HMIP Reports on Littlehey

HMP Littlehey was last inspected in August 2019. In their report the inspectors said:

Located near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, Littlehey is a category C training prison, holding up to 1,220 adult male prisoners. With a specialist function and holding men from across the country, the prison is one of a very small number that holds only those convicted of a sexual offence and as such the profile of prisoners held is unusual. Forty-four per cent of prisoners were serving lengthy sentences of between four and 10 years, with over a third serving more than 10 years. Around 150 prisoners were serving indeterminate sentences, including life. Among the population nearly half were over the age of 50 and of all those held, some 78% presented a high or very high risk of harm.

When we last inspected Littlehey in 2015, we found a prison that was both safe and respectful, but where outcomes in purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning were insufficiently good. At this inspection we were pleased to find that outcomes in safety and respect remained good, and had improved in purposeful activity, but disappointingly remained insufficient in the important test of rehabilitation.

Littlehey continued to be an overwhelmingly safe prison. New prisoners were received well into the prison and helped to settle. The prison was calm and prisoners reported to us that they felt safe. Very little violence was recorded and a culture that incentivised good behaviour helped greatly. There had been some increase in the use of force but oversight was satisfactory and the use of segregation had decreased since our last inspection. The segregation regime was also much better with re-integration actively supported. Security arrangements were proportionate and the use of illicit drugs remained low. Self-harm had increased in recent years but again remained low. There had tragically been one self-inflicted death since we last visited but care for those in crisis was generally very good.

In our survey of prisoners, the majority indicated that they felt respected by staff and the interactions we observed were relaxed although not always particularly proactive. They were improving, however, following the successful introduction of the keyworker scheme. The internal and external areas of the prison were clean and well-maintained, although some overcrowding and ongoing problems with heating systems were significant issues. Access to kit and other amenities was good, as was the quality of the food. General consultation arrangements were also good and while the promotion of equality had weaknesses, outcomes for prisoners across most protected characteristics were reasonably equitable. Prisoners were positive in their views about the quality of healthcare they received.

Time out of cell for most prisoners in full-time activity was good, although we found a surprisingly high 17% locked in cell during the working day. There was sufficient activity for all, but allocation arrangements were inflexible and unresponsive. The quality and range of education, training and work was good and prisoners could gain qualifications up to level 3. Many made satisfactory progress and were clearly engaged and motivated. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work to be good. Physical education was impressive.

The area where outcomes were weakest was in rehabilitation and release planning. The promotion of family ties needed improvement. About half of prisoners did not have an up-to-date offender assessment system (OASys) assessment, many having arrived without such an assessment. This was concerning given the high level of risk the population presented. Contact between offender supervisors and prisoners was inconsistent and often reactive, with very little one-to-one sentence planning work taking place. There were also quite limited opportunities for those prisoners who did not meet the threshold for participation in offending behaviour programmes. Those who were eligible could normally access programmes prior to release. Public protection arrangements were not sufficiently robust and the prison had only recently introduced resettlement initiatives capable of supporting sufficiently the approximately 30 men discharged each month.

Overall, and despite some criticisms, this report reflects some very good findings and some excellent outcomes for prisoners at Littlehey. The prison had a clearly defined function and held a substantial number of elevated risk men in safe and respectful conditions. Prisoners benefited from a very good daily regime and we saw examples of good practice. Going forward, the prison’s main priorities are to assess and reduce the risks of the prisoners it holds, and to prepare those being released for successful resettlement into the community. 

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                 July 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

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