Inspections at HMP Humber

The prison was inspected during October/November 2020. In his report the inspector said:

HMP Humber is a large category C training prison in East Yorkshire. It is an amalgamation of the formerly privately run HMP Wolds (zone 1) and the old Everthorpe prison (zone 2). At the time of our scrutiny visit, the prison held 925 adult male prisoners, which was a slight reduction on the population held before the implementation of the COVID-19 restrictions. This meant that fewer prisoners were sharing small cells originally designed for one person, which helped in controlling the spread of the virus.

The senior management team had reacted quickly to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 virus following the announcement of the restrictions in prisons at the end of March 2020. There was an outbreak among staff in May, but this was handled well. Many prisoners we spoke to were positive about the steps taken throughout the last seven months to keep them safe, and at the time of our visit few staff had tested positive and no prisoners were currently positive.

Despite a clear desire and regular reminders to maintain social distancing, this was very difficult to achieve in some parts of the prison, particularly in zone 2, where corridors and landings were much narrower. Arrangements to keep new prisoners separate from others on the two reverse cohort units were proportionate and sensible, but the use of a shared exercise yard with prisoners from other wings presented an avoidable risk of the virus being transmitted.

Senior managers had planned and taken some important steps towards recovery. However, they were frustrated at the slow pace of recovery set out by national guidance from HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), which gave little room for local autonomy. In addition, plans for further recovery were in doubt following the start of a second national lockdown in the community which would come into force on the day after our visit.

Many of the strategic meetings had been suspended early on in the restricted regime, which was understandable, given the need to focus on the imminent risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading within the prison. It was good to see that these had been reinstated, and most were providing important oversight again. However, the strategic meeting for equality and diversity needed to become more fully embedded and effective over the coming months. The senior management team recognised the need to improve the focus on equality and diversity across the prison.

Data before and during the restricted regime showed that the number of incidents of violence and self-harm had fallen considerably. The number of times that force had been used against prisoners had also reduced since the end of March, and the number of prisoners placed in the segregation unit was very low. In our survey, few prisoners said that they currently felt unsafe. Few felt bullied or victimised by other prisoners but about a third felt victimised by staff. The reasons for the latter perception were unclear.

The care for those at risk of self-harm was reasonable, but we were surprised to find that the formal Listener scheme had not been fully functioning since the end of March. The peer-led support groups known as Andy’s Man Club had resumed in July and were very popular. Staff regularly undertook well-being checks on all prisoners, and the safer custody team, alongside the safety intervention meeting, provided good oversight of, and support to, the most vulnerable. The use of anti-ligature clothing for prisoners in crisis was unusually high, which we found concerning, and prisoners’ negative perceptions of the care they received while in crisis needed to be explored.

Staff–prisoner interactions were positive, but the formal and structured key worker sessions had been suspended early on in the restricted regime. Consultation with prisoners was promoted by a peer-led scheme known as the ‘Humber Pilot’. Living conditions were decent and clean. Prisoners had good access to essential items, and the regime was reliably delivered on the whole. The  complaints process was concerning, and we found some serious complaints that had not been adequately dealt with.

Health care staff had maintained core functions during the COVID-19 restrictions, including access to GPs and nurses, emergency dentistry, mental health services and substance misuse support. Some of the clinics and therapies curtailed during the restrictions had yet to restart, and the dental service had accumulated an extensive waiting list. There had been errors within medicines management that compromised prisoner safety.

The number of prisoners in some form of purposeful activity out of their cell had increased recently to about a quarter of the population. A few workshops had reopened with a reduced capacity, and safe systems of working and some education sessions were now taking place. However, for the majority not in an activity, they remained locked in the cell for 22.5 hours a day, and some of those we spoke to clearly described the detrimental impact this was having on their health and well-being.

Social visits had restarted but would be suspended again following the imminent further restrictions in the community. Video calling was available, but the uptake was low. In-cell telephones provided a huge benefit.

Before the pandemic and the introduction of the restricted regime, HMP Humber had had a clear focus on progression and rehabilitation. For a prison of this type, where prisoners are eager to progress, the loss of many of the rehabilitative tools was a huge frustration. The delivery of offending behaviour programmes had restarted, albeit only one-to-one, and the Hope unit (a small unit aimed at supporting indeterminate sentenced prisoners in their sentence progression) had continued to provide some important progression work throughout the restricted regime. However, contact by prison offender managers with those on their caseload was variable. The quality of resettlement planning was poor, with resettlement plans still being developed without direct engagement with the prisoner, either face-to-face or by telephone. Some basic resettlement help was available, but with too many gaps in provision for us to be confident that it was fully effective.

In conclusion, managers, staff and prisoners had responded well to the pandemic some seven months ago and were still working hard to maintain an environment safe from COVID-19. At the time of our visit, it was unclear how the new restrictions in the community would affect the prison’s pathway to recovery, but it is important that the prison delivers on the improvements we identify in this report, particularly in regaining a clear focus on rehabilitation and resettlement.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
November 2020

Return to Humber  

The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below:

  • HMP Humber – report (PDF) (464 kB, Report on a scrutiny visit to HMP Humber by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (27 October and 3–4 November 2020)
  • HMP Humber (1.65 MB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Humber (21 November, 4–8 December 2017)
  • HMP Humber (PDF, 808.76 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Humber (13 – 24 July 2015)
  •  HMP Everthorpe Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Everthorpe (19 – 21 March 2012)
  • HMP Everthorpe Full announced inspection of HMP Everthorpe (12-16 January 2009
  • HMP Wolds Announced full follow-up inspection of HMP Wolds (23 – 27 April 2012)
  • HMP Wolds Announced inspection of HMP Wolds (7-11 December 2009)
  • HMP Wolds Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Wolds (17-19 September 2007)