HMIP Inspections of Warren Hill

The prison was inspected in November 2019. 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 a category C male prison situated in Suffolk near the village of Hollesley. At the time of the inspection it held around 240 prisoners in closed conditions, but as this report makes clear it is a far from typical closed prison.

The last inspection was carried out in October 2015, at which time it was judged to be delivering outcomes at our highest grading, good, in three of the tests of a healthy prison. Only in purposeful activity was the judgement at the lower level (by one grade) of reasonably good. On that occasion we made 27 recommendations, of which a commendably high 78% were achieved. Perhaps it is not surprising therefore that this latest inspection found that the grades to be awarded were exactly the same as in 2015, reflecting a continued commitment to the purpose and ethos of the prison.

Warren Hill is unusual among category C closed prisons in that it is entirely dedicated to delivering a range of services in specialist environments to support long term or complex prisoners towards progression into open conditions or for release into the community. It holds some of the most serious offenders in the prison estate. While to a certain extent they have been ‘selected’ for the unique regime the prison offers, we should not underestimate the risk they pose or the achievements of the prison in managing their behaviour.

Within the prison there is a therapeutic community, a psychologically-informed planned environment (PIPE) and other units delivering what is described as a progression regime. The purpose and features of these various units and programmes are set out in this report and so I shall not describe them in detail in this introduction. Nevertheless, it is notable that this is one of very few establishments that has such an unwavering focus on progression and on offering prisoners the opportunity to demonstrate, when being considered for re-categorisation, parole or release, how they have reduced the risk that they pose.

Warren Hill was the safest category C prison in the country, having the lowest levels of self-harm and violence among comparable establishments. It was a thoroughly respectful place, with strong staff-prisoner relationships being a defining feature. The accommodation was fit for purpose, there was excellent time out of cell and the range of activities, both educational and extra-curricular, was impressive. There were more than enough activities available to keep every prisoner occupied on a full-time basis. However, the food could not be described as anything other than merely adequate, and not all prisoners could afford to supplement what was available by purchasing supplies from the prison shop.

The overwhelmingly positive aspects of the prison were such that we have made very few recommendations. There was one key concern which focused on expanding and improving the education provision, and ensuring that attendance was encouraged on a consistent basis. Otherwise, we made only 11 recommendations. Among these, we have commented on the need to improve the response to complaints, to help staff with their understanding of diversity issues, to do more for prisoners with disabilities and to more carefully monitor the timing at which medication is administered. Yet again, we have found ourselves looking at the issue of how to improve prisoners’ ability to contact their families through the use of video-enabled social media. We are well aware of the potential risks associated with this, but would encourage Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to think innovatively as to how these risks could be managed and trials conducted in appropriate circumstances. It is surely inevitable that at some point in the future this will be seen as an entirely normal feature of prison life, and Warren Hill could well be the type of environment in which the possibilities and benefits could be usefully explored.

We also identified no fewer than 16 features of the prison that we considered to represent good practice. Some of these were obviously more easily delivered in a prison such as Warren Hill than in many others, but nevertheless I would encourage HMPPS to look at them with an open mind and give serious consideration to what could realistically be replicated elsewhere.

 Warren Hill was an excellent facility that benefited from dedicated staff delivering a range of specialist interventions in an atmosphere that encouraged good behaviour. It offered prisoners serving long sentences, many of whom have had little hope of progressing in the past, the chance to begin the often long and difficult path towards release or being placed in open conditions. We commend the approach and achievements at Warren Hill, and hope that the approach that is taken there to underpin effective rehabilitation can be used as an example for other establishments to follow.

 Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
December 2019

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