HMP Leicester, HMIP inspections

The last HMIP inspection of the prison was carried out late in 20175. The full report can be read by clicking on the links below, but the inspectors said in their introduction:

HMP Leicester is a small and ageing city centre local prison that first opened in 1828. The prison held 308 prisoners at the time of our inspection – about 100 more than it was designed for. Most prisoners lived on one main wing. We last inspected the prison in 2015 when we were highly critical of what was then a deteriorating establishment failing to ensure outcomes were sufficiently good in any of our tests of a healthy prison. It is therefore pleasing to report that our findings at this inspection evidenced significant improvement across many areas, despite ongoing challenges both operationally and environmentally.

In 2015 we reported on a prison we considered unsafe. It remained the case that Leicester was still not safe enough, but it is right to acknowledge that the governor and his staff were showing considerable determination in trying to make the situation better. Good first night support, vital in dealing with what was a generally short-term and transient population, was available but let down by weak induction arrangements. Recorded violence had fluctuated considerably since our last inspection but remained high and had risen further in 2017. About a fifth of violent incidents were judged to be serious and increased assaults against staff were an added concern. Other relevant indicators such as use of force, use of segregation and use of special accommodation similarly remained high, and management supervision of these needed to be much better.

The wings were, however, much calmer and staff evidenced much greater confidence and control in their supervision of prisoners than we had seen previously. Our survey of prisoners indicated that their perception of their own safety was now more in line with our findings at similar prisons, which was an improvement, and it was certainly the case that the prison was doing some good work to usefully analyse incidents of violence and implement new initiatives. This work, however, had yet to result in sustained improvement in actual outcomes for prisoners.

Security staff understood the main threats to the prison and the flows of intelligence were good. Drugs and psychoactive substances remained a threat to the stability of the prison, although again there was some initiative shown in trying to address this. The issues of drug supply, violence reduction and oversight of use of force are all the subject of main recommendations following this inspection.

Tragically, there had been three self-inflicted deaths since our last inspection. Although self-harm had reduced, it remained higher than at other similar prisons. Again, however, it seemed to us that the prison was doing a lot of work to improve the situation. The Prison and Probation Ombudsman’s (PPO) investigation recommendations had been implemented, there was a drive to improve the sometimes inconsistent case management of those in crisis, and governance overall was improving. Prisoners in crisis indicated to us that they felt supported by staff.

Leicester had become a more respectful prison. Staff were far more visible and relationships we observed were more confident, friendly and supportive. Consultation arrangements with prisoners were well embedded and we saw the approach of staff now as one of the prison’s strengths. The prison was much cleaner than it had been, although there was no avoiding the implications of living in an environment that dates from the 1820s. Overcrowding was prevalent but some refurbishment had been undertaken and more was planned. Access to amenities was reasonable, mitigating some of the negative aspects of the environment. Some very good, if fairly new, work had begun to promote equality with a useful action plan to drive further improvement. Prisoners from minority groups generally reported similarly to others concerning their experience of treatment and conditions at the prison. Health care, like other aspects of the prison, was improving.

Time out of cell and access to association was limited but daily routines were now at least predictable, and we found far fewer prisoners locked in cell during the working day. Despite some quite limited access to the library and gym, the prison was providing a very impressive range of creative activities to support the personal development of individuals. The provision of learning and skills activity was judged to be ‘good’ by our partners from Ofsted. There were an adequate number of activity places with a good emphasis on maths and English and good external links and partnerships to support learning and resettlement.

The prison had developed a new and well thought through reducing reoffending strategy supported by a useful needs analysis. There were some evident weaknesses in the quality of offender management work. For example, not all prisoners had an offender assessment system (OASys) assessment before transfer, but there was, nevertheless, some effective coordination between offender managers and resettlement workers, and prisoner contact with offender supervisors had improved overall. Public protection work with higher-risk prisoners due for release, however, needed to be better. The work of the community rehabilitation company (CRC) in supporting resettlement remained strong. The visits provision had improved considerably, with some impressive design work done in partnership with a local university to improve the visits environment.

The theme of this inspection, and the word we repeatedly return to, is improvement. Leicester is one of the country’s oldest operational prisons and its limitations are not easily overcome. That said, the prison was now well led by a capable governor. The management team were energetic and were dealing with the priorities. Improved staff confidence was clearly evident. Work had been undertaken on a broad front to resolve issues or put in place practical plans and initiatives which should be the basis for further progress. Assessments across all four of our healthy prison tests had improved and outcomes for those held were now at least reasonable in three of these tests. The governor and his staff should be congratulated for the progress they have achieved.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
March 2018
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Leicester

To see the full report go to the Ministry of Justice web site

This section contains the reports for Leicester from 2001 until present



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