HMIP Inspections, Wakefield

The prison was given a full  inspection in the summer of 2018, and in that report the inspector said:

HMP Wakefield is a high security establishment holding category A and B prisoners. At the time of this inspection there were some 700 being held. The vast majority were serving sentences of more than 10 years, and included some of the most challenging and complex prisoners in the country. Despite this, the prison was calm and had an atmosphere that spoke of good order, safety, security and decency. This was reflected in the assessments under our four healthy prison tests, in particular the improved assessment of purposeful activity and the continuing highest possible assessment of ‘good’ in the area of respect.

The identification and promulgation of good practice is, I believe, a key function of the inspection process. To that end I would urge readers to pay particular attention to the examples cited in Section 5 of this report. They include a varied and impressive set of initiatives and good work drawn from across all of the healthy prison tests.

A problem that was not unique to Wakefield, but which was particularly acute there, was that of transferring prisoners under the Mental Health Act to secure accommodation. Because of the totally unacceptable delays in doing so, many prisoners across the prison estate are held in conditions that are not in any way therapeutic and indeed in many cases clearly exacerbate their condition. This is a national strategic issue to which we have made reference many times in inspection reports. The situation at Wakefield was yet another example of prisoners with severe illness not receiving the care that they needed. It is clearly something that is beyond the capability of either individual prisons or HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to resolve. Therefore, in view of the fact that to date there has been no effective response to this issue, on this occasion I am taking the unusual step of making a recommendation directly to the Prisons Minister in the hope that he can use his influence to initiate effective cross-departmental action to address the problem.

We found HMP Wakefield to be an essentially respectful prison, with many examples of good relationships and interactions between staff and prisoners. However, as in so many establishments, our survey revealed that black and minority ethnic prisoners had a poorer perception of their treatment and conditions than their white counterparts. These negative perceptions needed to be understood. Until this happened there would be no way of knowing whether the negative perceptions were justified or not, and even if they were not, the negative perceptions themselves needed to be taken seriously and addressed.

Despite the fact that we found an over all improvement in the area of purposeful activity, there was still a need to provide sufficient activity places for the entire population. This would then complement the adequate time out of cell that was already available to those who were employed. The introduction of key workers, offering an ongoing link between individual prisoners and identified officers, was a key strategic initiative. Early indications were that this could be a highly significant development, and once it was fully embedded could well offer the opportunity for further improvement in the area of rehabilitation and release planning.

By any standards this was a good inspection, which was highly creditable given the complexity of the prison. The high standards, good practice and improvements that have been achieved were the result of hard work and dedication on the part of those who clearly took very seriously their responsibilities for the safe, secure and purposeful imprisonment of those in their care.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
August 2018

Return to Wakefield

 The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below: