HMIP Inspections of Warren Hill

The prison was inspected in October 2015. The full report of this and previous inspections and questionnaires can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In the latest report the inspectors said:

“HMP Warren Hill is situated in Suffolk and for many years held boys aged between 15 and 18 years of age. This was the situation when we last inspected the prison in March 2013. In September 2013 the prison was decommissioned as a young person’s prison and the final boy left in January 2014. In December 2013 it was decided that the prison would re-role to hold category C adult male prisoners with a sentence of four years and over. At around the same time the prison was commissioned to provide the therapeutic community (TC) because a similar facility was closing at HMP Blundeston. The TC was finally moved to the prison in February 2014. In May 2014 the prison was also asked to provide a post-treatment psychologically informed planned environment (PIPE) unit, which opened in June of that year.

 In September 2014 the prison was again re-roled, this time to pilot what was termed a progression regime. This aimed to provide a regime for men on indeterminate sentences who had previously absconded, failed to return from a period of release on temporary licence (ROTL), attempted to escape or had been convicted of a criminal offence while in the community on licence. The then Secretary of State had decided that such men could not be placed in open conditions or considered for ROTL prior to release, so a progression regime needed to be developed to allow them to demonstrate to the parole board future suitability for release through a programme of risk reduction in a closed prison.

Given the sheer volume of change over the last couple of years the prison had made remarkable progress in developing good outcomes for the prisoners held. We found the prison to be safe and providing good care for new arrivals and those who were vulnerable. Levels of violence were very low, as were incidents of self-harm, and when problems were experienced staff were well equipped to address the challenges faced.

Excellent relationships between staff and prisoners were at the heart of all that was good at Warren Hill. This started on arrival where the informal and friendly reception area sent a clear message to arriving prisoners about the ethos of the prison. This was reinforced by a staff culture which emphasised a professional, caring but challenging approach. All prisoners, regardless of where they were located, were allocated a personal officer or key worker, and unlike many other prisons we visit this was a meaningful relationship, founded on decency, which aimed to encourage prisoners to take personal responsibility for their actions, and reduce their risk of reoffending. As an approach it promoted respect and also contributed to the overall safety of the prison. Crucially, this culture was key to the resettlement work being undertaken, and permeated all aspects of life at the prison, including the progression regime, TC and PIPE.

Resettlement work was central and focused on facilitating the therapy taking place in the TC, the post-treatment consolidation in the PIPE and supporting risk reduction in the progression regime. The key worker scheme effectively supported efforts by the offender management unit, external offender managers and the prisoner to address their risk. The enhanced behaviour monitoring (EBM) review structure was effective and aimed to systematically capture observations and reflections about prisoner behaviour, and linked this to targets related to risk factors which were set on arrival. The whole prison was set up to support this work. It was still relatively early days for the new regime, aspects of which were still new and emergent, and at the time of the inspection the Parole Board had not directed release for men on the progression regime (although subsequently it did direct the first release on licence of a man involved in the regime). However, we felt it was a very promising approach and we had some confidence that men were being supported in reducing their risk.

The weakest area we found was formal learning and skills provision where Ofsted rated provision as inadequate overall. While the prison had been impeded by a number of factors outside of its control, the range of opportunities available, achievements in some key areas and quality of teaching were not good enough. Set alongside this, however, was excellent time out of cell and the intervention regimes themselves. We were impressed by the range of activity associated with the regimes and the opportunities they provided for men to develop their confidence, self-esteem and reduce risk; it was therefore not surprising that in our survey prisoners were still very positive about the activities on offer at Warren Hill. Nevertheless, the weaknesses identified did need to be addressed as a matter of priority.

Overall we felt that some impressive progress had been made at Warren Hill despite the amount and speed of change over the last couple of years. The progression regime had been developed from scratch to meet the needs of the group of prisoners who could no longer progress to the open estate, and it was showing real promise. The level of innovation was impressive, and we felt that many aspects of the regime and approach adopted could provide lessons to other prisons about how resettlement and risk reduction can be placed at the heart of a prison. The prison was very well led and was supported by an excellent staff group; this delivered some outstanding outcomes for prisoners.


Martin Lomas              December 2015

HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons

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To read the full reports follow the links below