HMYOI Swinfen Hall, HMIP Inspections

The prison was visited by HMIP in July 2021 and in their report the inspectors said:

Swinfen Hall is a category C prison for young adults and adults aged 18 to 28, mostly serving sentences of over four years. At the time of our inspection, it contained 531 prisoners of whom nearly half were from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Within the prison were two specialist wings for those with emerging or diagnosed personality disorders.

This prison continued to wrestle with the challenges that we outlined in our 2016 and 2019 inspections, but had made some noticeable progress despite dealing with the effects of the pandemic. Leaders had set up good systems to analyse data and create plans for the more troubled individuals and significantly more prisoners told us they felt safe than at the previous inspection. However, despite the COVID-19 restrictions on mixing and the limited amount of time prisoners spent out of their cells, levels of violence, often serious, between prisoners were still too high and staff assaults were on the rise. It was very concerning to see increases in the use of PAVA incapacitant spray as the regime began to open up and leaders needed to make certain that this did not become a routine way of managing challenging behaviour.

An excellent custody manager on the induction wing had made this a safe and positive place for new arrivals who were helped by more established peers to settle into the prison. On the specialist units, we saw prisoners with complex needs making good progress in a supportive environment. Elsewhere, some less experienced staff did not have high enough expectations of prisoners’ behaviour and lacked the skills and confidence to create a stable and safe environment. Though inspectors saw some positive interactions between officers and prisoners, they also witnessed staff members who were ineffectual, dismissive or rude.

In a prison like Swinfen Hall, the incentives scheme should be a key tool in improving behaviour and helping leaders and staff to raise standards. It was, therefore, disappointing to hear how ineffective prisoners felt it was in motivating them, with those on an enhanced level often not getting the rewards that they had earned.

Though the prison had worked to increase the amount of time prisoners spent out of their cells, those without jobs were routinely locked up for 22 hours a day, a bleak prospect for the prison’s young and energetic population. There were also long waiting lists for rehabilitation programmes that should have been helping prisoners to progress through their sentences and restarting these fully must be an urgent priority for the prison. A lack of oversight of partner agencies meant there was insufficient coordination of services to support prisoners who were due for release.

For the last year, most education had taken the form of in-cell packs and though these had improved they were no substitute for face-to-face education, particularly for those with learning difficulties. Classrooms had begun to open up, but despite desks being set apart to prevent infection, absurdly, only prisoners from the same bubble were allowed to be in education together. This meant very few prisoners were getting regular, face-to-face education.

Leaders had worked hard to improve the decency and conditions of Swinfen Hall and inspectors who had been on previous inspections noticed an improvement in the atmosphere of the prison, which felt more positive than it had in the past. The standard of accommodation was much improved since our last inspection: wings had been refurbished, showers had been upgraded, there were new clothes washing facilities and the prison was clean and well[1]maintained.

There remains considerable and fundamental work still to do to create an environment in which this group of young men are really incentivised and motivated to behave in an atmosphere that is safe and supportive, and provides them with meaningful and productive work, education, training and rehabilitation.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
July 2021

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

Return to Swinfen Hall

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