HMIP Inspections at Leeds

The prison was last inspected in late  November 2019. The inspectors report said in their report:

“HMP Leeds, originally built 1847, is a classic example of an inner city Victorian prison, with the institutional culture, risks and challenges that description implies. Holding up to 1,131 adult male prisoners, many in overcrowded conditions, the establishment is a category B local prison serving a catchment across West Yorkshire. The prison comprises six wings: four original wings and two units added in the early 1990s. The wings have a variety of designated functions including an incentivised drug-free facility, a first night centre on D1 and a wing (F) for vulnerable prisoners. The population represents a range of categories of prisoner, with about two-thirds being convicted and just under half sentenced. When we inspected, some 20% of the population were on remand and just over 11% were licence recalls. Many Leeds prisoners had significant needs and spent comparatively short periods at the establishment, which resulted in a considerable population turnover each week.

We last inspected Leeds in 2017 when we found an establishment that was unsafe and also failing to achieve good enough outcomes in two of our healthy prison tests, respect and purposeful activity (PA). Outcomes in rehabilitation and release planning (RRP) were better. At this inspection it was true to say that Leeds continued to face many significant challenges, but we found a generally competent institution where improvement was evident in many areas. This was particularly true of safety, which was now much better, although much remained to be done. In respect we assessed outcomes to now be reasonably good. Our assessments in PA and RRP remained unchanged, although both areas had improved.

The prison’s new reception provided a welcoming environment. New arrivals were seen quickly and the assessment of risk was now generally satisfactory. New prisoners taken to the first night unit received reasonable levels of support from staff and induction arrangements were generally effective. A body scanner had been introduced to the reception area, which we were told was proving effective in detecting contraband. Levels of violence had reduced and serious violence had reduced considerably, and several important initiatives were aimed at sustaining this improvement. Despite this, in our survey over a third of prisoners still told us they felt unsafe and intimidated by staff. Prisoners also suggested to us that the use of force by staff was sometimes excessive, and we found evidence to support their view. The amount of force used in the prison was high although many incidents did not involve the deployment of full restraint. The prison ensured robust action was taken where poor practice was identified, but some aspects of governance and supervision still required improvement.

The segregation unit was a reasonable facility, subject to good oversight and benefiting from some constructive staff-prisoner relationships. The daily routine remained limited, although prisoners generally did not stay long before their reintegration back in to the main prison. Security was well managed, with some competent collation and use of intelligence. This in combination with the deployment of drug detection technology had undoubtedly aided a reduction in the availability of illicit drugs. Mandatory testing now suggested a positive rate as low as 6.6% which was a substantial improvement on the last inspection.

Tragically, there had been eight self-inflicted deaths since we last inspected in Leeds. Several other deaths were under investigation. The case management (ACCT) of those in crisis was not good enough, despite recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following her investigation into some of these deaths. Similarly, the number of incidents of self-harm was much higher than in similar prisons and than at the time of the last inspection. Overall, we found that the prison’s safeguarding strategy was not sufficiently effective in addressing emerging issues or risks, or the needs of individuals in crisis.

We generally observed good and relaxed staff-prisoner relationships around the prison, although this was not a consistent finding, with some observations suggesting dismissive and potentially intimidating behaviour by staff. In our survey, only just over half of prisoners told us they thought staff treated them respectfully. Despite some positive features such as a generally effective key worker scheme, the prison still had some way to go before it could claim to have established a meaningful rehabilitative culture.

The capacity of the prison had reduced slightly in recent times. Cramped living conditions were prevalent, but mitigated slightly by a proactive and effective approach to upholding standards, including cleanliness, as well as to providing cell equipment and access to basic amenities. The useful and effective prisoner maintenance team, named ‘Q-branch’, was a further valued support to improving living conditions. Prisoner consultation was meaningful and prisoners appreciated the peer information desk arrangements that helped provide one-to-one help for individuals. Application and grievance arrangements, however, needed to be more responsive and reliable. The outcomes experienced by prisoners with protected characteristics varied significantly, but the promotion of diversity was being prioritised and the prison was working hard to ensure meaningful improvement. The provision of health services was generally good.

The time out of cell experienced by prisoners varied greatly from about nine hours a day for a fully employed prisoner to as little as two hours for those unemployed and subject to a basic regime. The daily routine was reasonably predictable but our spot checks still found 40% of prisoners locked in cell during the working day. There remained too few activity places in work and education and those that were available were not always filled. The quality of teaching and learning needed improving, although most learners who completed their courses, with the significant exception of English, achieved their qualification. Prisoners in vocational training and work could acquire useful skills but there was little evidence that this was leading to prisoners securing work, training or education places on release.

The complex needs of the population were evident to us throughout this inspection. Nearly a third of the population, for example, were known to present a high or very high risk of harm and over 60% reported mental health problems. Partnership working to support rehabilitation services was strong and contact between prison offender managers and prisoners was better than we usually see. Despite some weaknesses, including some mixed outcomes in public protection arrangements, individual prisoners generally received good resettlement planning and support. Interventions to tackle offending behaviour needs, however, remained limited.

It is right to acknowledge again the challenges in running a prison like Leeds. The level of need among prisoners was great, the environment required constant work and attention in order that minimum standards could be maintained and the operational context required real grip. Overall, though, we were encouraged by what we saw. Leeds could not yet be described as cultivating a rehabilitative culture as aspired to by HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), but we could see some very important work being done and improvements were evident. The Governor and his team deserve acknowledgement for what they have achieved so far. Priorities going forward, as we would see them, include further improvements in safety outcomes, notably safeguarding those at risk of self-harm, and getting prisoners out of cell and into purposeful activity with greater consistency.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
March 2020

Return to Leeds

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

  • HMP Leeds (1.68 MB), Report on an announced inspection of HMP Leeds (25 November – 6 December 2019)
  • HMP Leeds (645.69 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Leeds (30, 31 October, 6–10 November 2017)
  •  HMP Leeds (PDF, 832.20 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Leeds (30 November – 11 December 2015)
  • HMP Leeds, Announced inspection of HMP Leeds (8–18 January 2013)
  • HMP Leeds, Unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Leeds (3-12 March 2010)
  • HMP Leeds, Unannounced inspection of HMP Leeds (5-14 December 2007)

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