HMP Stafford, Inspections

The prison was subjected to a full inspection in February 2016. In their report the inspectors said:

“HMP Stafford is one of the oldest prisons in the country, built in 1794, and added to at various times in the 19th and 20th centuries. Despite its age, the prison is very well maintained and exceptionally clean throughout, and presents itself as a safe environment. It was re-roled in 2014 to be a category C sex offender prison, and currently holds around 750 prisoners. Despite the fact that it is not a resettlement prison, on average some 20–25 prisoners are released directly into the community each month. This presents some particular challenges that have still to be met.

This was the first inspection since the re-roling, and the change in population has contributed to a number of key themes. First, the age profile has changed; there is now a much older population than in the past, and this has produced challenges, detailed in the report, in health care and in finding suitable purposeful activity for older men. Second, the transition from a mixed population to an all sex offender prison has seemingly contributed to a calmer atmosphere, and enabled free flow to be introduced throughout much of the prison. This has been well managed and has also contributed to a sense of calm and order. The change in role of the prison has clearly been grasped by the prison management as both a challenge and an opportunity.

The current governor and team have a shared ambition to build a solid basis of safety, stability and respect within the prison, and to use this as a foundation on which to make further progress. The concept of ‘active citizenship’ is promulgated in the prison, to encourage a shared vision of creating decent surroundings. During the inspection I was able to detect a distinct sense of pride in the prison across all levels of staff, and indeed among some of the prisoners I spoke to.

While the prison is safe and stable, there are still some issues that need to be addressed. The details can be found in the body of the report, but some of the key areas are as follows. Health care for the ageing population needs to be improved. Although the inspection found that overall it was reasonably good, there were far too many cancelled external hospital appointments, there were delays in obtaining supplies and there was not enough primary mental health care. The relationships between staff and prisoners were generally good, with 85% of prisoners saying they were treated with respect. However, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners of their treatment was less favourable, and there were indications of disproportion both for them and Muslim prisoners, in terms of the use of adjudications and time spent in segregation. This must be analysed and addressed. In terms of purposeful activity, while recognising that the needs of an older population are different, much of the work was unchallenging, providing little intellectual challenge or stimulation.

Some of the greatest challenges lay in managing the resettlement of those men released directly into the community from the prison. Details of the current serious weaknesses and what needs to be done can be found in the report, but in essence, the inspection found that we could not be confident that releases into the community were either effectively coordinated or safe. This is a very serious issue and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. It was also of concern that more than 10% of those released had no suitable accommodation to go to.

Overall, HMP Stafford is a prison that, under energetic leadership, has grasped the challenge presented by its change of role, and has made considerable progress. It is perhaps notable that in the area where the prison achieved the highest grading of ‘good’ – in safety, was also the area where it had achieved 16 of the 22 recommendations made following the last inspection. This is in stark contrast to those prisons where our recommendations have been taken less seriously. There is still much work to be done at Stafford, particularly in the areas of health care and resettlement, if the progress that has been made is to be consolidated and built upon.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

April 2016

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons


To read the full report go the Ministry of Justice web site or click here and follow the links


This section contains the reports for Stafford from 2001 until present

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