HMIP Inspections of Kirkham

The prison was given an inspection in the summer of 2018, 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 Kirkham is an open prison in the North West of England that holds up to 657 adult male prisoners, although at the time of inspection 589 men were held. They represented a broad spectrum of ages and the full range of sentences, but over 70% were serving more than four years. Nearly 90 prisoners were serving more than 10 years or life. The prison’s primary function was to resettle men, most of whom were nearing the end of their time in custody. We last inspected Kirkham in 2013, when we found a successful prison that was delivering outcomes that were reasonably good or better across all four of our healthy prison tests. At this inspection we are pleased to report that our findings were very similar.

Prisoners were received into the prison and inducted well, and most told us in our survey that they felt safe. There was little violence or bullying among prisoners and the use of force was rare. Work to create a motivational and incentivising culture within the prison was ongoing, although some of this work was developmental and needed to be refined. Prisoners were always segregated as a prelude to their prospective return to closed conditions but we were unclear as to whether segregation in a secure cell was always needed. Security arrangements were proportionate and the rate of abscond and breaches of release on temporary licence (ROTL), although high in the previous year, appeared to be reducing.

In our survey, too many prisoners told us they felt victimised by staff and many had very negative perceptions about the attitude of some staff. Significantly fewer prisoners than at the time of our previous inspection, and when compared to those at other open prisons, felt respected by staff. There was sufficient evidence, in our view, to suggest the prisoners may have had a point, and that the approach of some, certainly too many, staff was unsupportive of the ethos to which the prison aspired. Addressing this shortcoming in the quality of staff-prisoner relationships was the key priority to emerge from this inspection.

The grounds of the prison were excellent and residential accommodation was maintained reasonably well despite signs of wear and tear. The food provided was popular with most prisoners. Monthly consultation meetings with prisoners were well attended and useful but despite an efficient complaints system, prisoners were not confident in using it for fear of being seen as problematic and of being returned to closed conditions. We found no evidence to support these views, although the prison should take them seriously and address the issue as part of its drive to improve relationships and prisoner confidence. We found little evidence of discriminatory behaviour but work to actively promote equality was variable and often quite limited. Health services were generally good.

Kirkham being an open prison meant that prisoners were never locked in their rooms. The provision of learning and skills remained reasonably good and there were sufficient activity places for the whole population, including a useful range of placements accessed on ROTL Teaching, learning and learner achievements were all good although there were weaknesses in the recording of skills acquisition and in embedding the development of functional skills in English and maths in vocational and work placements. Links to local employers and employment opportunities were good. Our colleagues in Ofsted assessed the overall provision at Kirkham to be ‘good’.

Outcomes in the prisons core function of resettlement we judged to be reasonably good overall , although more needed to be done to ensure greater continuity, consistency and coherence in the work. Little strategy was evident , for example, and despite there being a substantial proportion of prisoners considered high risk , there had been no recent needs analysis. Notwithstanding, many prisoners were taking advantage of the opportunities presented by ROTL. Levels of contact between prisoners and their offender supervisors were reasonable, if inconsistent, and the focus on risk management was similarly reasonable overall. Public protection arrangements were prioritised and resettlement planning prior to release was good.

To conclude, Kirkham continues to be an effective open resettlement prison. Good outcomes were evident and this was reflected in a good report. A cautionary note would be that the prison needed to guard against complacency. Offender management provision required some new and joined -up thinking and, in our view, staff needed to ensure they were fully committed to the prisons values and purpose.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
August 2018

Return to Kirkham

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

  • HMP Kirkham (1.08 MB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Kirkham (25 June–5 July 2018)
  • HMP Kirkham, Unannounced inspection of HMP Kirkham (28 October – 8 November 2013)
  • HMP Kirkham, Announced inspection of HMP Kirkham (30 November-4 December 2009)
  • HMP Kirkham, Unannouced short follow-up inspection of HMP Kirkham (8-10 October 2007)

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