HMP Sudbury, HMIP Inspections

The prison was given an inspection by HMIP in May 2021. In their report the inspectors said ;

This report presents our findings from a scrutiny visit to HMP & YOI Sudbury, an open prison in Derbyshire. At the time of our visit,  the population had been reduced from 564 to 480 prisoners as a result of fewer prisoners transferring into the prison, which had previously experienced a six-week COVID-19 outbreak. This reduction,  slightly off-set by the installation of temporary accommodation in autumn 2020, had made it easier to implement COVID-19 cohorting arrangements and had meant more prisoners were living in single rooms.

Although quarantining and shielding arrangements were appropriate, the prison had experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 in early March 2021. Prison leaders had worked well with health care providers and Public Health England to contain the outbreak and by the time of our visit the prison had progressed back to stage three of the national recovery plan (see Glossary of terms). One prisoner had died of COVID-19-related symptoms in April 2020.

The primary purpose of Sudbury is to prepare prisoners for their successful return to the community on release and at our last full inspection in 2017 we reported that outcomes in this regard were improving. The pandemic, however, had disrupted the prison’s ability to maintain this progress and although it was encouraging that around 50 prisoners had continued to use release on temporary licence (ROTL) to access external key work employment, the numbers generally had greatly reduced. For prisoners classed as a high risk to the public, probation prison offender managers (POMs) had maintained onsite provision,  including face-to-face support. For most of the population (around 60%),  however, who were allocated POMs,  many had not had adequate contact for several months. It was clear that prisoners’ lack of access to offender management was a source of considerable frustration.

The return to the stage three regime had enabled the prison to announce the welcome resumption of social visits. Prison leaders were also planning to increase the number of opportunities for ROTL to maintain family ties from mid-May 2021, although a cautious approach meant that very few prisoners would initially benefit from this . Similarly, the re-introduction of face-to-face teaching was to be limited to small numbers,  even though inspectors had identified that classroom space was available. The education provider had no effective strategy to provide support or   reinforce learning for prisoners using in-cell learning packs.

Sudbury remained generally safe with few incidents of violence or self-harm. The use of segregation and incidents of force were, however,   far higher than we have seen in other open prisons. While most force involved just the use of ratchet handcuffs to escort prisoners to segregation, this high usage could be tracked back to 2019 and had continued through the period of restrictions. Leaders needed to review this to understand the reasons and make sure that all applications of force were proportionate and necessary.

Living accommodation was mixed. Many communal areas, particularly on the older units, were dilapidated and grubby and, despite a programme of scheduled remedial repairs, significant investment was needed to enable the prison to achieve acceptable standards.

Of greatest concern, in our prisoner survey, we received many negative comments about staff. Only 61%, for example, said that staff treated them with respect and a third said that they had been subjected to some victimisation from staff. Prisoner perceptions on   the use of segregation, the high number of prisoners returned to closed conditions,  as well as the inconsistent support from POMs had been further compounded by a local dispute with staff associations that was affecting the progress of the personal officer scheme. These issues combined to contribute to some poor prisoner perceptions and undermined the rehabilitative purpose of the prison.

Overall, and despite the recent virus outbreak, the prison had managed reasonably well throughout the period of restrictions to keep people safe. However, many aspects of daily life, including the high use of force, poor staff-prisoner relationships and the management of some key aspects of offender management,  needed urgent improvement, while much of the living accommodation required significant investment.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
May 2021

Return to Sudbury

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

This section contains the reports for Sudbury from 2001 until present

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