IRP Swaleside

The prison inspectors have made a follow up  IRP to Swaleside after their inspection in 2018. In the press release announcing of their report they said:

“Inspectors found a disappointing lack of progress at HMP Swaleside in following up recommendations for improvement from a full inspection in 2018.

Swaleside is a complex and challenging prison on the Isle of Sheppey holding many prisoners who presented risks to the public, staff and other prisoners. At an inspection in 2018, inspectors noted a prison where progress since 2016 had been “lopsided.”

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “We judged safety and respect to be better than at the 2016 inspection but work to rehabilitate prisoners and plan for their release had deteriorated.” Though the overall safety assessment had improved in 2018, from poor in 2016 to not sufficiently good, levels of violence had increased considerably over the two years.

Action to address suicide and self-harm was also found to be weak in 2018. Illicit drug use was a fundamental problem at that inspection and, although relationships between staff and prisoners were generally very good, many prison officers had only just been recruited and many lacked the authority to challenge antisocial behaviour by prisoners

When inspectors returned in September 2019 for an independent review of progress, Mr Clarke said, they found that not enough had been done to meet the concerns at the 2018 inspection.

Overall, the number of violent incidents remained high. “Despite this, managers had not thought hard enough about what was driving violence at the establishment. There was no meaningful strategy or action plan to reduce levels of violence.” Likewise, there had been no reduction in the number of self-harm incidents, yet managers had not developed a strategy or action plan to address this problem.

Mr Clarke added: “The lack of diligence and application by senior managers was exemplified by their poor response to our concerns over the use of special accommodation. Other than reminding staff to seek a governor’s approval before using it, no progress had been made since the inspection. This extreme custodial tool was still used far too often, for too long and with poor managerial oversight.”

On a more positive note, prison managers had reduced the use of illicit drugs. The prison had also acted to support inexperienced staff by restructuring its staffing model, improving training and introducing a buddy scheme. These actions were laudable, Mr Clarke said, though they had yet to translate into a confident and authoritative staff group. “We saw many examples of antisocial behaviour going unchallenged by staff.”

Problems with the living conditions identified at previous inspections remained. Inspectors found dirty communal areas, food left out overnight and biohazard waste left beside a walkway. Many showers remained in very poor condition, and were some of the worst in the prison estate.

Disappointingly for a training prison, there were not enough activity spaces for the population, and too many prisoners remained unemployed or underemployed. Attendance at activities was poor, and those who did go to work and education classes often arrived late.

Managers had made good progress in protecting the public. Monthly public protection meetings were now well attended, and multi-agency public protection levels were confirmed in advance of prisoners’ release. However, there was insufficient progress in other areas of rehabilitation and release planning. As at the time of the inspection, about three-quarters of the population did not have an up-to-date assessment of their risk and need. “We found a single offender supervisor managing 170 prisoners convicted of sexual offences, which was simply unworkable,” Mr Clarke added.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“This was a disappointing review, and too little progress had been made in the nine months since the inspection. Managers had, in our view, failed to act with sufficient diligence and rigour concerning the key recommendations we made in 2018. There were signs that when managers focused on a problem, they could make good progress, as their work on drugs and public protection showed. The challenge is to replicate this progress on other key recommendations.”

To read the full report, click on the link below:

HMP Swaleside (753.25 kB), Report on an independent review of progress at HMP Swaleside (30 September – 2 October 2019)

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