HMIP Inspection of Aylesbury

The prison was given an inspection in spring 2017, 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:

“HMYOI Aylesbury is a young offender institution (YOI) holding around 440 young adult men serving the longest sentences for this age group in the country. Most of the population are aged between 18 and 21. Around a third are over 21 and awaiting transfers to the adult prison estate.

At the last inspection of Aylesbury in 2015, we commented on debilitating staff shortages which had negative consequences for prisoners. It is disappointing to report that at this inspection little progress had been made, and some areas had deteriorated further. We found a combination of volatile and frustrated young people, too few staff and many who were inexperienced, and prisoners locked up for long periods with no activity and too little sentence progression. These factors led inexorably to some poor outcomes.

In particular, safety was a major concern. Nearly two-thirds of prisoners reported that they had felt unsafe at some point, and there were high levels  of sometimes very serious violence. During the inspection, we were given several documents which commented that ‘Aylesbury will always be a violent place’, a phrase that was also repeated by  some managers. Senior managers recognised that this fatalism about unacceptable levels of violence needed to change. Mechanisms of accountability for the very high use of force had effectively broken down, and management oversight was very poor. Hundreds of officers’ accounts of use of force, which should have been completed immediately, had not been done at all.

There had been some improvements in our healthy prison test of respect, and health care and chaplaincy staff were particularly effective. However, many residential units were in poor condition and basic standards of decency were not being achieved. It was a sad indictment that prisoners in the segregation unit were reluctant to leave the unit not only because they felt safer there but also because they were more likely to receive showers and basic elements  of regime than those on the main location. Weak management of equality and diversity work was a concern.

Some aspects of activities provision had improved, but time out of cell remained poor and activities were too limited. It was revealing that many young  men behaved well when attending workshops and education, where they were able to engage in purposeful work and where staff had more time to talk with them as individuals. In resettlement, there had been a great deal of work to sustain the provision at a steady but insufficiently good level. Good staff were overwhelmed with work and unable to focus on the tasks they could do well given the time.

Aylesbury showed some areas of considerable potential. Most staff appeared remarkably resilient and wanted to improve the prison. There were excellent areas of innovation, such as the coffee roasting and retail workshop, which provided prisoners with valuable work skills in a realistic work environment. The Aylesbury Pathways Service continued to provide outstanding support to some of the most vulnerable and troubled young men in the prison estate. If the cycle of poor inspections of Aylesbury is to be  broken, these strengths need to be built upon. It is time to stop rediscovering the same problems and to take concerted action to deal with them at all levels. Some areas of concern, such as poor governance of use of force, could be addressed by the establishment. Others, such as staffing and difficulties with securing progressive transfers for prisoners, needed action from Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). The relatively new management team had a clear understanding of the challenges that lay ahead and the commitment to make progress, but needed support to implement our recommendations. Failure to do so yet again cannot be acceptable.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

June   2107                                                                            

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Aylesbury

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