HMIP Reports, HMP & YOI Peterborough (Female)

The prison was given an inspection in the March 2021.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:

HMP & YOI Peterborough women’s prison in the east of England is a local and resettlement facility for adult and young adult women. It shares the same site and some resources with the adjoining men’s prison and serves the needs of women on remand, and also encompasses the full range of offences and sentences. This report presents the findings from our scrutiny visit and focuses on the treatment of women and the conditions in which they were held during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leadership team had managed the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the prison effectively. There had been very few positive cases over the year and the partnership arrangements with health colleagues had delivered a range of measures to contain potential infections and protect prisoners and staff. Cohorting arrangements were applied inconsistently and this had the potential to undermine the otherwise robust procedures and guidance that existed.

In line with national guidance, the prison had returned to a more restricted regime in January 2021. Women repeatedly described the debilitating impact that being locked in a cell for about 23 hours every day was having and the toll it was taking on their mental health and emotional well-being. Some even told us they had considered suicide, although what we found was a prison that was safe, calm and well ordered. Levels of self-harm remained lower than they were pre-COVID-19 despite a recent slight increase. The case management arrangements for women at risk of suicide or self-harm appeared good, although many women who had been in crisis reported that they did not feel adequately supported. Anti-ligature clothing was used to manage a small number of women at risk more frequently than at other women’s prisons. We were not persuaded that this was always necessary.

The number of recorded violent incidents had declined since the beginning of the pandemic and the environment and regime in the segregation unit were reasonable. T  he use of force had increased and was applied disproportionately to young adults and in the segregation unit, where generally stays were short. We were not confident that across the prison force was always used as a last resort or that governance arrangements were sufficiently robust. Previously high levels of strip-searching had decreased considerably.

Overall, we found that the prison treated the women respectfully, although there was evidence to suggest that there was much more to do to embed an approach that considered more fully the trauma many women had experienced a nd which is so often linked to their offending. The environment was pleasant and women appreciated being able to personalise their cells, but toilets were not sufficiently screened. Showers lacked privacy, deterring a number of women from using them, and there were some issues with the provision of menstrual care products, soap and hand sanitiser. Relationships between staff and women were generally positive, but the regular meaningful contact that is particularly important to women in prison was less evident. Good consultation arrangements had continued throughout the pandemic. Many women were positive about the food, but dinner was routinely served too early, from 3.30pm.

Equality and diversity needed to be promoted better, to make sure that the needs of all prisoners from protected groups were met consistently. The provision for foreign national women was good, but we found some women with disabilities who required better support. Mothers and their babies were well cared for, but concerns that the current restrictions were preventing babies and children from having face-to-face contact with their fathers were understandable.

Health services were broadly equal to those in the community. The perinatal pathway was working well and pregnant women received good support, including from a specialist midwife. However, three-quarters of women in our survey identified as having mental health problems and we were not confident that they were all getting the support they needed promptly.

The regime was predictable, but at best most women could only achieve a maximum of one hour and 15 minutes out of their cell each day and this was often curtailed. The experience for the small number of women on the enhanced unit was much better. Most women did not have enough to keep them purposefully occupied –    work and vocational opportunities were limited, and the education provision was too narrow, although the achievement of qualifications was high.

Women received effective support to help them maintain contact with their children and families, particularly in the absence of social visits. The Purple Visits system (see Glossary of terms) was now very well used. In-cell telephones and additional credit were valued, as was the well-used email contact scheme.

The arrangements to support women to progress through their sentences had continued. The case management of individual sentences was appropriately prioritised and included some face-to-face contact from prison offender managers. A small number of women had completed offending behaviour programmes. Some weaknesses in public protection arrangements had been identified previously but we found signs of improvement and there were now no areas of serious concern.

There was some good work to support women on their release. Despite this, many were released either without any housing or in to emergency, short-term accommodation. This was not directly the fault of the prison but was symptomatic of a broader concern about the provision of suitable accommodation for women leaving prison.

Leaders described recovery plans (see Glossary of terms) that were ready to be implemented as soon as they were given permission to relax the current restrictions, although they also suggested an intent to progress with extreme caution. The management of risk will clearly need to develop as new advice is received.

This was a reasonably good visit, with a number of encouraging features. This report identifies nine areas of notable positive practice and also highlights eight key concerns and recommendations that we hope will assist the prison further to improve outcomes for the women in their care.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
March 2021

Return to Peterborough 

The full reports can be found by following the links below to the Ministry of Justice web site: