HMP Stocken, HMIP Inspections

The prison was subjected to an inspection during January/February 2019. In the latest inspection the report said:

HMP Stocken is a category C training prison located in a rural setting near Oakham in Rutland, a few miles to the south of Grantham. At the time of this inspection it held some 833 adult male prisoners, more than 50% of whom had been convicted of crimes of violence. Nearly all of the prisoners were serving sentences of more than four years. We had last inspected the prison in July 2015.

Overall, we found a mixed picture of progress since 2015, with improvements in one area and declines in performance in two – purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning. The approach to implementing our previous recommendations was reasonable, and better than we sometimes see. Some 48% had been fully achieved, and a further 7% partially achieved, and it was clear that the leadership of the prison was fully committed to maintaining and improving performance. There was also a very clear commitment from the governor to promulgating the values he wished all his staff to adhere to when going about their work.

 A very obvious sign of success is that the rating we awarded for safety, so often a challenge for prisons in recent times, had risen from not sufficiently good at the last inspection to reasonably good on this occasion. This is a very real achievement. Levels of violence had not increased, and were lower than at similar prisons. HMP Stocken had managed to defy the national trend of year-on-year increases in violence. There was good analysis of violence with a strong focus on safety. There was strong leadership in this area, and this had clearly paid off. It is also notable that there had been significant improvement in the governance of the use of force by staff since the last inspection. Levels of self-harm were similar to comparable prisons, and the fact that more than 50% of the 184 incidents in the past six months were carried out by only eight prisoners showed the complex challenges posed by some of the prisoners held in the jail.

The presence of illicit drugs in prisons is often a key factor in the levels of violence, and HMP Stocken needed to review and develop its strategy in this area. The whole prison needed to be involved in this, with every function contributing as they could and recognising they had a role to play. In particular, there needed to be a focus on the threat posed by new psychoactive substances (NPS), which did not receive sufficient attention in the strategy. Nevertheless, there had been some good work carried out, and although the mandatory drug testing positive results were high for the previous six months at around 26%, there were some encouraging signs of improvement in the period leading up to the inspection, and it is to be hoped that this continues.

It was reassuring to see that relationships between staff and prisoners were generally positive, and we witnessed many constructive interactions. However, there had been insufficient attention paid to equalities since the last inspection some four years ago, and a lack of direct personal involvement from the most senior leadership of the prison in driving progress. We were concerned by some serious weaknesses in the area of health care, with some poor practice evident in medicines management, stock control and unsafe storage. There was also a worrying lack of managerial and clinical supervision of primary care staff.

It was disappointing, both for the Inspectorate and the prison, to find that performance in the area of purposeful activity had fallen away. At the previous inspection we had awarded our highest grade of ‘good’, but this had now declined to ‘not sufficiently good’. While the quality of what was being delivered was frequently good, our colleagues from Ofsted found that the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work required improvement. Broadly speaking there were enough activity places and those that attended generally achieved well. However, we found that only 60% of prisoners actually left their wings to attend activities, and a further 16% were wing workers who for much of the time were not gainfully employed. Our assessment was that only around three-quarters of prisoners were engaged in genuinely purposeful activity. For those who did get to their allocated activities, punctuality was often poor and they frequently failed to settle into work promptly.

We also had a major concern about the risks to public protection potentially posed by the small number of prisoners, around eight each month, released from Stocken into the community. Stocken is not designated as a resettlement prison, and as such does not receive services from a community rehabilitation company (CRC). Most prisoners were transferred to a resettlement prison prior to release, but a small number were not. This created potentially serious risks, given the profile of the prisoner population at Stocken, and those risks were compounded by weaknesses in the internal assessment of risk as set out in Section 4 of this report.

In conclusion, I would recommend that this report is read very carefully to appreciate the evidence which sits behind our judgements, both those that were positive and those that were less so. Some of those judgements were finely balanced, but the main concerns we have identified will, I hope, give a clear steer for where the undoubted energy and commitment of the leadership and staff at Stocken can best be focused.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                                    March 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

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

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