HMYOI Swinfen Hall, HMIP Inspections

The prison was visited by HMIP in October 2016 and in their report the inspectors said:

“HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall near Lichfield is a young offender institution (YOI) and category C training prison for  males aged 18–25 years. Over 90% of the 600 prisoners held there were serving sentences in excess of four years, with about 15% serving 10 years to life. We last inspected Swinfen Hall in late 2014 when we reported on generally satisfactory  outcomes. This inspection, however, was a disappointment and reflected a significant deterioration in almost all aspects of the prison’s delivery. It was a concern that too few of our previous recommendations had been addressed and assessments across three of our four healthy prison tests saw reduced scores.

Swinfen Hall was no longer safe enough. The prison’s  approach to safety was fragmented and lacked care. New prisoners were received without sufficient care or attention to the basics and it was not surprising that only 61% felt safe on their first night. Following a recent death in custody, an investigation into the circumstances identified weaknesses that had not been addressed to a standard that could provide assurance that lessons had been learned. Levels of self-harm had fallen but care for those in crisis was inconsistent. Levels of violence had risen and too many prisoners felt unsafe. Too many prisoners were also self-isolating as a response to their feelings of being unsafe. Use of force had risen markedly but accountability for its use was weak. Our main recommendations call for some effective joined-up working, based on a meaningful assessment of intelligence and evidence, leading to a measureable action plan to reduce violence and so address this fundamental safety concern.

A further main recommendation calls for clear improvement in basic standards in the accommodation provided. We describe in our report much of the accommodation in the prison, particularly on the older wings, as squalid. Cells were often dirty and poorly equipped and access to basic amenities was poor. Better standards on two of the newer wings, while welcome, did not mitigate these failings and underlined what could be achieved with better care and coordination of effort.

Staff-prisoner relationships were similarly not good enough. Too many staff lacked care, were permissive of poor behaviour and had low expectations of prisoners. The promotion of diversity was, however, improving and in general the provision of health care was reasonable.

Despite being a training prison, the quality of the regime and provision of work, learning and skills were poor. During the inspection we found 43% of  prisoners locked in cell during the working day and our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of learning, skills and work to be ‘inadequate’. Provision was poorly managed, the pace of improvement was too slow and providers were not held to account. Activity spaces were not well used, training was variable and qualifications on offer were too basic. Work was mundane. Attendance and punctuality were not good enough and achievement rates, while beginning to improve, needed to be better. We address the fundamental weaknesses of the prison’s regime  and of the learning and skills offer in our main recommendations.

The prison was performing best in its attention to resettlement work. Support for care leavers was better then we often see, and in our survey prisoners fed back positively about their allocation to an offender supervisor and their sentence plan. Too many prisoners were without an up-to-date offender assessment system (OASys) assessment, but risk was being managed and public protection work remained good. The prison was not a designated resettlement prison, although good work was being done to support the typically 10 prisoners released each month. Work to support children and families was well developed and some impressive interventions to address offending behaviour were evident. The psychologically informed planned environment unit (PIPE) in particular was a good example of what could be achieved at Swinfen Hall.

A new governor arrived during the week of our inspection, presenting the opportunity to set a new direction for the prison. The need for strong leadership  is clear if decline is to be arrested and a new vision for the prison is to be successful. Our main recommendations address fundamental issues across all four of our healthy prison tests. The prison needs to be safer. Basic standards need to improve and a coordinated and ambitious agenda for learning, work and rehabilitation needs to be prioritised at the heart of the prison’s purpose, rather than at the periphery as it is now. The prison needs to rethink its approach and raise expectations amongst both staff and prisoners.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                 January 2017                                                                               

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

To read the full report form the inspectors go to the Ministry of Justice web site or follow the links below:

  • HMP/YOI Swinfen HallReport on an unannounced inspection of HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall (23 June – 3 July 2014)
  • HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall (23 June – 3 July 2014)
  • HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall, Announced inspection of HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall (7-11 June 2010)
  • HMP Swinfen Hall, Unnannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Swinfen Hall (15-17 April 2008)

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