.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                  March 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Guys Marsh

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

  • HMP Guys Marsh (1.28 MB), Report on an announced inspection of HMP Guys Marsh (17, 18 December 2018, 7-11 January 2019)
  • HMP Guys Marsh (601.56 kB), Report on an announced inspection of HMP Guys Marsh (5-9 December 2016)
  • HMP Guys Marsh, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Guys Marsh (10 – 21 November 2014)
  • HMP Guys Marsh, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Guys Marsh (25–27 February 2013)
  • HMP Guys Marsh, Announced inspection of HMP Guys Marsh (4–8 January 2010)
  • HMP/YOI Guys Marsh, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP and YOI Guys Marsh (21-23 January 2008)

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