HMIP Inspections of Feltham

 The A part of Feltham were given an inspection in February 2022, and the B part in July 2019. 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:

Our inspection of Feltham A in 2019 revealed “a dramatic and precipitous collapse in standards”. The prison had become so violent and chaotic that my predecessor decided to invoke the urgent notification (UN) process – the first time it had been used in a children’s prison.

At both of our scrutiny visits in July 2020 and February 2021 we saw signs of improvement, but the transformation we found at our most recent inspection was impressive. Much credit must go to the excellent work of the governor, who remained in post after the UN and had created a strong team around her with a renewed sense of purpose and vision. As a result, the prison was safer, happier and more productive, with a more confident staff team able to meet the often complex needs and address the behaviour of what was, at times, a challenging group of children.

We saw good functional leadership in a number of areas, including education, resettlement, and safety – where we saw some of the biggest improvements.

A notable success lay in the development of Alpine unit, which held children considered unable to mix with the general population due to their behaviour and level of need. A well-trained and motivated team created a supportive and inclusive culture that aimed to get the boys out of their cells and mixing with their peers in a therapeutic environment. As a result, children who in the past would have spent much of their time languishing in segregation were being given bespoke support and, where possible, helped to reintegrate back onto their wing or to make a successful transfer to adult prison.

Our reports frequently comment on the lack of motivation prisoners have toward the incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme, in which sanctions are harsh and desultory rewards are often not forthcoming. At Feltham, the IEP were some of the best I have seen; good behaviour was noted and rewarded while poor behaviour was usually addressed quickly. Every child I spoke to was aware of the opportunities offered in the Dunlin enhanced unit if they earned a place. Here, they got more time out of their cells and a chance to join activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, army cadets or the barbering workshop. The aim was to make this provision more widely available as the constraints from the pandemic were lifted.

The number of children on ‘keep apart’ lists – aimed to prevent particular children from mixing – had reduced and was lower than we had seen elsewhere. This was impressive, given that the population was largely London based and some were gang affiliated, thereby increasing the risk that conflict in the community would spill over into the prison.

Attendance in education stood at an impressive 96%, having improved noticeably since last time. It was disappointing, however, to see that children were put in lessons that did not differentiate them by ability, resulting in work being either too easy or too difficult.

The last day of our inspection coincided with the governor’s last day in post, and she left for another prison having made very good progress. There remains, however, much to do at Feltham to complete the recovery from COVID-19, recruit and retain sufficient staff, improve the quality of education and continue to bear down on levels of violence which remain too high.

Even when things are going well, because of the nature of the children it serves, Feltham is a fragile place and close attention and support from the Youth Custody Service (YCS) will be essential to make sure that the transition from one leader to the next is a success.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
April 2022

And in their report on Feltham B they said:

“HMYOI Feltham B holds convicted male prisoners aged between 18 and 20. It is situated adjacent to and comes under the same management as Feltham A, which hold boys aged between 15 and 17. At the time of this inspection the prison held around 360 prisoners. The prison was last inspected in January and February 2017, when we found that outcomes for prisoners in three of our healthy prison tests – safety, purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning – were not sufficiently good. We judged respect to be reasonably good. On this occasion we found there had been improvements in safety and rehabilitation and release planning which were now reasonably good, but a decline in purposeful activity which was now poor. Despite this latter judgement, overall the results of this inspection mark a significant achievement for an establishment that has faced similar pressures to many others that have not been able to maintain, let alone improve, their overall level of performance in recent times.

It is also worth reflecting on the context in which this inspection took place. As a result of concerns that had been reaching HMI Prisons about conditions at Feltham, but in particular Feltham A, I decided to bring forward the scheduled inspections of both Feltham A and B and to conduct concurrent inspections of both parts of the overall establishment. The outcome of the Feltham A inspection is the subject of a separate report.

Having expressed concerns elsewhere that Feltham had been left without a governor for some five months during 2018, I am reassured to be told that the two parts of the establishment will, in future, each have their own dedicated deputy governor in an effort to ensure greater resilience and continuity. I hope that this will allow Feltham B to continue to make progress, and avoid the risk of managerial focus being diverted to address the many problems we found during the inspection of Feltham A. The progress that had been made to date at Feltham B was creditable, and was reflected in the fact that in the space of some two years, it had managed to achieve or partially achieve around half of our recommendations from the last inspection. This was a better rate of achievement than we often see.

In terms of safety, there were distinct weaknesses in the strategic management of violence, the use of disciplinary procedures through the incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme and oversight of the use of force. However, the weaknesses were, to some extent, ameliorated by good relationships between staff and prisoners and, compared with other similar establishments, fewer prisoners felt unsafe at the time of the inspection and fewer reported being victimised. There had been a slight rise since the last inspection in violence between prisoners, but against staff it had reduced significantly.

A feature of the establishment that needed attention was the impact that security processes were having on the ability of prisoners to access education, training, work and health care. It was telling that our colleagues from Ofsted commented that ‘across the prison, managers did not do enough to ensure that all aspects of the prison regime contributed to prisoners’ good attendance and punctuality’. Quite apart from whether prisoners were getting to the activities to which they had been allocated, there was also the issue that there were only sufficient full-time activity places for just over half of the population. Meanwhile, some 20% of the entire population were employed as residential unit cleaners and painters, where they were under-occupied and poorly managed. We also found, when we conducted our roll checks, that some 37% of prisoners were locked in their cells during the working day, which is far too high a figure for a training prison. Inevitably, the judgement we came to for purposeful activity was that it was poor, and the section of this report that sets out the findings in this area is worthy of close attention.

Despite the weaknesses in purposeful activity, we found that respect had improved, supported by the good relationships between staff and prisoners. In particular, the keyworker scheme was making a positive contribution. Living conditions in the residential units had improved since the last inspection, but the condition of cells was no more than adequate, there was still too much graffiti, and there was still a pressing need for refurbishment in some areas, particularly the showers.

Although the quality of health care services was generally good prisoners, as noted above, were all too often unable to get to their appointments because of regime restrictions or security measures. For instance, in June prisoners failed to attend 58% of the appointments made with the doctor, around 35% with the dentist and 80% with the optician. This was clearly an unacceptable waste of NHS resources.

It was pleasing to see that the well led and well-organised Offender Management Unit had reduced the backlog of Offender Assessment System (OASys) initial assessments from 56% to 19% in the space of six months. This was a significant achievement, and in marked contrast to what we see in many establishments. Nevertheless, all prisoners should arrive at Feltham with a completed assessment, and most did not. This was indicative of a systemic weakness that we frequently see during inspections, and clearly needs to be addressed as the OASys sits at the heart of offender management processes.

Feltham B is a complex and challenging establishment in which to achieve the outcomes that should be of real benefit to prisoners and public alike. It was reassuring that some real progress had been made since our last inspection. Clearly there was still much to do, but we were heartened by the positive attitude of many staff about what could be achieved, and the sound relationships between many staff and prisoners that underpinned much of the progress that had already been made. We have seen in the past that progress at this complex establishment has proved to be fragile. I hope that on this occasion it will prove possible to build on what has been achieved and sustain it into the future.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                                  September 2019

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:


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