Inspections at HMP Lindholme

The prison was inspected in October 2017. In their report the inspectors said:

” HMP Lindholme is a category C prison situated near Doncaster. It is sited on an old RAF station and holds more than 1,000 adult male prisoners. Nearly all of these prisoners are serving sentences of more than four years, and around a quarter are serving more than 10 years. It is a complex and challenging population, with about 20% of the prisoners having links to organised crime. At the time of the last inspection in March 2016, we found that the safety of the prison was significantly compromised by the ready availability of drugs and the consequent debt, bullying and violence. There were also serious shortcomings in the resettlement provision. In both our healthy prison tests of these areas, we found the situation warranted our lowest assessment of ‘poor’. We were so concerned that we decided to revisit Lindholme a mere 18 months later, and on this occasion to announce the inspection so that the prison would have more opportunity to address the issues raised in March 2016.

This inspection showed that there had been some improvement in safety at Lindholme, and we were able to lift the assessment to ‘not sufficiently good’ from ‘poor’. The levels of violence in the prison were still high, with a quarter of prisoners saying they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. However, the number of serious incidents had reduced, the recording and analysis of violence had improved and there was some good work to support those who were self-isolating. It should be clearly understood, however, that the fact we were able to raise the safety assessment was due to improvements in reception, first night arrangements and induction. It is certainly not a reflection of any diminution in the amount of violence or the threat posed to the prison by illicit drugs, which remained severe.

More than two-thirds of prisoners still told us that it was easy or very easy to get hold of drugs, and a shockingly high 27% said they had developed a problem with drugs since being in the prison. These  very high figures were reflected in the fact that 41% of prisoners were testing positive for drugs. Clearly, more must be done to keep drugs out of Lindholme. The lengthy perimeter of the prison is difficult to defend. When this is combined with the linkages of so many prisoners to organised crime and their obvious resourcefulness in getting large quantities of drugs into the jail, it means that further progress will be difficult to achieve. There is a question to be asked as to whether Lindholme is actually a suitable establishment in which to hold its current population given the apparent  intractability of the problem. Nevertheless, there was a need for a comprehensive drug supply reduction strategy, and this is therefore the subject of our first main recommendation, as so much else depended on it.

Health care provision at Lindholme was suffering from a chronic lack of GP availability, leading to lengthy delays in getting appointments. Only 10% of prisoners that were surveyed told us it was easy to see the doctor, while a very high 69% said it was very difficult to do so. Only 13% thought the overall quality of health care was good, while 54% thought it was very bad. Aside from delays in getting appointments, we found there to be problems in clinical governance, support for thosesuffering from mental health issues and in getting prisoners to external appointments.

The problems in health care provision may have played a part in influencing the very large decline in the number of prisoners telling us that they were treated with respect by staff. At the last inspection the figure had stood at 85%, but in a mere 18 months this had declined to 57%. This needs to be understood and addressed if the progress that the prison has made is to be maintained. It is quite likely that, as is so often the case, day-to-day frustrations have also contributed to prisoners feeling that they are not being treated in a respectful way. For instance, we found that there was a poor response to cell call bells, and also problems with the response to applications. On a positive note, there had been some good progress  in the prison’s approach to issues of equality and diversity, with strong involvement from the senior leadership. It wa s also good to see that a scrutiny panel had been established to review the response to allegations of discrimination.

Lindholme is, of course, a working prison, with enough activity spaces for all the prisoners being held there. It was therefore surprising and disappointing to find that during our roll check we found that some 25% of prisoners were locked in their cells during the core day. This was even more concerning when one considers that in the older spur accommodation, prisoners were unlocked all day, meaning that in the cellular accommodation some 38% were locked up. Again, this needs to be understood and addressed.

In the area of rehabilitation and release planning, which had been poor at the last inspection, we found that there had been some improvement. The offender assessment system (OASys) backlog had reduced considerably as a result of bringing in extra support to address the issue. There was also an excellent initiative to buy in community rehabilitation company (CRC) capacity in support of resettlement work. This was proving to be highly effective because the arrangements were not constrained by the usual inflexibilities found in CRC contracts. We commended this initiative as good practice. However, more work was needed to help prisoners keep in contact with families and, given the long sentences being served by most prisoners, there needed to be far more regular and meaningful contact with offender supervisors.

It is clear that Lindholme still has a long way to go, but it would be churlish and wrong not to acknowledge the progress that has been made in the short time since the last inspection. To have gained higher assessments in two of our healthy prison tests is no mean achievement. It is worth noting that if the period since the last inspection had been longer, the number of recommendations successfully achieved would have been the subject of serious adverse comment, but it was obvious that a real effort had been made in the short time available. This was particularly evident in the area of safety, where nine out of the 15 recommendations had been achieved or partially achieved.

HMI Prisons focuses on what we find at the time of the inspection, and we are always cautious about giving too much credit for future plans that may or may not come to fruition in terms of improving outcomes for prisoners. Lindholme has faced some very serious challenges, and still does. There is always a high risk from drugs and the violence they generate. The leadership at HMP Lindholme have a number of credible plans, and they will need them to be successful if they are to defeat the organised criminals who are determined to continue to ply their trade while serving their sentences.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
November  2017
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

 Return to Lindholme

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