HMIP Inspections of Feltham

The Feltham A side of the prison was given an inspection in December 2017/January 2018, s the Feltham B side was inspected a year earlier. The full reports can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said of Feltham A:

HMYOI Feltham (Feltham A) manages young people on remand and those who have been sentenced by the courts. At the time of this inspection, the establishment held 140 young people, the vast majority of whom were aged 16 or 17 years old. The last inspection was in early 2017, and was very disappointing. There had been a decline in three of the four healthy prison tests since the last inspection in 2015, and of particular concern was the fact that the key areas of safety and purposeful activity had slumped to the lowest possible assessment of ‘poor’. It is pleasing to be able to report that both these areas had improved at this inspection. Safety had improved quite dramatically, so that on this occasion it was found to be reasonably good’. These improvements had not come about by accident, but were the result of clear, focused leadership. In my view, it was no coincidence that in both these areas the majority of recommendations made at the last inspection were either fully or at least partially achieved.

Overall violence had reduced, with an 80% reduction in assaults on staff and assaults on boys down by a third. London gang culture had a significant impact in Feltham and violence was still high, but progress had been made. This was at least in part due to a new behaviour management philosophy that was, at the time of this inspection, still being embedded. Last year we reported how the focus had been on sanctions and regime restrictions; there was a cycle of violence and punitive responses, with no obvious strategy in place to break it. This had changed, and on this occasion we found a new focus on rewards and incentives for good behaviour. An enhanced support unit (ESU) had also opened, which was well resourced and was managing three of the most challenging boys. Removing these boys from mainstream wings had a positive effect on the rest of the establishment. It had also given them a better regime and psychological input to understand and hopefully improve their behaviour. It was early days, but the new mindset offered more hope than the previous unremittingly negative approach to behaviour management. There had also been improvements in child protection, safeguarding and governance of the use of force.

The area of respect remained reasonably good. Overall, we found that staff were patient, enthusiastic and dedicated. Consultation with the boys had improved. There was potential for Feltham to achieve the highest assessment in this area in the future, but there would need to be an improvement in some of the standards in accommodation, where some areas were worn and neglected, for this to happen. More also needed to happen to instil in the boys the necessary discipline to keep their cells and communal areas clean.

At the time of the last inspection, we found a totally unacceptable 40% of the boys were locked up during the school day. In the space of a year this had dropped to 17%, largely as a result of managers and staff being determined to get boys to education and training. The knock-on effect from this was that there were not enough staff to ensure that boys also got to other important appointments. However, there was still work to do in terms of getting the boys to understand the value of education, with low engagement having an adverse impact on all aspects of behaviour and learning in some classes. The details of this can be found in the report.

The focus on safety and purposeful activity, which was entirely appropriate, meant that there was still work to be done to ensure that sentence planning was used effectively to drive boys’ progress throughout their sentences. There were a large number of looked-after children at Feltham, who did not always receive the support to which they were entitled from local authorities, in particular in ensuring suitable accommodation on release had been secured.

Overall, there had been excellent progress made at Feltham since the last inspection, and good leadership played a huge role in this achievement. There had been some very good initiatives and, following our last very critical report, it is pleasing to be able to report that there had been some significant investment in Feltham. However, the progress could easily prove to be fragile if investment falls away or leadership loses its focus. Feltham is an institution that over the years has seen peaks and troughs in performance. This latest inspection marks something of a peak after the trough of the previous one in 2017. It would be a great achievement if the improvement turns out not only to be sustainable but to give firm foundations for future improvement.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
March 2018
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

and in their report on Feltham B they said:

“This inspection of Feltham B, following a rather more optimistic inspection in July 2014, was disappointing. Despite some good work being carried out by staff across many areas of the prison, this inspection found that the young men being held there were living in an unsafe environment, were often afraid for their own safety and were enduring a regime that was unsuitable for prisoners of any age, let alone the young men at Feltham.

Since the last inspection there had been a significant increase in violence, and nearly half of the prisoners told us they had felt unsafe during their time at Feltham. One in four of those we surveyed – double the number in July 2014 – told us that they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. The response to this increase in violence had been ineffective, and the prison seemed to be locked into a negative cycle of responding to violence with punitive measures and placing further restrictions on the regime to keep people apart. This response had not worked and there did not appear to be any coherent plan to address the issue of behaviour management in a different or more positive way.

Some of the young men held at Feltham were locked in their cells for more than 22 hours each day During the inspection we found that around a third of the prisoners were locked up during the core day, and were therefore not getting to training or education. Every meal at Feltham was taken alone in the prisoner’s cell. Meanwhile, violence had risen, as had the use of force, and a large backlog of adjudications – which were largely in response to the violence – had accumulated.

The violence at Feltham is often serious, and one should not underestimate the risks faced by staff on a daily basis. During the course of this inspection an officer was seriously assaulted, and there were many examples shown to us of large-scale fights which could easily have led to tragic consequences but for skilled and courageous intervention by staff. Nevertheless, a new approach is needed. The incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme did not appear to be having any significant impact on behaviour, while the strategy for dealing with gang-related issues was largely ineffective and mediation was no longer being used as a means of reducing violence. We were told this was because of objections from the staff association, which, if true, is troubling.

While the violence and the poor regime overshadowed this inspection, it would be wrong not to recognise that, despite everything, there was some very good work being carried out by dedicated staff. We identified four examples of good practice in the provision of health care, and it was most impressive that the mental health team contacted patients seven days after discharge to check up on their welfare. Many examples of good work are described in the body of this report and there is. indeed much that the committed members of staff who work at Feltham can be proud of.

In this introduction I have focused on the subject of violence and the response to it, as these have shaped so much of what happens at Feltham B. There are many other important issues that the inspection identified that are described in this report and which, in many cases, have given rise to recommendations. I would urge the reader to look carefully at the detail of the report, and those to whom recommendations are made to take them seriously.

 Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
April 2017
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Feltham

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