HMP North Sea Camp, HMIP Inspections

The prison was last inspected in July 2017 At the last inspection the report summary said:

HMP North Sea Camp is a category D resettlement prison near Boston in Lincolnshire. At the time of the inspection it held just over 400 men. Most were serving long sentences of more than four years, around half were serving indeterminate sentences, and about 60% were sex offenders. The population was fully integrated and sex offenders were not separated from others. The prison was last inspected in July 2014, when there was still concern about a serious incident that took place during a release on temporary licence (ROTL). As a result of this incident, weaknesses were identified in the resettlement process, which was of course the core purpose of the establishment.

This inspection found the prison had moved on dramatically in the intervening three years. On this occasion, we assessed resettlement as ‘good’ – our highest assessment – reflecting the excellent progress that had been made. In 2014, we made 12 recommendations in the area of resettlement; on this occasion, we found that all of those recommendations had been either fully or partially achieved. Indeed, across all our healthy prison tests, no less than 70% of our recommendations had been achieved or partially achieved. This was refreshing, in stark contrast to many lesser performing   prisons, and it was no coincidence that the prison had made such significant progress.

North Sea Camp was a safe prison, with violence and the use of force at negligible levels. There was no segregation unit, and no need for one. The fact that the population was fully integrated yet there was little if any hostility towards sex offenders was a tribute to the ethos of the prison and the care that was taken to generate an atmosphere of peaceful co-existence and tolerance.

Relationships between staff and prisoners were respectful, which was a major strength of the prison and the basis on which much of the progress of the past few years was clearly built. The senior leadership, and indeed all staff, were committed to producing a safe and decent environment in which the men could make progress towards eventual release and successful resettlement.

However, further progress in the area of respect had been jeopardised because of the poor state of the accommodation. The residential units were old, far too many of the rooms were too small to be used for double occupancy and the showers and toilets urgently needed refurbishment. There was a lack of suitable association areas. However, it was clear that a comparatively modest investment could deliver significant improvements.

The prison had several houses outside the gate known as the Jubilee units, which offered men coming towards the end of their sentences excellent opportunities to gain resettlement experience. This high-quality provision helped men to re-enter the world of independent living. However, several of these houses were unused, virtually derelict and needed refurbishment. We were told apprentices from the prison population could have been used to cut the cost of such a project. I would strongly encourage the prison to explore the feasibility of this approach, or of constructing a new building on the extensive site.

The inspection also found a tension between performance measures used by HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) which judged performance based on the numbers of prisoners placed in work within the prison, and what should have been the objective of the prison, which was to maximise the use of ROTL. It seems that the HMPPS performance measure had been designed for the closed estate, and it should be revisited to make it appropriate for open prisons. As it stood, there was an incentive not to achieve in full the core purpose of the prison. Despite this anomaly, the overall management of ROTL required attention so that the delays that sometimes occurred, leading to frustration among prisoners, could be understood and analysed.

Overall, HMP North Sea Camp had made very real progress since the last inspection. It was a safe and decent prison with some bold policies relating to the management of its complex population, and it was now a successful establishment. The detail of this report will provide an understanding of the foundations of the prison’s improvement and offer lessons that can be learned.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

September 2017

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons


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