The prison was given an inspection in late 2020, and 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:
This report presents the findings from our scrutiny visit to HMP/YOI Hindley on the conditions and treatment of prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hindley is a category C training and resettlement prison near Wigan, holding up to 590 adult male prisoners; at the time of our visit, nearly a quarter of the population were under 21. About half of the prisoners were serving long sentences of four years or more.
The management team had worked well with health care staff and Public Health England to control the spread of COVID-19. There had been only one confirmed case among prisoners: one had contracted the virus while in hospital at the start of the pandemic. The prison had been designated an outbreak site on 1 December following confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff on F wing. Measures that included wearing face masks, further regime restrictions and limiting prisoners’ movements to and from F wing, the segregation unit and in the gate had suppressed the spread of the virus. Quarantine arrangements in the reverse cohort units (RCU; see Glossary of terms) for those in their first 14 days at the prison and shielding arrangements for prisoners vulnerable to the virus had been implemented appropriately.
Although COVID-19-safe procedures were clearly displayed throughout the prison, staff did not adhere to social distancing measures. The mandatory requirement for staff to wear fluid-resistant face masks throughout the prison following the outbreak on F wing was withdrawn by the governor during our visit. Face masks were still mandated for some parts of the prison, including the reception and the gate, but were optional on the residential wings.
Some recovery plans (see Glossary of terms) had been approved, but implementation had been set back by further national and local community restrictions in response to the second wave of the virus. Social visits, which had been resumed at the end of July, were subsequently suspended on two separate occasions. The amount of time out of cell for most prisoners had increased since the start of the pandemic to a 45-minute session in the morning and another 45 minutes in the afternoon when they could shower, exercise outdoors and undertake other domestic activities. The two gyms had also recently reopened, which prisoners appreciated. Prisoners in the RCU or who were self-isolating did not get sufficient time out of their cells. The new governor, who began in September, was consulting staff and prisoners to learn lessons from the pandemic and retain positive practice for future recovery plans.
Strategic meetings, which had been suspended at the start of the pandemic, were reconvened, but some still did not have enough oversight or focus. The safer custody meeting was held every two months, which was not frequent enough, and it was not sufficiently responsive. Although violence and self-harm had declined at the start of the pandemic, the number of incidents had later risen towards pre-pandemic levels. The prison did not have a cohesive strategy to tackle this. The recent reintroduction of mandatory drug tests had yielded a positive rate of 59% in the first month, which was very high. The prison was taking steps to reduce the supply of drugs, but psychosocial support for prisoners with drug and alcohol problems was very stretched.
The care of those at risk of self-harm was reasonable. Staff checked on the well-being of all prisoners regularly, and those with high risks or needs received support through regular key work sessions. In our survey, only 13% of prisoners said they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. Prisoners who had chosen to self-isolate because they felt unsafe reported that they had few opportunities to spend time in the open air.
We noticed that relationships were good and interactions between staff and prisoners positive and, in our survey, a majority of prisoners said that most staff treated them with respect. Living conditions had improved since our last inspection in 2017. Although prisoners on the four older wings (A to D) occupied small cells that were unsuitable for adults, the residential areas were clean and well kept.
Prisoners, officers and managers carried out regular cell checks for damage, lack of equipment and cleanliness. Meetings that were held to gather prisoners’ views and suggestions had been suspended at the start of the restrictions and replaced by ‘decency representatives’ on each wing. They met frequently with managers during the early weeks of COVID-19, and several practical improvements had been made.
Health services were well led and there was a good team ethos. A flexible response made sure core services were maintained throughout the pandemic. As a result, there were no significant waiting times for any clinical services apart from dentistry. A good range of mental health support was available, including additional welfare support, which was being provided in response to an increase in demand across the prisoner population since the pandemic had begun.
According to the prison, almost a quarter of prisoners were engaged in work outside their cells. In-cell activity packs had been provided from the start of the pandemic, at first through the chaplaincy. Once education staff had resumed work in the establishment in August, they introduced a range of in -cell learning packs covering the full range of education provision, adapted in many cases to the needs of individual prisoners. Some face-to-face classes were being held in interview rooms, which had been created on each wing. A commendable range of enrichment activities had also been organised.
The uptake of video calls and social visits, when they were able to take place, had been low. All prisoners had in-cell telephones and could use them 24 hours a day, which helped them maintain family contact. Prisoners also used iPads when there were compassionate reasons for doing so, which included contacting children with learning difficulties. Partners of Prisoners (a charity providing support for families of prisoners) had remained on site throughout the pandemic and dedicated staff had adapted and increased the support they could offer.
Some face-to-face contact between prisoners and offender managers had been resumed, so that sentence progression could be planned, and weekly surgeries had recently started on each wing. There was an extensive backlog of about five months of calls waiting to be listened to where prisoners were subject to public protection monitoring, potentially putting the public at risk. Delivery of offending behaviour programmes had been suspended since March, which meant that many prisoners left Hindley without having their behaviour needs addressed. Although the community rehabilitation company relied on prisoners completing self-assessment paper questionnaires for resettlement planning, some face-to-face contact with prisoners who were considered the most vulnerable had begun. Resettlement boards involving wider prison partners had also been reinstated.
Staff and prisoners had managed well since the start of the pandemic, balancing the need for restrictions to remain COVID-19-safe with some creative adaptations, which allowed for support to be provided where needed. Positive relationships between staff and prisoners had been a strength, and the impetus to maintain decent living conditions had continued throughout the COVID-19 period. The challenge remains for the prison to understand better and tackle rising levels of violence as well as continue to implement positive practice developed during the pandemic in future recovery plans.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:
- HMP/YOI Hindley report (PDF), Report on a scrutiny visit to HMP/YOI Hindley by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (8 and 15–16 December 2020)
- HMP Hindley, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Hindley (4 –14 December 2017)
- HMP Hindley, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Hindley (4-15 July 2016)
- HMYOI Hindley, Unannounced inspection of HMYOI Hindley (3 – 14 March 2014)
- HMYOI Hindley, Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (13 November 2012)
- HMYOI Hindley, Unannounced inspection of HMYOI Hindley (19-23 November 2012)
- HMYOI Hindley, Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (1-2 August 2011)
- HMYOI Hindley, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMYOI Hindley (6-8 September 2011)
- HMYOI Hindley, Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (24-25 January 2011)
- HMYOI Hindley
- Announced inspection of HMYOI Hindley (19-23 October 2009)
- HMYOI Hindley, Summary of questionnaires and interviews: Children and young people’s self-reported perceptions (21-22 September 2009)
- HMYOI Hindley, Pre-opening inspection of HMYOI Hindley (3-5 March 2009)