HMIP Inspections of Norwich Prison

The prison was given a full inspection in October 2019. The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

HMP/YOI Norwich is an important and complex local prison, located in central Norwich and serving East Anglia. Comprising three adjacent but separate sites, the establishment includes: the local reception prison site, holding convicted and unconvicted category B and category C prisoners; the local discharge unit (LDU), a training facility holding category C prisoners; and an open resettlement facility, Britannia House, holding category D prisoners. While this level of complexity brings with it not insignificant management challenges, this combination of facilities ought, if managed effectively, to offer real opportunities to help prisoners progress through their sentence to the point of resettlement into the local community. Our findings at this inspection suggested that the prison still had some way to go before such a vision could be fully realised.

We last inspected Norwich in 2016, when we found an improved prison delivering reasonably good outcomes across all four of our tests of a healthy prison (safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement (now rehabilitation and release planning)). At this inspection, managers told us that since that time they had faced considerable difficulties and that the prison had deteriorated significantly. They were also keen to tell us that the deterioration had been reduced with some recent improvement over the last year. Outcomes and assessments, which at this inspection were not sufficiently good against any of the four tests, to an extent confirmed this narrative.

Norwich was now less safe. Most, but not all, new prisoners received reasonable treatment when they arrived but arrangements were inconsistent and poorly coordinated. Levels of recorded violence had increased and were relatively high, although there were comparably fewer serious incidents. About a fifth of prisoners told us in our survey that they felt unsafe, a figure that was consistent with findings in similar prisons. Initiatives were in place to reduce violence, for example, 24 perpetrators of violence were being case managed on challenge, support and intervention plans (CSIPs)1, but few staff were aware and it was evident that such processes needed to be applied with better coordination and greater rigour.

Use of force had also increased. Procedures aimed at improving supervision and accountability in the management of use of force had been introduced recently but it was too soon to test their effectiveness. Fewer prisoners were now segregated, with those who were subject to a basic regime, but again, as at the 2016 inspection, we were told of planned improvements to the segregation unit regime. Security arrangements were applied reasonably well and the positive mandatory drug rate was now relatively low.

Tragically, there had been six self-inflicted deaths since we last inspected and in recent months the number of self-harm incidents had increased. The key recommendations identified following investigations into the deaths had been implemented and we were assured progress was kept under review. Work to individually review the activity allocation and time out of cell of those identified as being in crisis was very positive and the prison had begun piloting new case management (ACCT) arrangements. That said, we found many weaknesses in case management practice, although the prisoners themselves told us they felt well cared for.

During the inspection we were made aware of staffing shortfalls in the prison. Many of those staff in post were also very inexperienced. Three-quarters of the prisoners we surveyed told us that they felt respected by staff, but it was clear that despite much positive engagement we observed, staff inexperience was a cause of considerable frustration amongst the prisoners. In addition, much low level poor behaviour went unchallenged.

The general environment around the prison was reasonable and most wings were mostly clean, but the quality of cellular accommodation was varied and basic maintenance was behind schedule. Access to basic amenities and facilities was similarly inconsistent, and food serveries and food trollies were dirty. Consultation arrangements and the management of complaints, although just about adequate, needed improvement. Peer-led information desk arrangements were, however, a helpful mitigation. The promotion of equality and diversity in the prison had deteriorated markedly since our last inspection and required immediate attention to ensure the needs of minority groups were understood and met. Healthcare was satisfactory, with some good practice in the provision of social care and palliative care, but with notably poor outcomes in dentistry.

There was sufficient activity to engage about 80% of the population, but we found between 30 and 35% of prisoners locked up during the working day. English and mathematics were prioritised in the prison’s education strategy and there was good vocational provision in the LDU. Demanding commercial standards were achieved in the prison workshops, influenced by the prison’s productive external commercial links. Hard-to-reach individuals were supported by educational outreach, with some provided with in-cell education, but access to higher level qualifications was limited and skills acquisition was often not recognised or recorded which was a missed opportunity. Teaching standards were inconsistent and punctuality and attendance were poor. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of provision as ‘requires improvement’.

The prison lacked an overarching offender needs analysis, strategy or action plan to ensure the prison became a place of meaningful and effective rehabilitation. There was a growing backlog of offender assessments (OASys) and basic screening often did not take place. Despite this, progress was being made in building an offender management team for the future, and those assessments that did take place were usually good, although routine contact with prisoners was still intermittent. There were no structured offending behaviour courses and while Britannia House provided some useful resettlement opportunities, some recent disruption had temporarily limited the availability of outside work placements. Reintegration work was organised and effective, but finding suitable accommodation for those being released remained a challenge.

The findings of this inspection indicated that local managers were right that there were improvements to be seen at Norwich. Much of this improvement was, however, recent, inconsistent and not particularly well coordinated. It was also hard to discern a coherent and considered plan for the prison, a plan consistent with the development of a rehabilitative culture. In addition, there remained a number of safety risks that needed to be addressed, prisoners needed to be supported and incentivised to engage purposefully with the regime and there was much to do in ensuring that an inexperienced staff group received the support they needed.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
November 2019HM
Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Norwich

To read the full reports either go to the Ministry of Justice web sites or follow the links below:

  • HMP/YOI Norwich (2.11 MB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP/YOI Norwich (21 October–1 November 2019)
  • HMP/YOI Norwich (1.20 MB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP/YOI Norwich (12-23 September 2016)
  • HMP Norwich, Announced inspection of HMP Norwich (29 July–2 August, 19–23 August 2013)
  • HMP Norwich, Unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Norwich (11 – 20 January 2012)
  • HMP/YOI Norwich, Unannounced inspection of HMP/YOI Norwich (3-12 February 2010)

On Tuesday 24th March it was announced that all prisons in the UK would go into a "lock down" state, as a result on Covid19.  In simple terms it means that prisoners will be confined to their cells for the vast majority of each day, being unlocked only for meals and very limited exercise periods. All social visits are cancelled with immediate effect.

The prison staff will ensure that medical requirements will be met as per usual but there will be no "association periods" for the prisoners. Undoubtably this will be difficult and stressful for a number of prisoners, but the prison authorities are acting for the greater good of the majority of prisoners and staff.

Any establishment specific queries you may have should be directed to the prisons