HMIP Inspections of Spring Hill

The prison was given an inspection in  December 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 Spring Hill is an open prison in Buckinghamshire holding over 300 category D prisoners. Most men were coming towards the end of long sentences, and one of the prison’s main aims was to test their readiness for release and help prepare them for this step. To this end, prisoners were allowed more freedom to make their own day-to-day decisions and, critically – subject to risk assessment – were given opportunities for release on temporary licence (ROTL). Although at our last inspection in May 2014 we had found that the prison was doing some good work, its performance had been adversely affected by tragic events resulting from a prisoner reoffending in 2013 while in the community on ROTL. It was therefore heartening that at the present inspection the prison had made progress in many of the areas we looked at, although there remained a number of important issues to address.

The number of absconds had increased. An analysis done by the prison showed that the majority of absconds involved indeterminate-sentenced prisoners (ISPs) who were fairly new to living in open conditions after having spent many years in closed conditions. Some action was being taken to address this but more needed to be done to ensure these men were more supported during their first few months, to help them settle in and live confidently in open conditions.

Communal and external areas were clean and prisoners were able to move freely around the pleasant grounds. Some of the residential units were dilapidated and in need of significant refurbishment or rebuilding. While the prison attempted to mitigate these problems with temporary fixes, the conditions in a few units were unacceptable. More generally, the heating system was inadequate and the hot water supply unreliable. The solutions to these deficits were not in the gift of the local management team, and the prison needed significant capital funding to resolve them.

Equality and diversity work was reasonably good overall, although more work was needed to provide sufficient additional support to those with some protected characteristics. Complaints were now reasonably well managed and health care provision was strong. However, prisoners continued to be less positive about the quality of staff-prisoner relationships than we usually see in open prisons. The reasons for this were complex but managers had taken proactive steps to improve the approach of some staff, and these efforts needed to be further improved and maintained.

Education, skills and work provision had improved since our last inspection and prison leaders had provided a real impetus to developing a wide range of useful partnerships, particularly with employers, some of whom now saw the prison as a source of reliable and effective employees. ROTL was being used extensively to this end, and the day-to-day management of placements was good. Prisoners who were not eligible for ROTL were encouraged to attend activities within the prison and there were sufficient places for all of them to do something. However, more needed to be done to motivate those who still needed to improve their functional skills to engage in education before moving on to other activities.

Children and families work had improved, and prisoners were generally well supported in maintaining contact with their children, families and friends; ROTL was, again, used well in this regard. Most offender management support was appropriate and nearly all prisoners had up-to-date offender assessment system (OASys) assessments which reflected their move to open conditions. Public protection work was generally good, and ROTL assessments were adequate. However, the ROTL board process needed to be more robust and not merely rubber-stamp recommendations made by these assessments. There was a good focus on supporting prisoners to prepare for release, and an appropriate range of practical assistance was offered.

The prison benefited from clear leadership, a motivated management team and a clear plan around how they wanted to improve the prison further. Some significant challenges remained, and it was encouraging that the governor understood and accepted the need for further work to focus on these areas. In terms of the conditions of the residential units, the prison needed external assistance to bring these up to an acceptable standard. In the key area of helping prisoners to prepare for release, the prison was doing better than previously, but needed to ensure that all supporting processes for ROTL were robust and provided sufficient reassurance. Nevertheless, this was an encouraging inspection overall, with outcomes for prisoners improving in two of our healthy prison tests and outcomes at least reasonably good or better in all four.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

January 2018

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Spring Hill

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

  • HMP Spring Hill (761.90 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Spring Hill (4–15 December 2017)
  • HMP Springhill, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Springhill (6 – 15 May 2014)
  • HMP Springhill, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Spring Hill (5 – 7 March 2012)
  • HMP Springhill, Announced inspection of HMP Spring Hill (11-14 August 2008)

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