HMIP Inspections of Bronzefield


The prison was given an inspection in November 2015, 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 Bronzefield is a complex closed women’s local prison run by Sodexo Justice Services. It holds up to 527 women, with all categories represented – those remanded by the courts, those serving short sentences and a number serving life. Ages range from 18 to over 70. It is also one of two prisons in the female estate that holds restricted status women, or women who are deemed to require special management due to the level of risk they present, or the notoriety of their offences. The catchment area of the prison is huge and the mix of women held continues to present an almost unique blend of complexity and vulnerability. Around a third of women reported having a disability and 90% said they arrived with problems, including 44% who felt depressed or suicidal. For over half it was their first time in prison and a similar number had children under the age of 18. Over 40% indicated they had a problem with drugs and 66% said they had emotional wellbeing or mental health problems. The proportion of women reporting these types of problems was significantly higher than at our last inspection.

It was encouraging to see, therefore, that despite this increased complexity of the challenge faced, the prison had continued the improvement we reported at the last inspection in April 2013. Arrangements to support women on arrival and during their early days at the prison were good, and for those with substance misuse problems, some of the best we have seen. Processes to keep women safe and to deal with the high levels of self-harm and vulnerability were well developed. There was little violence and few serious incidents, but despite this, many women still complained that they had felt unsafe at some time while at the prison and that they had been victimised by both other prisoners and staff. The reasons for this were not clear but, the complex mix of women held at Bronzefield, a recent tragic self-inflicted death, the first such death at the prison, allied to a zero tolerance approach being adopted to tackle poor behaviour when it occurred, were likely to be contributory factors to these perceptions.

At the last inspection we were critical of some aspects of the work with the small number of women who had a combination of very challenging and sometimes dangerous behaviour and vulnerabilities, including personality disorder and mental health conditions. Work in this area had improved significantly and while we were still concerned about two women who had been managed in the separation and care unit (SCU) for over two years, the care they were receiving and specialist input to manage their progression and reintegration was good, and would be developed further with soon to be piloted interventions addressing personality disorder. Safeguarding arrangements in general were well developed and fully embedded across the prison.

Security was proportionate, including for those women who were restricted status. Work in the SCU had developed since the last inspection and was now much more progressive. Use of force was not excessive, although some aspects of oversight needed attention. Substance misuse support was very good.

The general environment was very good and care was taken to keep the prison decent. Staff-prisoner relationships were very good and the custody support officer scheme worked well, including effectively supporting resettlement work. Again, despite some negativity in our surveys, work to support the diverse range of women held, including the quarter who were from black and minority ethnic communities, and the 24% who were foreign nationals, was good. The mother and baby unit provided excellent care and support to those using the facility, and maternity care was very good. Health services were good overall, including for the high number of women with mental health problems.

As at the last inspection the weakest outcomes were in the provision of purposeful activity. Time out of cell was reasonable although we found some women locked up during the day who could have been more purposefully occupied. The range of vocational training had improved and there were sufficient activity places for all those held. However, the quality of teaching and learning remained too  variable and outcomes in the key area of functional skills needed to be better. Managers had a plan to address these deficiencies but this had not yet come to fruition.

In contrast, resettlement work had improved significantly. Excellent support was now provided to women in maintaining contact with their family and friends, and also for those who had been abused, trafficked or who were sex workers. The prison had started to use release on temporary licence to support reintegration work, including for employment and family contact and relationship reasons. Offender management work had been re-organised since the last inspection and was now better than we usually see with evidence of regular and meaningful contact between women and specialist staff. Public protection arrangements were robust. The new community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) were still bedding in and there was confusion about how they worked alongside Sodexo resettlement staff. Nevertheless, support in the reducing reoffending pathways was generally strong although factors outside the control of the prison were resulting in too many women being released without settled accommodation.

HMP Bronzefield was a very good and improved prison. Outcomes for the highly complex population were at least reasonably good or better in all our healthy prison tests, with the quality of respect and work to resettle prisoners particularly strong. It is a credit to the very capable leadership within the prison, and the committed and motivated staff group that the challenges they face continue to be met in such a positive and caring way.

Martin Lomas                        January 2016

HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Bronzefield

To read the full reports follow the links below: