The prison was given an inspection in February 2020, and 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:
“HMP The Verne, located in Portland in Dorset, was previously an immigration removal centre (IRC). While we inspected The Verne in 2015, this is our first inspection since the establishment was reopened as a category C training prison in July 2018. The Verne now holds prisoners convicted of sexual offences and has been fully occupied since June 2019. This is a positive report: outcomes were good, our highest judgement, in our healthy prison tests of safety and respect, not sufficiently good in purposeful activity and reasonably good in rehabilitation and release planning.
The Verne is a safe prison. We found low levels of violence and self-harm, and few prisoners reported feeling unsafe. When violence or antisocial behaviour did occur, incidents were investigated well and victims received good support. Managers had worked effectively with prisoner peer support workers to promote a safe community ethos. It was this sense of community and the positive relationships between staff and prisoners which encouraged good behaviour. As a consequence, adjudications, segregation and restraint were rarely used.
Relationships between staff and prisoners were among the best we have seen. In our survey, 97% of prisoners reported that most staff treated them with respect, 99% reported having a key worker and 86% of those said their key worker was helpful. Our findings supported this view: we observed respectful interactions and found that staff were knowledgeable about the prisoners in their care. Prisoners were able to contribute to their community in a wide range of peer worker roles and consultation with prisoners was regular and effective. Living conditions were also good: residential units were clean and well equipped. The food was better than we normally see and it was positive that prisoners ate their evening meals in well-resourced dining rooms.
Equality, diversity and faith provision was also good. There were consultation for a for all protected characteristics and a range of events, mainly organised by prisoners, were held throughout the year. In addition, a very active chaplaincy team supported a wide range of activities for prisoners from all faiths as well as those from none.
Healthcare provision was less positive. It had taken too long for NHS commissioners to carry out a health needs assessment to reflect the needs of the population. As a result, the health services team was under-resourced and was unable to meet the needs of the population.
Prisoners were never locked in their rooms and had free access around the site for over nine hours a day. However, there was not enough activity to occupy all prisoners and, in addition, the education curriculum did not meet the needs of the population. This meant too many prisoners were unemployed at the time of the inspection. While behaviour, attitudes to learning and punctuality were good, there needed to be more focus on progressing learners to the next stage of their education and better support for those with additional learning needs.
In the area of rehabilitation and release planning, support for prisoners to maintain contact with their family and friends was reasonable but facilities for visitors were basic. We found a well-led offender management unit. Nearly all prisoners had a high-quality assessment and sentence plan and since the introduction of offender management in custody (OMiC), key workers had seen their allocated prisoners, recorded contact well and communicated effectively with the prison offender manager. Public protection procedures were reasonable but there were weaknesses in implementing contact restrictions, which needed to be addressed. The lack of offending behaviour programmes was a gap but was mitigated, in part, by transfers to prisons with appropriate provision. Despite having no resettlement provision, a small but increasing number of prisoners were being released from The Verne. Staff were supporting this group well but this was unsustainable in the long term.
Overall this was a positive inspection of a well-run institution. Since The Verne reopened as a training prison, the Governor has established a culture where staff and prisoners treat each other with respect and legitimate concerns are responded to. However, there needs to be better partnership work and robust challenge of key partners in order to improve healthcare and activities provision.
Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:
HMP The Verne (1.26 MB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP The Verne (10-21 February 2020)