HMIP Inspection of Thorn Cross

The prison was given an inspection in summer 2016, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

Thorn Cross is an open prison in Cheshire holding just over 380 prisoners. In recent years the prison has steadily evolved from being an establishment that held mainly younger prisoners to one that holds prisoners of all ages and sentence lengths. At this inspection nearly three quarters of the population were aged 30 or over and the majority were serving sentences in excess of four years. About 15% of prisoners were serving indeterminate sentences, although all prisoners were in the later stages of their sentences.

Thorn Cross has been a good establishment for many years. When we last inspected in 2012 we reported very positively and this inspection proved to be no exception. The prison remained a well-led and confident institution that delivered very good outcomes for prisoners. Across all of our healthy prison assessment areas – safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement – we were pleased to award our highest judgement.

In our survey very few prisoners indicated they felt unsafe. Good support was provided for new arrivals and there were few violent incidents. The number of prisoners at risk of self-harm was similarly few but those in crisis received adequate support. Security arrangements were proportionate and the number of absconds or temporary release failures was low. Integrated drug services were excellent.

Thorn Cross was a respectful prison. The environment and accommodation were good, although prisoners experienced some problems accessing some basic cleaning items and kit. Staff-prisoner relationships were overwhelmingly positive but more could be done to promote equality. Faith provision was well-integrated and valued by prisoners. Health outcomes were very good and also appreciated by prisoners. Food provision was very unpopular amongst prisoners and our observations indicated arrangements  required significant improvement.

Prisoners had very good time out of their cell s and were able to access good education and vocational training opportunities . Allocation to activity, the quality of teaching and outcomes achieved by learners were all impressive. More work opportunities were now also available but underemployment was evident in some areas. The resettlement needs of most prisoners were being met. Assessments of risk and sentencing planning  were generally good and most prisoners could identify their offender supervisor. Public protection assessment procedures were sound. Resettlement and reintegration services were also good but could benefit from better integration with offender management structures and arrangements.

The number of prisoners working outside the prison on release on temporary licence (ROTL) had reduced in recent years although  the prison was starting to increase that number. While we concluded that ROTL assessment procedures were  appropriate, a number of prisoners expressed frustration about the perceived fairness of the scheme, particularly when compared to schemes at other category D prisons. More should be done to understand and address these negative perceptions.

We concluded our inspection at a time when the prison was about to change governors so faced a time of potential disruption. The prison, however,  was on a firm footing and well placed for the future. Managers and staff were to be congratulated for their hard work and success. We have provided a number of recommendations which we hope will be useful in encouraging yet more improvement at the prison.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

October  2016

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Thorn Cross

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