HMIP Inspections of Deerbolt

The prison was given an inspection in April 2018, 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 Deerbolt is a young offender institution (YOI) and category C adult training prison situated in County Durham. At the time of this inspection it held slightly over 400 men aged between 18 and 24. Three-quarters were aged under 21. The last inspection was carried out in December 2014..

This inspection found that the establishment had maintained its ‘reasonably good’ performance in the areas of safety and respect which, in the broader context of prison performance across the country in recent times, was a creditable performance overall, although there were some clear areas of concern in both of these categories of performance. There had, however, been a decline to ‘not sufficiently good’ in the areas of purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning.

So far as safety was concerned, the amount of violence had gone up, but by the time of this inspection had levelled off; overall, it was not at high levels compared to other similar establishments. There were few prisoners who felt the need to isolate themselves because of fears for their own safety, but more needed to be done to support victims of violence. There were also clear indications that more attention needed to be paid to the governance of the use of force by staff. Body-worn video cameras were not consistently used, and footage was not reviewed as often as it should be. Where force had been used, there were too many missing staff reports. Documentary and video evidence reviewed during the inspection did not always show that de-escalation techniques had been used appropriately.

The presence and use of illicit drugs in the prison was becoming an increasing problem. While there was a drug supply reduction strategy in place, and a number of initiatives were being taken to tackle the problem, there needed to be more analysis and evaluation of what worked. Only then would it be possible to make an informed judgement as to which measures would be effective or proportionate as part of the overall strategy. Demonstrable effectiveness in terms of the disruption to drug supply, together with clear evidence of the harm caused by drugs, will help to build a powerful argument in any discussion as to the proportionality or otherwise of measures that are being taken. In our survey, 16% of prisoners told us that they had acquired a drug habit since being in Deerbolt, which showed the importance of addressing this issue. A notable initiative was that the prison had acquired its own drone as an added security measure.

In terms of purposeful activity for prisoners, it was disappointing to find that some 35% of men were locked in their cells during the working day, which was simply not good enough for a training prison. This figure had risen from 25% at the time of the last inspection. In addition to this, some 33% told us that they were out of their cells for less than two hours per day which, given the age of the population, was unsatisfactory. At the time of the last inspection there were enough activity places, but that was no longer the case. Our colleagues from Ofsted found that the leadership and management of education, skills and work was good, and that there was a clear strategy to raise prisoners’ aspirations. There should therefore be a reasonable prospect that the provision in this area, so vital in a training prison holding young men, will return to its previous standards.

There was a mixed picture in terms of what was being done to prepare prisoners for their release. There was some good individual support, and the work of Nepacs, a charity, is particularly worthy of note. However, in 2017 nearly 180 prisoners were released from Deerbolt, which is not a designated resettlement prison. Despite efforts by the prison , too few men were moved to other prisons where they could take up resettlement opportunities or undertake work to address their offending behaviour prior to their release. It was also of concern that there were a small number of sex offenders placed at Deerbolt, which could not provide appropriate support for this group. Some community rehabilitation company (CRC) provision had been purchased to fill some of these gaps, but it was far from clear that this was effective, and offender supervisors and the CRC needed to work together far more closely to prepare prisoners for release.

There was much that was very positive about HMYOI Deerbolt, and I hope that this report makes that clear. The issues that have been identified where some improvement is needed, particularly in those areas where there has been a decline since the last inspection, are actually amenable to management intervention. Much can be done within the establishment, but some matters will require support from regional or national management, and I hope very much that this will be forthcoming as it was clear that the management and staff wanted to build on the generally good relationships between prisoners and themselves, and to do their best for the young men in their care.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
July 2018
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Deerbolt

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