HMIP Inspections, Moorland

The prison was inspected during late 2012, at the time when it was likely that the prison was being privatised during 2013. That decision was ultimately reversed and the prison remains in public ownership. In his report on the inspection held in February 2016 the inspector said:

“HMP Moorland holds around 1,000 prisoners, of which around 250 are foreign national offenders and 340 are sex offenders. The prison is also in the process of adapting to a new role as a resettlement prison for the area. The recent history of the prison has been one of considerable uncertainty and disruption. At one point, the prison had been earmarked for privatisation before this plan was abandoned at a late stage. It was also suggested to the inspection team that the benchmarking process had been particularly challenging for Moorland.

We were invited by the prison’s leadership team to take note of the progress made at the prison in the face of its difficult recent past and it is fair to say that the introduction of a sex offender treatment programme, in response to the prison being re-roled as a national resource for holding sex offenders, has been a significant achievement. It is also noteworthy that since the last inspection, the prison has made huge strides in improving its grading for ‘purposeful activity’ from ‘poor’ to ‘reasonably good’.

However, the prison is facing some immense challenges, and the progress that has been made will prove to be fragile if these challenges are not met. In particular, the threat posed to the stability of the prison by the impact of new psychoactive substances (NPS) is severe, and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Despite some positive initiatives, including improved perimeter fence patrols  and good liaison with local police, it appears to be a deteriorating picture. Forty-eight per cent of prisoners now say that it is easy to get drugs at Moorland, compared to 28% at the last inspection. Every day, there are several ‘acute health incidents’ due to NPS, and 13% of prisoners surveyed said  that they had developed a drug problem since being in Moorland. The consequence of this appeared to be an increasingly violent environment with higher numbers of fights and assaults than at similar prisons and than at our last inspection, and with almost one in five prisoners saying they feel unsafe currently. In the face of this, the lack of an integrated approach across the whole prison to the management of NPS is unacceptable. The inspection team reported that the ‘drug strategycommittee met only inconsistently, was poorly attended and failed to provide a strategic action plan’ which was indicative of this problem.

The fact that the challenge provided by NPS has yet to be tackled effectively is perhaps not so surprising when it appears that there are other less serious, but nevertheless important issues, that are causing frustration to prisoners and affecting their relationships with staff. Prisoners have expressed a lack of confidence in the applications system, with the fairness and timeliness of the complaints system, and with the provision of health services. Only 29% of prisoners said they were satisfied with the health services, compared to 47% at the time of the last inspection. The adjudications system appears to have lost credibility as at the time of the inspection there were some 400 remanded cases, many of which would never reach a conclusion. Many of these were administrative transactions that could be dealt with in a more timely and efficient way, which would reduce frustrations and improve relationships between prisoners and staff.

There are real opportunities at Moorland to make progress, but the issues of NPS and inefficiencies in routine transactions that have such a negative impact on prisoners’ experiences need to be addressed. In particular, there is a real opportunity to make progress in embracing the prison’s new role as a resettlement prison, and in delivering treatment programmes for sex offenders.

We saw evidence that many staff wanted to build constructive relationships with prisoners and to address the challenges facing Moorland. It will be the task of a focused and visible leadership team to inspire the staff to grasp the opportunities provided by the new roles that Moorland has assumed.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

April 2016

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons “

 Return to Moorland

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

  • HMP/YOI Moorland,Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP/YOI Moorland (1 – 12 February 2016
  • HMP/YOI Moorland, Unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP/YOI Moorland (3–7 December 2012)
  • HMP Moorland, Announced short follow-up inspection of HMP Moorland (29 November – 3 December 2010)
  • HMP/YOI Moorland, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP/YOI Moorland (6–8 October 2008)
  • HMP/YOI Moorland, Announced inspection of HMP/YOI Moorland (12-16 December 2005