HMP Lowdham Grange, HMIP inspections

The inspectors visited the prison for a full inspection in August 2018. In his report the inspector said in his report:

Lowdham Grange is a category B training prison in Nottinghamshire holding up to 920 adult men. Opened in 1998 on the site of an older institution, the prison is operated by the private contractor Serco. The prison’s campus comprises five house blocks, made up of 14 separate residential wings. Most of those held in the prison were serving very long sentences for serious offences. Some 60% of men, for example, were serving sentences of 10 years or more and a further third were serving indeterminate sentences, mostly life.

We last inspected Lowdham Grange in 2015 when, although we expressed some concerns about the area of safety, we reported generally very positively across the rest of our healthy prison tests. At this most recent inspection, we remained reasonably positive about the establishment but our assessments were more mixed. It was a mostly respectful place and outcomes in the area of rehabilitation – a key responsibility of the prison – were still reasonably good. Safety, however, had still to improve sufficiently and we report on a quite marked deterioration in the provision of education, skills and work.

Overall, prisoners were received well into the prison and we found some very innovative recent work aimed at improving safety. The prison’s new violence reduction strategy was encouraging, supported by good data collection and useful investigation of incidents. Perpetrators and victims of violence were engaged and there was some good practice in the prison’s actions to explore the links between violence and drug misuse. The introduction of a prisoners’ violence hotline was, in our view, emergent good practice. While much of what we saw was good and seemed to us a good foundation for progress, it was too early to say if the approach was working. Levels of violence remained high and we were disappointed that relatively few of our 2015 recommendations had been achieved.

In keeping with the amount of violence evident, use of force had doubled and the use of segregation was also high. Oversight and accountability for the use of force and segregation required significant improvement. The management of security was generally much better and there was evidence, for example, that the availability of illicit drugs was reducing in recent months. The use of technology to scan mail used to import drugs was a very useful initiative.

The amount of self-harm in the prison had increased significantly and, since we last inspected, two prisoners had taken their own lives. Assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management for those in crisis was inadequate but the prisoners we spoke to felt well cared for. The prison was progressing well with meeting the recommendations made by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) following their investigation into the two deaths. Again, the use of a hotline to support those at risk of self-harm was innovative.

Many of the prison’s staff were inexperienced, which may explain some negative perceptions among prisoners about staff-prisoner relationships. The environment was reasonable, although internal areas could have been cleaner. Access to services was generally very good and included a well-used internal advice line operated by peer supporters. Consultation with prisoners was good and peer support for those with protected characteristics was helpful. Outcomes for minority groups were reasonable but some negative perceptions among those from these groups required further exploration. Health services were good but delays in access to some important elements of health care were excessive.

Most prisoners had quite good access to time out of cell but outcomes in education, skills and work had deteriorated. The range of provision was diminished and quality assurance arrangements were lacking. Teaching, learning and assessment outcomes were poor and too few completed their courses. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the effectiveness of provision as ‘inadequate’, their lowest assessment.

In view of the risk posed by those held at Lowdham Grange, it was reassuring that work to support risk reduction and rehabilitation was reasonably good. The offender management unit (OMU) worked well but could have been so much better had it been better supported more broadly within the establishment. Contact between prisoners and their supervisors was much better than we normally see but outcomes were undermined in that supervisors were often excluded from key decisions about those they supervised.

Most prisoners acknowledged they had a custody plan and indicated that they knew how to address their sentence objectives. Public protection arrangements seemed proportionate and there was an appropriate range of offending behaviour programmes. Lowdham Grange was not a designated resettlement prison but 22 men had been released from the prison in the preceding six months, which was not ideal. They should have been transferred to places more equipped to meet their resettlement needs.

Overall, our findings at Lowdham Grange were adequate if inconsistent. There had been some progress but there was very much the sense that the prison was doing just enough. For example, the prison’s level of attention to our 2015 recommendations was very disappointing and a missed opportunity. We did see some innovative practice, and recent improvements needed to be embedded. There was much more to do, however, to enhance the prison’s very poor training offer. To assist the process of improvement, we leave the prison with a number of recommendations. We hope these will have a higher priority following this inspection.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
October 2018
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons


Return to Lowdham Grange

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

This section contains the reports for Lowdham Grange from 2004 until present