HMP New Hall, HMIP Inspections

The prison was given a full inspection in early spring 2019. In the main prison inspection the report said:

” HMP & YOI New Hall is a women’s prison near Wakefield. It is capable of holding 425 prisoners, but at the time of our inspection 395 prisoners were in residence. In keeping with most women’s establishments, the prison fulfilled multiple functions and held prisoners ranging from those still on remand (about 13% of the population) up to those serving life (about 10% of the population). Over one-third (39%) were serving more than four years in prison.

At this inspection, our first since 2015, we found a prison that continued to be safe, respectful and purposeful, and where work to resettle and rehabilitate prisoners was improving.

Recorded violence in the prison was quite high, but nearly all incidents were very minor and overall most prisoners felt safe. Work to intervene and support those perpetrating threatening or anti-social behaviour, and the victims of such incidents, was effective. There had been three self-inflicted deaths since we last inspected. Most recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following its enquires had been implemented, although one had, in our view, been interpreted disproportionately and was limiting prisoners’ reasonable movement around the prison. Those at risk of self-harm and those with complex needs received good oversight and case management and those we spoke to were positive about the care they received.

A seeming over-reliance on the use of formal disciplinary processes was emergent and some punishments seemed excessive to us. Use of force had also increased substantially and several women had been in ‘special accommodation’ conditions on the house units, although records failed to adequately justify these decisions. The segregation unit was a clean but austere facility with a basic regime. One woman was held in segregation at the time of our visit.

The environment in the prison was good but the quality of accommodation was more variable, although reasonable overall. Staff-prisoner relationships were good although some prisoners expressed frustration at their inability to get some simple tasks done by staff. The prison would have benefited from greater visibility and support from managers. It was also our observation that the proportion of female staff was too low and was something that was a very stark and particular feature of the senior team. Work to promote equality was limited despite the best efforts of the equalities officer who was too often redeployed. Outcomes for minorities despite this, remained broadly consistent with others, and the mother and baby unit was excellent. Health care was similarly good but mental health provision was undermined by staff shortages among the mental health team. Substance misuse services were reasonable.

Prisoners experienced good time out of their cells, including association on Friday evenings which we now rarely see. The provision of learning, skills and work was improving with plans for a new curriculum and strong partnership working evident. Our colleagues in Ofsted assessed the overall effectiveness of provision as ‘good’, but undermined in part by quite poor levels of attendance. The coordination of resettlement work had improved greatly and offender management was clearly focused on risk reduction. Work in support of the resettlement pathways was also effective, including a range of offending behaviour initiatives – most notably Rivendell House, a self-contained unit that catered for women with a personality disorder.

New Hall remains a good prison, delivering effective outcomes for those held there. At the time of our inspection the prison was experiencing something of an interregnum with a temporary governor in post and new permanent governor about to be appointed. Our report highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of this prison. We trust the findings we detail will help the new governor to ensure momentum is maintained and continuous improvement sustained.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                      April 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return To New Hall

To see the full report go to the Ministry of Justice Website from the links below: