Following a full inspection of January 2019, the prison inspectors revisited the prison in December 2019 to monitor progress made. The Inspectors report said:
Inspectors found a management team tackling many problems at HMP Lewes – a cramped, Victorian prison in East Sussex – when they revisited to assess progress nearly a year after a disturbing full inspection.
At the time of the inspection in January 2019, the prison had been in HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) “special measures” for two years, but outcomes for prisoners were declining rather than improving. Urgent work was needed to improve safety.
Self-harm was common and five prisoners had taken their own lives between inspections in 2016 and 2019. There were rats and large amounts of bird droppings in outside areas. Inspectors found “very real weaknesses” in health services and Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work provision as inadequate, its lowest score.
In contrast, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, during an independent review of progress (IRP) in December 2019, “we found a prison with a renewed sense of purpose and direction. The prison had been taken out of special measures and had discarded the associated bureaucracy and ineffective action plan.”
“The governor and her senior managers understood our concerns and recommendations, and had formulated a more realistic and focused plan for improvement.”
The prison had consulted staff and prisoners about what was causing violence in the prison, which informed a revised safety strategy and action plan. The safer custody team was now better resourced, though these positive developments had yet to translate into reduced levels of violence. There were, in fact, slightly more assaults against staff than at the time of the inspection. Managers, however, had much better oversight of the use of force by staff.
The number of prisoners testing positive in random drug tests had fallen and the prison was making much better use of technology and search dogs to disrupt the supply of drugs. There was also security action against two identified routes for drug smuggling. The total number of self-harm incidents in the six months before the IRP had declined by over a third compared to the total in the six months before the inspection.
Managers assertively challenged prisoners’ antisocial behaviour and supported wing staff at unlock and lock-up times, though officers’ approaches were not always consistent. The problem with rats identified at the inspection had been tackled, with specialist support and the presence of feral cats.
Care for prisoners with long-term health conditions had improved, as had the overall quality of teaching, learning and assessment.
Overall, Mr Clarke said:
“This was a promising review. The governor and her senior managers were taking the prison in the right direction. They were realistic about the scale of the challenges they faced and understood that further progress would require sustained effort and vigour. Their challenge now is to build on the progress they have made since the inspection and to translate this work into positive outcomes for prisoners. Nevertheless, they should be congratulated on what they have achieved so far.”
To read the full report follow the link below. HMP Lewes IRP December 2019