HMP Lincoln, HMIP inspections

The prison was inspected fully by HMIP in December 2019/January 2020.  In their report they said:

HMP Lincoln, built mostly in the late 19th century, is a category B local prison holding, at the time of our inspection, about 630 adult and young adult men. As a prison it faces not insignificant environmental and operational challenges, which are combined currently with the additional challenge of supporting and building capability among a relatively inexperienced staff complement. It is therefore pleasing to report that at this inspection we found a prison that was ensuring, in most areas, reasonably good outcomes and where, since we last inspected in 2017, improvement was clearly evident.

Lincoln was now a much safer prison. Reception and induction arrangements were very good and enhanced considerably by useful interventions from the prison’s very impressive partner , the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Lincolnshire Action Trust. The amount of recorded violence had remained unchanged from that seen in 2017, but we found the prison to be calm and ordered, and prisoners’ views about their own safety, as reported in our survey, were broadly positive. Initiatives to help reduce violence were meaningful and reflected useful consultation and analysis of data. Segregated prisoners reported positively on their treatment by staff and had better access to facilities than we normally see. Security arrangements were proportionate and were based on good intelligence flows that were beginning to deliver improved outcomes, particularly surrounding drug supply reduction. The positive rate for mandatory drug testing (MDT) was now down to 10%, much better than in most local prisons.

Since we last inspected, there had been two self-inflicted deaths and incidents of self-harm remained stubbornly high. However, the prison’s approach to supporting those in crisis was good. Recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman ( PPO) following their investigation of the deaths had been implemented and case management of those at risk of self-harm (ACCT) was generally good. In addition, some useful work was being done to try and understand better the factors behind self-harm, for example an initiative that sought to address the impact of debt on self-harm.

Staff-prisoner relationships were very encouraging, despite over half of all staff having been in post for less than two years. In our survey, 81% of prisoners told us they felt respected by staff and our own observations were consistent with this view. Key worker arrangements were embedded, the wings were properly supervised and rules were applied consistently. The prison was working hard to keep up standards of cleanliness and prisoners had generally good access to amenities, although maintaining old cells and ensuring they were properly equipped remained a challenge. Of concern was the fact that despite a slightly reduced roll, some 80% of prisoners were held in overcrowded cells.

Consultation arrangements with prisoners were effective and led to meaningful change, and over 80% of prisoners told us it was easy to make simple applications. We were impressed by the telephone call centre created by the prison and run by trained peer workers, which provided help and advice to prisoners who requested it. Formal complaints were similarly well managed. The promotion of equality and diversity was much improved and benefited from good leadership. Data was analysed usefully and consultation was getting better. Discrimination incidents were also investigated thoroughly. Health care provision, overall, was very good.

Daily routines were predictable. There was sufficient activity for all prisoners, and most had reasonable amounts of time out of cell. The prison’s engagement with the learning and skills provider was leading to improved performance, although the recruitment of teaching staff was proving to be a struggle and was limiting progress. Overall the quality of teaching and the education curriculum needed to be better and, despite some vocational and skills acquisition, the achievement of qualifications among learners was low. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work as ‘requires improvement’.

The prison faced a particular challenge in managing rehabilitation and release planning, which was complicated by a great variation in the lengths of stay experienced by those held. Alongside the usually local, shorter-stay remand and convicted population, the prison also held many longer sentence prisoners, who were often brought to the prison from well out of the area. The analysis of need in the prison called for some improvement and a strategy that addressed more comprehensively the needs of all was still required. That said, most eligible prisoners had an up-to-date assessment of risk and need (OASys), although there were quite poor levels of contact between prisoners and prison offender managers. Many prisoners held in Lincoln presented quite high risks of harm and it was our view that public protection arrangement needed to be more robust: we make this issue one of our key recommendations. Far too many prisoners were released homeless, which was not helped by some complicated contractual issues among providers and restrictions that seemed to inhibit the prison’s ability to grip the issue. This was, however, balanced by some very good practice that provided ‘through the gate’ and resettlement support. Again, Lincolnshire Action Trust proved to be an excellent partner in providing support for prisoners in maintaining contact with their children and families.

To conclude, the Governor and his team should be commended for the work they have done at Lincoln. Progress at the prison was predicated on the quality of staff-prisoner relationships and some very constructive partnerships. There was attention to getting the basics right in most areas we inspected, but also space for innovation and creativity. This combination was leading to much good practice and meaningful and sustainable improvement. There was lots still to be done and many of the problems like overcrowding had an intractability that required Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service’s (HMPPS) intervention to support the prison. We were confident, however, that the Governor and staff were committed to ensuring continuous improvement. We leave several recommendations which we hope will help support that.

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

Return to Lincoln

To read the full report go to the Ministry of Justice web site.  These sections contain the reports for Lincoln from 2001 until present

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