HMIP Inspection of Preston

The prison was given an inspection in March 2017 the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

“HMP Preston is a traditional local prison. Parts of it date from the 18th century and it holds just over 800 adult male prisoners, drawn mainly from Lancashire and elsewhere in the North West. The prison’s location embedded in the local community and its role serving that community are real advantages to the institution, giving clarity to its purpose and function. When we last inspected in early 2014, we reported generally satisfactory outcomes and found a prison that was doing some good work to reform and resettle those it held. We did, however, make a number of recommendations, particularly in the area of safety. At this inspection we found that the prison continued to do reasonably well, particularly when compared to similar prisons, and there had been improvement to outcomes in safety.

Generally, prisoners received a positive welcome and induction to the prison despite a poor reception environment. Management arrangements to support the reduction of violence were too reactive and quite limited, although day-to-day operational management of violence reduction was stronger; unlike in many similar prisons, violence was not increasing overall. A confident staff group ensured a generally calm prison, and vulnerable prisoners were now receiving better support. It was clear, however, that with only a little more attention there was the potential for more effective work to reduce violence. For example, despite quite good support for individuals, formal safeguarding arrangements were weak.

Four prisoners had tragically taken their own lives since we last inspected, although levels of self-harm were lower than we usually see at similar prisons. Comprehensive follow-up plans were in place in response to formal investigations following the deaths. Case management of those at risk of self-harm was mixed but prisoners in crisis indicated to us that they felt supported by staff, and mental health input was good.

The management of security was generally sound, with an improving approach to reducing the supply of illegal drugs, but more thought and risk assessment were needed before the application of some procedures. Prisoners were unusually positive about the value of the incentives and privileges scheme in promoting positive behaviour. The use of force had not increased since our last inspection but accountability and supervision were not good enough. Arrangements in the segregation unit were adequate and prisoners were not held there for long.

The prison remained overcrowded, with too many prisoners sharing a cell designed for one, and conditions were variable. Access to basic amenities, such as showers, telephones and cleaning materials, needed to be better. We observed some good interactions between staff and prisoners, and staff were generally experienced and decent, but we also observed some poor culture and practice that required challenge. Not enough was being done in the prison to promote equality, an area that had been neglected. We have made this issue the subject of one of our main recommendations.

Health care provision had deteriorated, largely as a consequence of uncertainty connected to the imminent transfer of services to a new provider. Outcomes across the service were inconsistent and we had particular concerns regarding dentistry and primary mental health needs, which were largely unmet. The provision of social care was similarly variable. We have made two main recommendations about health care provision in the establishment.

The amount of time prisoners spent out of their cells had deteriorated, but 85% of prisoners were still engaged in some form of purposeful activity. Prisoner attendance at work or education was good, with the quality of provision, as well as learner achievements, similarly meeting requirements. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the effectiveness of learning, skills and work to be ‘good’ overall.

The effectiveness of resettlement services remained a strength. Offender management was efficient and public protection arrangements were robust. The community rehabilitation company (CRC), and resettlement work in general, gave prisoners being released significant support.

Preston remained a traditional and stable institution despite having many of the disadvantages common to old, inner-city prisons. In many areas it continued to do better than comparable prisons. The prison could, however, do more, and there is no room for complacency. With more  consistency, greater imagination and better coordination, even better outcomes are within the prison’s grasp. The management team was competent, settled and committed to the success of the prison. The staff group were capable and confident. Preston was a reasonably good prison; it should be ambitious and become a very good prison.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

May 2017

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Preston

To read the full report from the inspectors, follow the links below to the Ministry of Justice web site:

  • HMP Preston (563.56 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Preston (6-17 March 2017)
  • HMP Preston, Unannounced inspection of HMP Preston (31 March – 11 April 2014)
  • HMP Preston, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Preston (10 – 12 April 2012)
  • HMP Preston, Announced inspection of HMP Preston (10-14 August 2009)
  • HMP Preston, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Preston (23-25 January 2008)