HMIP Reports, HMP Isle of Wight

The prison was given an inspection in April/May 2019, 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 Isle of Wight is a training prison holding around 1,000 prisoners, almost all of whom have been convicted of sexual offences. Most of the prisoners held at the time of this inspection were serving long sentences for serious offences. Forty per cent of the population were over 50 years old and a significant proportion of these prisoners were elderly and sometimes frail. The prison continued to house a very small remand population from local courts on the island, although it was ill-suited to this role.

We last inspected HMP Isle of Wight in 2015 and since this time the number of people convicted of sexual offences has increased across England and Wales. In response to this we have changed the comparator group of prisons for the Isle of Wight from other category B training prisons to other prisons holding prisoners convicted of sexual offences.

At this inspection we found there had been a deterioration in outcomes in two of our healthy prison tests and that outcomes were not sufficiently good in the areas of safety and rehabilitation and release planning. Despite this, much positive work continued to take place at the prison. Relationships between staff and prisoners remained good, underpinning prisoners’ experience of everyday life. The overwhelming majority of prisoners said they had a member of staff they could turn to if they had a problem. With the notable exception of the widespread use of night sanitation on the Albany site, living conditions were also reasonably good. Communal areas and cells, while worn, were clean, free of graffiti and properly furnished. In addition, staff and prisoners clearly put significant effort into maintaining the attractive gardens across both sites. Equality work had received some much-needed attention in the months before our inspection. Health care was very good but stronger links with the local authority were needed to support prisoners with social care needs.

Outcomes in the area of purposeful activity were also reasonably good. Most prisoners could access 10 hours out of their cell each weekday and the gym and library provision was good. Managers had improved their use of data and had well-developed plans to improve the education, training and work provision. Teaching and learning were also good and achievement rates were very high on most courses. However, we found a large number of prisoners underemployed in a significant number of wing roles.

More concerningly, we found prisoners had very poor perceptions of safety. In our survey, more than half said they had felt unsafe during their time at HMP Isle of Wight and nearly a quarter felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. While violence was still not widespread, it had risen significantly since the previous inspection and the response of managers was not good enough, leading to inconsistent challenge of perpetrators and little support for victims. The approach to all aspects of behaviour management was in need of attention to ensure that there were clear incentives for prisoners who engaged with the regime and behaved well. Levels of self-harm were high and there had been three self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection. It was concerning that some Prisons and Probation Ombudsman recommendations had not been implemented. The prison was caring for a small but significant number of prisoners with complex needs and good relationships between staff and prisoners led to good care. However, managers needed to use data better to understand the causes and reduce the frequency of self-harm.

Many prisoners were held a long way from home and families experienced significant travel times and expense visiting the Isle of Wight. It was therefore disappointing that support for prisoners to maintain contact with the outside world was limited to letters, phone calls and some fairly basic visits facilities, particularly at Albany. Managers had introduced ‘email a prisoner’, regular family days and some play work provision, but more could have been done to support prisoners to establish and maintain contact with friends and family.

The long-term, high-risk sex offender population presented significant challenges in the area of rehabilitation and release planning. We found a very similar picture to the previous inspection. Fundamentally, some good work was undermined by a lack of up-to-date assessments of risk and need, high offender supervisor caseloads and a lack of contact between offender supervisors and prisoners. This meant the one-to-one motivational work needed with the large number of prisoners who were maintaining their innocence could not take place. The programme provision had improved with the addition of non-accredited programmes, but this was still not enough to meet need. Support for the small number of prisoners released from HMP Isle of Wight was poor.

HMP Isle of Wight is a respectful place where good relationships between frontline staff and prisoners result in many positive outcomes. However, there needs to be a better operational grip on safety. Managers need to address the weaknesses in offender management to ensure the prison fulfils its purpose of reducing the risks these long-term prisoners pose, both within the prison and, importantly, when they are eventually released.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                      June 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Isle of Wight

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