Released prisoners ‘a significant danger to community’

Wymott Prison, Ulnes Walton
Wymott Prison, Ulnes Walton
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There is a ‘significant risk’ that prisoners at Wymott are likely to re-offend once they are released, a new report warns.

The Ulnes Walton prison holds more than 1,100 prisoners, many of whom have been convicted of sex offences, and in the past, inspectors have reported positively about the prison.

But the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, has voiced some serious concerns following an unannounced visit between June and July.

The report, which has just been published, states: “Waiting times for the sex offender treatment programme were not excessive, but there was no alternative strategy for dealing with those assessed as unsuitable for it.

“This resulted in some being released without having done any recent offending behaviour work.”

Mr Hardwick also determined that:

- Although prisoners reported feeling safe, a significant number of vulnerable prisoners said they felt victimised and bullied;

- There had been three suicides since the last inspection in 2012, but arrangements to support those in crisis were inconsistent;

- There was considerable evidence to indicate the use of drugs was too prevalent;

- Drug availability was high, despite good supply reduction measures;

- Complaints were poorly managed;

- The promotion of equality was very weak and structures to monitor outcomes for minorities were limited, except for older prisoners and those with disabilities, which provided good care;

- The reasonably good quality health care was undermined by long delays and poor access to GPs and the dentist.

Mr Hardwick warned: “There are significant concerns that need to be corrected. The prison cannot continue to ignore the promotion of equality and diversity and poor access to certain key services undermine otherwise good health provision.

“The prison is settled but a significant proportion of the prison’s population, while well behaved in prison, pose significant risks as offenders in the community after release.

“Structures to address and reduce those risks need to improve.”

On the other hand, Mr Hardwick was pleased to find that:

- Prisoners reported feeling safe, and levels of recorded violence and the use of force were low;

- The living accommodation was well maintained and equipped, and prisoners felt respected in their dealings with staff;

- There was an excellent day care facility available for prisoners aged over 60;

- Time out of cell was reasonably good, and learning and skills and work provision was well managed;

- There were sufficient work and training places for most prisoners, and most prisoners achieved accreditation on their courses, supported by effective teaching;

- Work opportunities were good and often took place in workshops equipped to industry standards;

- Support with basic financial issues and debt advice was provided and many prisoners were assisted in opening bank accounts before release.

Mr Hardwick added: “While our overall judgements are mixed, the key messages of this report are positive. Wymott is a settled, safe place with many strengths, first of which is its excellent provision of training and work.”

During inspections, the four tests of a healthy prison are safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement.

At Wymott, purposeful activity was classed as ‘good’, safety was ‘reasonably good’, and respect and resettlement were ‘not sufficiently good’.

A range of recommendations have been made for each concern raised, and Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service, said steps were already being taken to make improvements in the prison’s problem areas.

“I am pleased the Chief Inspector has recognised the strengths Wymott has and that overall it is performing well,” he said. “The Governor has already taken action in line with the recommendations of the report, including a review and strengthening of the local processes for the assessment and management of risk of harm, and will continue to take forward improvements in areas identified in the report.”