HMP New Hall, HMIP Inspections

The prison was given a full inspection in summer 2015. In the main prison inspection the report said:

“HMP New Hall is a closed women’s local prison holding, at the time of this inspection, around 360 women, including a small number of young adults. Several mothers and their babies were held in the prison’s mother and baby unit. Most of the women were sentenced – many with long sentences – including 41 (11%) who were serving indeterminate sentences. A relatively small number of women were remanded prisoners or were convicted but not sentenced, and 40 had been recalled to prison.

In keeping with our findings at similar women’s prisons, levels of need, including mental health issues, in the population were high: over a third reported having depression, mental health issues or suicidal feelings on arrival and a similar number reported having a disability. Nearly half reported having a drug problem on arrival and 43% said they had problems with alcohol. Nearly two-thirds said they had experienced emotional wellbeing issues and 78% were taking prescribed medication. The results of this inspection need to be considered in the context of these disturbing statistics.

At our last inspection we found New Hall to be a basically safe and respectful prison, with excellent purposeful activity and resettlement support. At this inspection we found the prison had improved still further, and had addressed the key issues raised previously around safety and respect, which were both now good. Purposeful activity continued to provide excellent opportunities to the women held, with Ofsted very unusually rating it ‘outstanding’ in all the areas it reported on. Resettlement pathway work remained very strong, but there were some deficits in offender management and some aspects of public protection work.

The prison was fundamentally safe and there was very little evidence of violence or concerning incidents. Support on arrival and during the early days at the prison was very good, although women continued to spend too long waiting in court cells for escorts to the prison and often arrived too late in the evening. Support for women who were vulnerable to self-harm and those with complex needs was good, although aspects of assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management processes could have been improved. Security arrangements were generally proportionate and freeflow worked well, but delays in responding to some intelligence was a concern, particularly given the obvious challenges faced in managing problems with the use of illicit and diverted prescribed drugs. Support for women with substance misuse issues had moved forward from the previous inspection, although there was still room for further improvement.

Disciplinary procedures were well managed, and force and segregation were used proportionately, although the monitoring of some aspects needed to be better, as did the regime provided in the segregation unit. Relationships between staff and prisoners were a real strength, and the friendly, caring, but challenging approach adopted by most staff facilitated and supported much that was good about the prison. Residential units were mixed in quality but the prison was clean, decent and had benefited from a great deal of effort to improve the overall presentation of many areas. Support for protected characteristic groups was individualised, and despite some negativity from women with disabilities, and in particular those who were gay or bisexual, we considered that most outcomes were good. The mother and baby unit provided excellent support, and provision for pregnant women was also very good.

Faith provision was also generally good. Complaints were well managed and legal services adequate. The quality of food was better than we normally see and canteen arrangements were adequate. Health services were particularly strong, and the excellent mental health provision was very welcome given the evident high levels of need. Time out of cell was good and very few women were locked up during the core prison day. There was some curtailment of the regime and more predictability about this would have been welcomed.

Learning and skills provision was outstanding in nearly all respects: the management and leadership, quantity, quality and outcomes achieved were all excellent. Women were directed to appropriate vocational pathways and their allocation to activities supported them in developing the motivation, behaviour and skills to become more employable on release. Education provision supported the development of functional skills and the range of vocational qualifications on offer was very good.

Resettlement was the only area where we had some concerns. Aspects of offender management work needed to be better to ensure women who presented a risk to the public on release were quickly identified, and that appropriate risk reduction work was initiated and management action taken before they were released to protect the public. These were serious concerns which managers took on board when raised, but they needed to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Some other aspects of offender management work were good and support in the resettlement pathways remained very strong. Provision for women who had been abused or victimised was very good, as was essential support to maintain contact with children and families. The new community rehabilitation company (CRC) arrangements – where rehabilitation services would be organised through new providers who would take over the work with medium- and low-risk offenders – had started shortly before the inspection and during this bedding-in period there was some confusion and duplication in the services offered. However, resettlement and reintegration outcomes remained good.

Overall, New Hall is a safe and very respectful prison which does an excellent job in providing women with a range of purposeful and vocationally-based activities, and some sound support around the resettlement pathways. The concerns we raise about aspects of offender management are well within the capacity of the prison management to quickly resolve. The prison is among the best of its type and we commend both the staff and management for the positive work they have done to achieve these outcomes.

Nick Hardwick August 2015

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: