HMP & YOI New Hall - much saferWednesday, 29 August 2012
HMP & YOI New Hall was a safer and more decent prison which was helping women to return to the community without reoffending, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced full follow-up inspection of the women’s prison in West Yorkshire.
He warned, however, that the treatment of a small number of the most challenging women was not acceptable.
New Hall was last inspected in 2008, when inspectors found the prison had improved, but there was plenty of scope for further improvement. This inspection found that considerable improvement had taken place and the prison now provided good or reasonably good outcomes for the women it held.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
- women said they felt much safer at the prison, due in part to much better reception and first night procedures within a more supportive environment;
- there was little bullying or violence;
- mental health provision was good and, commendably, nine in ten uniformed officers had been trained in how to support prisoners with mental health problems;
- the drug treatment system responded effectively to a high level of need;
- there had been a significant reduction in self-harm and the number of women on suicide and self-harm procedures since the last inspection;
- staff-prisoner relationships were much improved and more women said they had a member of staff they could turn to with a problem;
- the external environment was generally clean and tidy and dormitories were no longer used;
- the mother and baby unit was an excellent facility;
- women had a reasonable amount of time out of their cells each day and there was plenty of good quality activity provided, which focused on employability;
- there was good offender management of women who were high risk, prolific offenders or serving indeterminate sentences; and
- the prison worked closely with community-based services to support the high proportion of women with drug and alcohol problems.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- the mother and baby unit, though excellent, was underused, and as inspectors have seen elsewhere, one male member of staff was in sole charge at night, which was unacceptable;
- despite good efforts by the prison, 12% of women left the prison without a fixed address;
- the prison’s needs analysis identified high proportions of women who had experienced physical or sexual abuse, but its own resources were inadequate to meet the level of need;
- responses to women whose behaviour caused concern were excessively punitive with too little attempt to tackle the underlying causes;
- many women said drugs were easy to obtain, and diverted medication was also a problem;
- there was little attempt to identify and meet the specific needs of just under 10% of the population who were aged 18 to 21; and
- separation visits, when women had a last chance to say farewell to their children who were being taken for adoption, sometimes unacceptably took place in public in the visits hall during main visits periods.
Nick Hardwick said:
'Overall New Hall has improved. Despite a constantly changing population with high levels of need, most women are held safely and respectfully and given effective help to return to the community without reoffending. However, the treatment of a small number of women who combine the most challenging behaviour with the highest levels of need is not acceptable. There are other relatively small groups of women who have untypical needs which are not being met. The progress the prison has made as a whole should provide a foundation from which to address these remaining concerns.'
Notes to Editors:
- View a copy of the report.
- HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
- This unannounced full follow-up inspection was carried out from 31 January-10 February 2012.
- HMP & YOI New Hall is a closed local women’s prison which holds remand and sentenced female prisoners of all age groups.
- Please contact Barbara Buchanan on 020 7035 2102 or Jane Parsons on 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview with Nick Hardwick.