HMIP Inspections of Maidstone

The prison was last inspected in summer 2015, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In his report the inspector said.

“We last inspected a very different Maidstone nearly four years ago when the prison mainly held sex offenders. Since then the prison has changed its role and is now a category C training prison for foreign nationals serving prison sentences for criminal offences. Some 600 adult men were serving a range of sentences, including nearly 60% who had been held in excess of four years, and a small number subject to life sentences.

Maidstone was not an immigration removal centre: just 23 prisoners were detained at the end of their sentences. However, approximately 90% of prisoners were eventually discharged from the prison directly to their country of origin, a unique challenge that the prison had yet to get to grips with. There was a lack of agreed vision for resettlement with the National Offender Management Service. The prison had not been designated a resettlement establishment and had comparatively few resettlement resources and a very weak focus on this key responsibility. The management of resettlement overall was poor and not well understood, with no local strategy or effective coordination of services.

There was an unacceptably high number of prisoners with no current OASys assessment, reflecting the very low priority afforded these prisoners by sending establishments. The general quality of offender management and supervision was inadequate. Public protection arrangements were in place but were not robust. The failure to adequately address risk was true for the 10% of prisoners who were resettled to UK home areas, as well as those who were deported. Practical resettlement arrangements for UK-based prisoners were just adequate. For those who were being removed, the useful ‘Tracks’ information and signposting tool, which was intended to give foreign nationals information about their destination countries, was inexplicably underused. Work with foreign prisoners was further undermined by the often late decisions to detain and/or remove them by the Home Office at the conclusion of sentences.

Within the prison, those detained had reasonable access to time out of cell and the availability of outside exercise was good. Our Ofsted partners on this inspection judged the provision of learning and skills as ‘requiring improvement’. Learning and skills management, prisoner assessment and allocation to activity were not good enough. There was sufficient activity for most although the range of education was limited and much underemployment was evident. The quality of much teaching and learning was at best variable but achievements were more encouraging. Library and gym provision were adequate.

The prison remained a reasonably safe place and most prisoners expressed generally positive perceptions in our survey. New arrivals were well supported despite a small reception area, and levels of violence were not excessive. There had been one recent self-inflicted death to which the prison had responded correctly, and those at risk of self-harm received generally good care despite the weakness of some case management and other interventions.

The application of security was proportionate and drug taking, as measured by mandatory testing, was low. There was, however, some emergent evidence concerning the use of new psychoactive substances, to which the prison was responding with, among other things, work to better educate staff and prisoners about the risks. Disciplinary procedures, segregation and the use of force were all managed to an adequate standard although, as with most things at Maidstone, there were also weaknesses that needed to be corrected.

Despite the age of the prison, the environment, both internal and external, was reasonable and relationships between staff and prisoners were positive. Promotion of equality was poor and it was perplexing that this issue had not been given greater priority in a foreign national prison. Monitoring of equality outcomes was inadequate, interpretation underused, consultation hardly in place, and incident reporting was little understood by prisoners. Legal support was also lacking despite the complexity of the legal problems many faced. The provision of health care was variable.

Overall this is a disappointing report. The prison was a reasonably decent place where people were treated respectfully, but it was unsure of its role – something for which both local managers and NOMS must take responsibility. As a consequence, outcomes in a number of key areas were seriously lacking. This was especially so in the key area of reducing the risk of reoffending and preparing prisoners for a return to their communities. This serious shortcoming must now be unambiguously addressed by both NOMS and local managers working in partnership.

Nick Hardwick October 2015

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Maidstone 

To read the full report follow the link below 

  • HMP Maidstone (PDF, 1.18 MB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Maidstone (3 – 14 August 2015)
  • HMP Maidstone, Announced inspection of HMP Maidstone (19 – 23 September 2011)
  • HMP Maidstone, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Maidstone (14-16 September 2009