HMP Stafford, Inspections

The prison was subjected to a full inspection in January 2020. In their report the inspectors said:

HMP Stafford is a category C training prison for prisoners convicted of sexual offences. At the time of this inspection it held a little under 750 prisoners. Some three-quarters of them were assessed as presenting a high or very high risk of harm to others, and nearly half of them were over 50 years old. Stafford is a clear example of the phenomenon whereby the increase in recent years of the prosecution of historical and other sex offences has led to an ageing prisoner population that poses specific challenges and has distinct needs.

The prison is one of the oldest in the country. The current building was commenced in 1794, but despite its age the establishment was kept in good, clean condition and provided decent living conditions for those held there. It was last inspected in 2016, when it attracted a range of gradings from good (safety), through reasonably good (respect and purposeful activity) to not sufficiently good (rehabilitation and release planning). This inspection found that those grades had improved in the areas of respect, which was now judged to be at our highest grade (good), and rehabilitation and release planning, which was now reasonably good. To improve in two areas was creditable, and it was pleasing to see the obvious energy that the leadership and staff were putting into the care and support offered to prisoners.

In terms of safety, although we judged it to be good, there was no room for complacency. While the prison undoubtedly provided a fundamentally safe environment, this seemed to us to be, to some extent, the result of the type of population being held, rather than of any specific initiatives being delivered by the prison. The processes and safeguards that we always expect to see in an establishment were not as consistently applied as we would have liked. If the prisoner population had not been fundamentally compliant and calm, we might well have seen some very different outcomes. There was a need for the prison to inject greater assurance and oversight in this area, and to gain a full understanding of what contributes to a safe environment, and where there could be weaknesses.

The improvement in the area of respect since the last inspection owed much to the way in which healthcare was delivered, which we found met the needs of the population and had made good progress since 2016. As mentioned above, despite its age the prison was fundamentally clean and decent. It was still the case that a considerable number of cells held more prisoners than they were designed for, but at least the lavatories were recessed and the cells themselves were larger than we often find, particularly in prisons of this age. The prisoners told us that the food was good, with the exceptionally high approval rating in our survey of 86%. There was no doubt that this was in no small part due to the efforts of the hugely energetic and enthusiastic catering manager, who deserves much credit for her efforts.

Ofsted found that there had been some improvements in the overall provision of education, skills and work, and it was good to see that there were sufficient activity places for the population. While there were too few qualifications available to be worked towards, and there needed to be more high-level qualifications on offer, there was good attendance and punctuality at education. Given the age profile of the prisoners, it was pleasing to see that there was a good range of recreational activities, although it was unfortunately the case that the gym had been neglected. As we would hope to see in a prison of this kind, the time that prisoners had out of their cells each day was good.

In the area of rehabilitation and release planning there had been some real progress since the last inspection, and resettlement support had considerably improved. Nevertheless, we did have some key concerns, including the lack of frequent, consistent and high-quality contact between prisoners and prison offender managers. We also found that planning for the release of high-risk prisoners still needed improving.

Overall, this was a very good inspection, and a gratifying number of examples of good practice, which are detailed in the body of the report and in Section 5, emerged from it. These included the information desk in the visits hall, the charity shop, the coordination of social care and the arrangement of special visits for those prisoners who would otherwise get none.

HMP Stafford is a settled establishment where, to an extent, the nature of the prisoner population is such that it contributes to their own positive outcomes. When this is combined with a positive inspection report, as this most certainly is, there can sometimes be a risk of complacency on the part of management. This has not been the case to date at Stafford, and my sense was that the leadership were aware of the risk, and were determined to avoid it and continue to make the positive progress that has been achieved to date.

 Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
March 2020

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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