HMP Ranby, HMIP Inspections

The prison was subjected to an inspection in autumn 2015. In their report the inspectors said in their introduction:

HMP Ranby in Nottinghamshire is a large category C working and resettlement prison on an extensive site that holds just over 1,000 adult men. The accommodation is arranged in two distinct parts: house blocks 1 to 3, known locally as the ‘closed prison’, were older and generally delivered much poorer outcomes than the newer house blocks 4 to 7. A third of the staff on house blocks 1 to 3 had been employed for less than 12 months. We last inspected the prison in March 2014 and reported significant concerns about the prison as a whole and about safety in particular. While there had been improvement in some areas, this inspection 17 months later found inadequate progress overall and safety remained a significant concern.

A number of factors had combined to undermine progress. The role of the prison had become more complex. In addition to its function as a working prison that should have kept men fully occupied in education, training, work and offending behaviour courses, it now had a new role as a resettlement prison which received men in the last three months of their sentence and prepared them for release in the local area. Many of the men held were serving long sentences for serious offences. Fifteen per cent of the population were receiving support from the prison’s mental health services. A lack of work for some of the industrial workshops and staff absences meant that many prisoners had too little to do and were bored. There were problems resolving simple domestic issues, and delays in offender management processes which prisoners needed to happen to progress their sentences, and this caused high levels of frustration.

On top of this already dangerous mix, the prison was attempting to combat a surge in the availability of new psychoactive substances (NPS); 58% of prisoners told us it was easy to get drugs in the prison. Health services were at risk of being overwhelmed by the need to treat the most seriously affected and as we walked round the prison, we saw a number of prisoners who were clearly under the influence of NPS; some had been left with other prisoners to check they did not deteriorate because there were no available health care services or other staff to do so. In addition to the health consequences, the trade in NPS was leading to high levels of debt and associated violence.

Safety, therefore, remained the major concern. While we had few concerns about the safety of prisoners on house blocks 4 to 7, too many of those held on the large house blocks 1 to 3, and staff working on the units, told us that they felt unsafe. This was reflected in the number of violent incidents, which was much higher than in similar establishments. In one incident, a group of prisoners muscled into a wing office to take back a ‘throw-over’ package of drugs that had just been intercepted by staff. Assaults on staff had increased significantly and a number of very serious incidents had occurred. In the 17 months between inspections there had been a dreadful six selfinflicted deaths and there had been four since April 2015 alone. A further death this year is being treated as a homicide. NPS and the associated debt and bullying had been cited as a significant factor in some of these events.

The prison was attempting to respond to these challenges and there were signs of improvement in some areas. Despite the concerns that remained, fewer prisoners than at the last inspection told us they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection or that they had been victimised, although this was still significantly higher than comparable prisons. Early days support was much better, and the newly opened first night centre was providing some good support on arrival and through the early days at the prison. There were effective systems in place to collect and utilise intelligence, although only the highest priority searches were carried out. There were good links with the local police. Security measures generally struck a sensible balance between the need to get men to activities and provide adequate supervision, but supervision of free-flow movement did need to be increased. Although good support was offered to vulnerable prisoners, including victims of bullying and those on open ACCTs (suicide and self-harm case management processes), the quality of ACCT processes still required improvement, despite the number of self inflicted deaths that had occurred.

The environment on house blocks 4 to 7 varied from reasonable to good. Some good efforts were also being made to keep the environment on house blocks 1 to 3 decent, and broken or missing items of cell equipment and furniture were being replaced. However, prisoners in these house blocks reported difficulty obtaining cleaning materials, clean clothes and clean bedding; staff appeared very busy with little time to talk to prisoners and this was compounded by the long time many of these prisoners spent locked behind their doors. The prisoner information desk worker scheme and the drop-in facility ‘One Ranby’, had improved the handling of day-to-day issues, but the applications process still did not work effectively and added to prisoners’ frustrations. The food was better than we usually see. A recent re-focus on equality and diversity work had produced some positive and tangible benefits for some of the protected characteristics groups. While black and minority ethnic prisoners were particularly negative in responses to our survey, it was good to see the prison management respond during the inspection by organising the first of a planned series of consultation forums with this group. Faith provision was very good and the management of complaints much improved. Health care provision was clinically sound and provided an appropriate range of services, although these were stretched as a result of NPS.

Far too many men were locked in their cells during the working day because of a shortage of workshop instructors and delays in materials arriving; this was unacceptable in a working prison. Ofsted assessed that learning and skills provision required improvement, and they were particularly concerned about the quality of some OLASS (offenders’ learning and skills service) provision, especially teaching and learning. Even when activity places were available, attendance and punctuality were often poor and there was sometimes too much tolerance of a poor work ethic which left prisoners badly prepared for employment after release and did them no favours. There was some good vocational training where achievements were high, but more was needed.

There was a developing understanding of the strategic priorities for resettlement and reasonably good provision of practical resettlement services, but this was undermined by poor offender management support which should have addressed prisoners’ risks and behaviours and helped them progress through their sentence. The backlog of OASys assessments that were required to assess prisoners’ risks, and on which sentence plans should have been based, remained extensive (albeit improved), and was increased every day by men arriving from other establishments who did not have an up-to-date OASys or were already in the period when they should have been eligible for release under a home detention curfew. Contact between offender supervisors and prisoners was minimal and a real source of frustration for many men.

HMP Ranby has not made sufficient progress since the previous inspection. We remain seriously concerned about the stability of the prison, the safety of prisoners and staff and the inadequate measures being taken to prepare prisoners for release and reduce the risk they will reoffend.

The prison has already been provided with some additional staff above the normal bench-marked level and there is more to be done by prison managers to improve outcomes. However, the prison also faces external challenges, notably a destabilising supply of NPS, which threatens to overwhelm the prison. NOMS needs to take action to stabilise the prison if any longer term and more in depth improvements are to be made. The harm caused by NPS in prisons requires a national policy. There should be an immediate temporary reduction in the Ranby prison population to give staff the opportunity to regroup. The prison is struggling to cope with its dual working and resettlement prison roles. The resettlement role involves a very high throughput of challenging prisoners, some of whom have little investment in the opportunities the prison offers because they are so near to their release. The prison should return to being a working prison if only so that it is able to concentrate fully on that task. These measures should help provide the stability the prison needs to create a consistent focus on improving the quality of activities and help men to better prepare for release.

Martin Lomas                                    December 2015

HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons

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To see the full report go to the Ministry of Justice web site


This section contains the reports for Ranby from 2002 until present