HMIP Inspections of Send

The prison was inspected in May 2021, 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 Send, in Surrey, is a closed training prison for women which has a complex population of up to 202, many presenting a high risk of harm to others. The prison contains the only democratic therapeutic community for women in the country with 24 places, as well as a psychologically informed planned environment (PIPE) unit with 35 places.

After a year spent with lockdown restrictions in place, a serious outbreak of COVID-19 in January 2021, in which a staff member died, and the forced closure of two wings at short notice due to fire safety concerns, Send was coping remarkably well. Women, many of whom had complex needs and were serving long sentences, felt generally well cared for and supported by staff. The excellent relationships between women and staff were evident throughout the prison, where we witnessed many friendly interactions conducted on first-name terms.

Regular meetings considered the needs of the most vulnerable, making sure that suitable support was in place for women who were distressed, self-harming or particularly vulnerable. Staff knew the women well and were able to respond quickly when difficulties arose. Women told us they felt supported by their peers, either informally or through the Listener scheme.

The restrictions on social visits had hit women hard, particularly those with young children, and many had chosen not to see their families at all because the ban on hugging during visits had been too painful for both mother and child. This meant there had been fewer visits in the last year than there usually were in a month. In-cell telephones and extra credit meant that connections had at least been maintained, but it was no substitute for physical contact. One woman movingly told me how she could feel her son beginning to drift away from her.

Women were getting out of their cells for at least three hours a day, more than we have seen in most of the men’s estate, but the loss of time to socialise, and get access to peer support, education and training, meant women had suffered. Staff members had noted that self-harm tended to increase when the lifting of restrictions in the community was not mirrored in the prison.

The closure of the two enhanced wings meant that some women were living in more closed conditions than they had been used to and, though an external door was kept open all day, women’s time outside was unnecessarily limited and cell doors were now locked at night. The prison grounds were unkempt in places and needed more looking after.

Restrictions meant that the democratic therapeutic community was unable to operate in its usual form, but despite this, women said they were still receiving good support from officers and therapists. Similarly, activity in the specialist PIPE unit had also been constrained, but in contrast to the rest of the prison, one-to-one interventions had continued for these women. The key work session I was invited to observe showed a high level of skilled and knowledgeable support from the officer involved.

The governor had a very positive vision for the prison and a clear set of priorities that included restoring education, release on temporary licence (ROTL), visits and the therapeutic interventions. Inspectors agreed with her analysis that sentence progression, particularly for women on longer sentences, was not as good as it should be, although the outstanding chaplaincy had developed a mentoring support scheme for those who were due for release.

There was a strong, deep culture of respect and support that had been established in the prison, maintained by the visible and accessible leadership team and a dedicated staff. This perhaps explains why some women who had achieved category D status decided to stay at Send rather than transfer to open conditions. This culture had sustained the prison through the last, challenging year and inspectors were confident that as restrictions are lifted, the prison will continue to make good progress.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
June 2021

Return to Send

To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:

  • Inspection report (2 MB) Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Send by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (10-21 May 2021)
  • HMP Send (625.88 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Send (18–29 June 2018)
  • HMP Send, Unannounced inspection of HMP Send (3 – 14 February 2014)
  • HMP Send, Announced inspection of HMP Send (6-10 December 2010)
  • HMP Send, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Send (18-22 August 2008


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