HMIP Report, HMP Peterborough (Male)

The prison was given an inspection in July 2018, and the full report can be read by following the links below. In their report the inspectors said:

HMP Peterborough is a category B local prison that holds both male and female prisoners. The men’s and women’s jails are separated but are on the same site and share a management team. It is not unusual for staff to move between the prisons, and indeed, during this inspection of the men’s prison, I met members of staff who I had previously met when inspecting the adjacent women’s prison in 2017. At the time of this inspection, the prison held just over 800 prisoners.

The prison was last inspected in February 2015, and on that occasion was given the highest assessments in three of our four healthy prison tests. The exception was in purposeful activity, where performance was found to be not sufficiently good. There were many ways in which the prison we inspected this time, in July 2018, was a fundamentally different establishment from that we saw in 2015. There was still much to commend in the prison, and the six areas of good practice that we identify in this report were just a small part of this. However, the simple fact was that while Peterborough was a safe prison in 2015, our judgement on this occasion was that safety had declined to such an extent that we had no choice other than to reduce our assessment in this area by two levels, to ‘not sufficiently good’.

The reason for this decline was easy to see. In common with many other prisons, Peterborough has suffered the ravages of the epidemic of drugs – especially new psychoactive substances (NPS) – that have flowed into them in recent years and the debt, bullying and violence they cause. Over 50% of prisoners told us it was easy to get hold of illicit drugs in the prison, and more than one in five had acquired a drug habit since entering the jail. As a result, levels of violence had doubled since the last inspection. Unsurprisingly, 55% of prisoners had felt unsafe since coming into the prison and 20% felt unsafe at the time of the inspection.

However, there had been a determined effort to get to grips with the problem. There were credible plans in place, described in this report, and while there was still more to do, we felt that in general the approach to tackling the violence was absolutely right. The prison had been through an extremely difficult period and it was still too soon to come to definitive judgements as to whether there would be sustained success. Nevertheless, there were some encouraging signs, and, in the three months leading up to the inspection, there had been a reduction in levels of violence. We would encourage the prison to build on this progress and to continue the energetic, determined approach to this problem. HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ judgements are based upon the outcomes being experienced by prisoners at the time of the inspection, and not on plans for the future, so it was inevitable that the area of safety would attract a much lower judgement on this occasion.

Aside from the violence that has plagued the prison in recent times, most of the many functions that a prison has to perform were being delivered well at Peterborough. The detail of this report clearly shows that there was a dedicated staff team working hard in what have been very difficult circumstances. There were many new and inexperienced staff working in the prison, and sometimes that inexperience and lack of confidence was plain to see. However, the fact that we have made only two main recommendations shows that we found HMP Peterborough to be a generally well-run establishment. One of those recommendations is of course focused on the need to reduce the violence, while the other calls for the governance and clinical oversight of health care to be strengthened. In other key areas, it was refreshing to see a local prison where time out of cell was good for most prisoners and where there were activity places for 80% of the population. This was better than we often see in prisons that are specifically designated as training prisons. On this occasion, these improvements in the area of purposeful activity meant that it attracted a higher assessment than at the last inspection.

In the area of rehabilitation and release planning, we again judged it to be good, our highest assessment. There was much to praise in this area, and in the report we identify no less than five instances of good practice. The work with children and families was an example that many other prisons could follow, as was the Outside Link facility which enabled prisoner to seek help and advice after their release. The Building Resilience programme, which was designed to support those prisoners who had experienced trauma and is widely used within the female prison estate, was being piloted for the first time in a male prison at Peterborough.

HMP Peterborough still had much work to do to reduce the violence that had flowed from the influx of drugs into the establishment. Nevertheless, at the time of this inspection the signs were promising that further progress could be made. It is essential that the prison is restored to being a safe place, so that all the good work that was being delivered in so many areas is not put in jeopardy.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
September 2018
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons


Return to Peterborough 

The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below: