HMIP Reports, HMP Swansea

The prison was given an inspection in August/September 2020, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

This report outlines the findings from our scrutiny visit to HMP Swansea, a Victorian local prison holding around 370 prisoners. At the time of our visit most of the population were from the local area, nearly all had been at Swansea for six months or less and 38% were on remand.

We found a well led establishment that had made good progress since the start of the pandemic. There was good partnership work with the local health care provider, Public Health Wales,  and the Welsh Government to ensure that every symptomatic prisoner was tested. T  here had not been a confirmed case of COVID-19 at Swansea since April 2020.

Managers had worked to maximise the regime available to prisoners within the rigid national restrictions. Planning was good and focused on ensuring that managers could introduce new elements to the regime quickly once national managers authorised the move to stage three of the national framework for recovery.

The governor was particularly visible and accessible to both staff and prisoners. She chaired two weekly consultation meetings with prisoners which ensured both that the population were well informed about the COVID-19 restrictions and that managers could act swiftly to address the key concerns of prisoners.

Quarantine arrangements (referred to as  cohorting) were in place for symptomatic prisoners, those vulnerable to the virus and prisoners in their first 14 days at Swansea. Arrangements for those vulnerable to the virus were appropriate, but the effectiveness of quarantine for new prisoners was undermined by the practice of allowing prisoners arriving on different days to mix with each other.

The scale of mental health problems in the population was extremely high; in our survey 79% of prisoners said they had a mental health need. The relatively new crisis team of mental health practitioners had provided valuable additional resource to identify risk and need on arrival and givesome immediate support during a period when existing conditions could be exacerbated by extended time locked in cell.  Given the scale of need and the restricted regime it was concerning that care for and monitoring of prisoners at risk of self-harm through the assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT)  process required improvement. After an initial rise at the start of lockdown, levels of self-harm had fallen and were lower than during the same period last year. Commendably, the prison had started training for a new group of Listeners (prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential support to their peers)  and access to Listeners,  either in person or by phone, had been maintained throughout the COVID-19 period.

Violence had reduced at the start of the pandemic and, while rising, remained lower than before the restrictions were imposed. It was positive that only 13% of prisoners felt unsafe at the time of the visit. Managers had maintained challenge support and intervention plans (CSIPs, see Glossary of terms) to challenge and support perpetrators and were aware that the quality needed improvement. Behaviour management largely relied on the adjudication system. This was reserved for more serious incidents and the number of adjudications remained much lower than before the pandemic. Use of force had also fallen, oversight of use of force had been reinstated and weekly meetings were identifying and progressing areas for remedial action.

The segregation unit was empty at the time of our visit. The regime available to segregated prisoners had not been improved in line with the rest of the establishment. This meant that segregated prisoners did not receive a daily shower or phone call. Managers committed to rectifying this during our visit.

Despite a reduction in the population, the prison remained very overcrowded and most prisoners shared a cell that was designed for one prisoner. This made implementing a safe regime,  including social distancing, more of a challenge and we saw few attempts to socially distance even in areas where it was possible. More positively, staff and prisoners ensured that wings were cleaned to a high standard and outside areas were also clean and tidy. The complaints system required improvement. Many replies were inadequate and poorly investigated and did not provide an acceptable resolution.

Prisoners were positive about the food and our findings supported these views. The kitchen was clean and well organised, serveries were clean and the food was better than we normally see. In addition, prisoners had received daily snack packs throughout the restrictions.

Some equality and diversity consultation and monitoring of outcomes continued. However, discrimination complaints were not adequately investigated. There was an equality action plan, but the action points on it were not time sensitive and many had been devolved to the equality officer. We found some concerning perceptions among black and minority ethnic prisoners which needed to be addressed.

Health care services were limited at the start of the pandemic and an appropriate triage system enabled prisoners to access the GP. At the time of our visit some services were being restored but we had concerns about access to optical services, podiatry and physiotherapy. There was a lack of oversight of mental health services to ensure that sufficient services were in place to meet the significant levels of need. Medicines administration was poor and created unnecessary risks.

In common with the rest of the prison estate,  the regime for most prisoners was limited to around 1.5 hours out of their cell each day. In addition, prisoners could access circuit training once a week. It was particularly positive that managers maintained work for about a third of the population and outreach one-to-one education continued to support prisoners who had attained 163 accreditations during the pandemic. This meant that a far greater proportion of the population at Swansea was engaged in purposeful activity than at other local prisons we have visited. The library was providing an outreach service but too few prisoners and wing staff knew about it.

Swansea was among the first prisons to re-establish social visits and more than 200 had taken place by the time of our visit. Most of the restrictions were appropriate but children between the ages of eight months and 11 were unable to visit,  which was  an unnecessary restriction. Prisoners also had access to video calls and the ‘email a prisoner’  scheme had been expanded. Most prisoners said they had daily access to phone calls despite the lack of in-cell telephones.

The offender management unit had continued with most aspects of rehabilitation and release planning. There was no backlog of OASys assessments and prison offender managers had limited face-to-face contact with prisoners on their caseload. Public protection arrangements were appropriate. Release planning continued and it was positive that prisoners were provided with emergency accommodation on release during the pandemic. However, this scheme had been discontinued from September 2020 which would inevitably mean that a significant proportion of prisoners would be released homeless in the coming months.

We found that managers had made significant progress during the COVID-19 pandemic despite the disadvantages of managing an overcrowded, Victorian prison lacking basic facilities such as in-cell telephones. The governor ensured that staff and prisoners were well informed and acted on concerns. Appropriate priority was given to keeping prisoners in work, maintaining some limited face-to-face education and continuing sentence and risk management. Outcomes for many prisoners at Swansea were better than at other local prisons. As the prison continues to progress,  the management team need to establish appropriate oversight in the areas of self-harm prevention, equality and diversity and health care to ensure that outcomes continue to improve.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons


September 2020

Return to Swansea

To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:

  • HMP Swansea – report (PDF) (532 kB), Report on a scrutiny visit to HMP Swansea by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (25 August and 2-3 September 2020)
  • HMP Swansea (733.04 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Swansea (7, 8, 14–17 August 2017)
  • HMP Swansea, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Swansea (6 – 10 October 2014)
  • CEM Abertawe, Arolygiad dilynol byr dirybudd CEM Abertawe (17–19 Rhagfyr 2012)
  • HMP Swansea, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Swansea (17–19 December 2012)
  • CEM Abertawe, Arolygiad lle rhoddwyd rhybudd CEM Abertawe (8-12 Chwefror 2010)
  • HMP Swansea, Announced inspection of HMP Swansea (8-12 February 2010)
  • HMP Swansea, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Swansea (18-21 February 2008)

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