The prison was given an inspection in February/March 2020 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 Holme House, located in Stockton, is a relatively modern facility built in the early 1990s, with space for 1,210 adult men. Originally a category B local prison, the establishment had transitioned to becoming a category C training prison at the time of our previous inspection in 2017. As part of that process Holme House was forming close links to the reception prison (HMP Durham) and the nearby open prison (HMP Kirklevington Grange).
This report refers to an inspection that took place in late February and early March 2020, just prior to the full onset of the COVID-19 crisis with all its attendant implications for the prison system and individual establishments like Holme House. As such the impact of the crisis and what this has meant for the prison are not addressed in this report, although our judgements about outcomes in the prison, as it was then, were concerning. Against all four of our tests of a healthy prison, we found outcomes for prisoners that were not sufficiently good, a situation no better than that which we found in 2017. Overall it was clear to us that the prison was falling well short of achieving its purpose as a training prison for category C prisoners.
The prison was still not safe enough. Arrangements to receive and induct new prisoners were inadequate, and while overall levels of violence were consistent with similar prisons, much more could have been done to improve the safety and well-being of prisoners and reduce violence still further. More attention was also needed to ensure that the use of force was always fully accounted for, while both the regime and relationships between staff and prisoners in the segregation unit required improvement. The management of security was, however, more encouraging, although the application of some elements lacked the proportionality commensurate with the establishment’s training prison status. Significant investment and a coordinated strategy had, however, delivered some very impressive reductions in the availability of illicit substances, something that had been almost out of control in 2017. Tragically, since we last inspected there had been three self-inflicted deaths and instances of self-harm had increased. The prison’s response to this priority could best be described as inconsistent.
Holme House had embedded a reasonably effective keyworker scheme, but at the heart of many of the prison’s problems were poor staff-prisoner relationships which were due partly to staff indifference. There was a clear need for a more proactive culture among staff, one that was more supportive of a constructive, rehabilitative ethos. Along with this, the general environment, levels of overcrowding and the quality of accommodation, as well as other factors associated with the quality of daily living such as the food and arrangements to support legitimate redress among prisoners, required improvement. The promotion of equality, by way of contrast, was getting better, and outcomes in health were good. The high-profile drug recovery prison (DRP) project had delivered encouraging results, and the substance misuse therapeutic community was a well-managed national resource.
Time out of cell and the general level of prisoner engagement with education and work did not reflect what is normally expected of a training prison. We found, for example, a third of prisoners locked up during the working day, while attendance and punctuality with respect to activity was, as we describe in the report, sporadic and inconsistent. The curriculum failed to fully meet the needs of prisoners and allocation arrangements to ensure the right people were in the correct class or workshop were not good enough. Our colleagues from Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work as ‘requires improvement’, their second lowest grade.
The prison retained a well-resourced offender management unit which was now better integrated with its resettlement work. The completion of risk management casework (OASys) was more up to date than it had been in 2017, although direct contact between offender managers and prisoners was disappointing. Public protection measures were satisfactory and prisoners had good access to a range of offending behaviour interventions, although referrals needed to be more prompt. Release planning was reasonably good.
It is too soon to say how Holme House will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and judge the longer-term impact this experience will have on the prison. Doubtless there will be new, and perhaps unforeseen, challenges to contend with going forward. That said, our criticisms relate to the prevailing culture we found when we inspected. The prison seemed to us to be reasonably well resourced and equipped, and its purpose seemed clearly defined. The key to Holme House’s success will be ensuring that staff are encouraged to engage constructively and consistently with prisoners, that staff expectations of prisoners are greater and that standards generally are raised.
Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:
- HMP Holme House, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Holme House (24–25 February; 2–6 March 2020)
- HMP Holme House, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Holme House (3–4, 10–13 July 2017)
- HMP Holme House, Unannounced inspection of HMP Holme House (19–30 August 2013)
- HMP Holme House, Full unannounced inspection of HMP Holme House (19–23 July 2010)
- HMP Holme House, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Holme House (16-18 March 2009)