HMIP Report, HMP Usk

The combined prisons were given an inspection in June 2021, 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:

Usk and Prescoed, as the names suggest, are two distinct prisons, although managed as a single entity. Usk is a small establishment built in a traditional 19th century style which held 220 category C prisoners, almost all of whom were serving sentences for sexual offences. Prescoed is an open prison in a deeply rural setting about three miles away, with a clear focus on the resettlement of the 231 men it held during our inspection.

In recent years the Inspectorate has routinely reported very positively on the outcomes experienced by prisoners at the two sites and this remains the case. Making separate healthy prison assessments, we judged outcomes in safety and respect to be good (our highest mark) at both Usk and Prescoed and reasonably good or better at both for purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning. These are excellent results made more noteworthy in that they were achieved while the prisons were still emerging from the effects of the pandemic. It should be noted that Usk, in particular, had faced very real challenges and risks in responding to COVID-19, with a generally older and more vulnerable population and the tragic loss of two members of staff and a prisoner. The prison had, in our view, shown remarkable resilience in its response.

Key to the continuing success of the prisons seemed to be the quality of leadership. There was a genuine sense of community within the prisons with an engaged staff and generally good consultation with those held. It was clear from our survey that prisoners felt respected and supported by staff and we observed several examples during our inspection where the well-being of prisoners was at the heart of initiatives and a clear consideration in how the prison was being taken forward. One such example was the formal endorsement of Usk as an Enabling Environment, an accreditation achieved during the pandemic (see paragraphs 1.45 and 3.5). Similarly, we observed some exemplary social care arrangements.

As the pandemic seemed to be easing, both prisons had moved quickly within the HMPPS risk management framework to open up their regimes and we were told that the prisons were among the first to advance to HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) ‘stage 2’, a designation that defines the extent to which regimes could be opened further. In this context, it was pleasing to see that release on temporary licence (ROTL) had continued during restrictions for those Prescoed prisoners who were defined as essential workers, and that by the time of our inspection, some 60% of Prescoed prisoners were now benefiting from various forms of ROTL. More needed to be done to ensure work and education became fully operational but we had confidence in the prisons’ plans and their long-established record of delivery.

Our report notes a small number of issues that require further attention. These include some refurbishment of accommodation at Prescoed and mitigating the impact of some overcrowding in Usk. We have also noted the comparatively high number of prisoners who were returned to closed conditions from Prescoed, possibly linked to the application of a so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy concerning the application of rules at the site. But these issue aside, it was clear to us that the resilience being shown by Usk and Prescoed leaders, staff and prisoners was ensuring that those held continued to experience meaningful and positive outcomes.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
August 2021


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

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