IRP The Mount

The prison inspectors have made a follow up  IRP to The Mount after their inspection in 2018. In the summary of their report they said:

“At our inspection of HMP The Mount in 2018 we made the following judgements about outcomes for prisoners.

  • Safety : Not sufficiently good,  (2015 Reasonably Good)
  • Respect: Not sufficiently good, (2015 Reasonably Good)
  • Purposeful activity: Poor, (2015 Reasonably Good)
  • Rehabilitation & release planning: Poor , (2015 Reasonably Good)

HMP The Mount in Hertfordshire is a category C training and resettlement prison with capacity for about 1,000 prisoners. Opened in the late 1980s, it is a relatively modern prison holding convicted prisoners, most of whom are serving long sentences for serious offences.

At our inspection of The Mount in 2018, we found a prison that had deteriorated substantially in many areas. There were high levels of violence, drug use and use of force, and a general failure of accountability structures and management oversight. Segregation and use of force paperwork was often not completed, and there was too little focus on reducing illicit drug supply. Staffing was low and many officers were inexperienced. There was virtually no work on equality, despite particularly large populations of black and minority ethnic and foreign national prisoners.

We found the worst outcomes in our tests on purposeful activity, and rehabilitation and release planning. The prison was clearly failing in its fundamental mission to provide constructive activity, training and rehabilitation. A restricted regime was in place, and few prisoners were meaningfully occupied or achieving qualifications. The offender management unit (OMU) had been stripped of staff and was unable to complete effectively basic unctions of assessment, management and release planning. The general lack of commitment to rehabilitation work in what was nominally a resettlement prison was a depressing indictment of the state that the prison had reached.

However, in this visit we noted that the prison appeared to be on an upward trajectory, albeit from a very low base. Managers told us of many improvements expected within the next few months. At this independent review of progress, we were pleased to find that there was some substance to these plans. In particular, there was evidence of greater clarity of vision around training and rehabilitation, some thingthat we had urged in 2018. Of the 13 key recommendations that we examined, there had been good progress in five, reasonable progress in two and insufficient progress in six; it is noteworthy that we identified no recommendations for which there had been no meaningful progress.

Work to improve safety outcomes was less advanced than would have been expected a year after the inspection. There had been some improvements to procedures on arrival, but violence and use of force had risen, and the governance of use of force and segregation was still weak. Not enough had been done to interrupt drug supply and use, and there were still few suspicion drug tests being completed. However, some useful work was underway in all of these areas. There was now a comprehensive and partially implemented strategy to address violence. More body-worn cameras were available and they were used more often. A drug strategy was now in place, and in recent months there had been evidence of steadily reducing drug use in the prison.

In the area of respect, cleanliness had improved substantially, and a programme of redecoration and refurbishment was well underway. This work was supported by the prisoner ‘handyman’ scheme, which gave useful occupation to prisoners while ensuring that basic repairs were completed quickly. Staffing had greatly improved, with around 80 new officers, and staff sickness levels were now very low. A new equality officer was making some improvements but equality work was still in the early stages of recovery.

We were pleased to note the use of ‘culture representatives’. These prisoners were appointed through the charity User Voice, and part of a well-supported team including a senior manager and staff from different departments. They ensured that policy implementation was informed by the prisoner experience; they tested out new procedures and helped to make significant changes. Their efforts were appreciated by staff and they had the potential to support meaningfully the development of a respectful, rehabilitative culture.

There had been reasonably good progress in purposeful activity. While far too many prisoners were unemployed and locked up during our roll checks, time out of cell had improved substantially. A full regime was now available to most, with some advanced plans to create more activity places. Prisoners could develop good work-related skills and, while accreditation of skills was still limited, there were plans to rectify this problem. The functional skills of all new arrivals in English and mathematics were now assessed, and the large backlog of those waiting for inductions had been cleared. Managers had substantially increased the number of employers that the prison engaged with, and this had yielded good outcomes for some prisoners who had obtained employment or work experience on release.

The most impressive area of progress was in rehabilitation and release planning. There were still insufficient interventions–for example, to address the needs of prisoners with domestic violence histories. However, the prison now had a much more coherent and joined up approach to offender management and reducing reoffending. All prisoners had key workers and there was evidence that they were helping prisoners to progress through their sentence and address offending-related needs. Good work had been done to reduce substantially the backlog of offender assessment system (OASys)assessments, and the OMU was now properly resourced. Pre-release risk assessment and planning were now much more robust.

Overall, this was an encouraging review. While a great deal of work was still needed to ensure that momentum was not lost, improvement and progress were evident. The two worst areas identified at the last inspection –purposeful activity, and rehabilitation and release planning –had both seen significant improvements. There was a sense of purpose and management drive at the prison, and the contribution that prisoners themselves could make to positive change was being recognised. It would be a disappointment –and a surprise –if the areas of insufficient progress identified during this review were not addressed with vigour before we return to The Mount

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                                                 May 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to The Mount

To read the full IRP click the link below:

HMP The Mount IRP (387.15 kB), Report on an independent review of progress at HMP The Mount (23-25 April 2019)

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