HMP Lincoln - serious concerns

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

HMP Lincoln had deteriorated sharply since its last inspection in 2010 and its concerns need addressing as a matter of urgency, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the Lincolnshire local jail.

HMP Lincoln is a Victorian city-centre prison which faced some challenges that were outside its direct control. At the time of inspection, there was speculation about its future role and this may have caused uncertainty and poor morale among staff. It was overcrowded, with about 50% more prisoners than it was certified to hold. The environment was poor and although work was under way to replace those areas that caused most concern, this had not yet been completed. Like other prisons, financial constraints and staffing changes caused difficulty. Managers complained of a lack of support from the centre. However, that does not excuse the very poor inspection findings.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the prison was not safe, with a high number of reported fights and assaults and evident opportunities for bullying;
  • prisoners who were too frightened to leave their wings to go to work but who refused to name the perpetrator were punished by being sent to the segregation unit;
  • care for prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm was very mixed;
  • too many prisoners at risk of suicide were held in the segregation unit with very little to do;
  • prisoners said it was easy to get drugs and alcohol in the prison and there was clear evidence of prisoners developing a drug addiction in the prison;
  • external and communal areas were dirty and although individual cells were generally clean, they were overcrowded with unscreened toilets;
  • work on diversity was poor, with insufficient data collected, but the data there was provided evidence of unequal treatment of black and minority ethnic prisoners, including a disproportionate number segregated;
  • support for foreign national prisoners, such as the provision of interpreting or translated material, was poor;
  • inspectors found a foreign national prisoner who had been held a shocking nine years beyond the end of his sentence;
  • the prison was frequently disrupted by failure of the roll check, whereby numbers of prisoners were miscounted and all movement ceased until the numbers tallied;
  • up to half the prisoners were locked in their cells during the working part of the day and too many were under-occupied in ineffective wing domestic duties;
  • the new academy, which provided good quality work, training and education places, was almost empty and staff were unable to explain why; and
  • offender management was weak.
Inspectors were, however, pleased to find that:
  • staff-prisoner relationships were good, and without this, other problems may have had much more serious consequences;
  • more prisoners than at comparator prisons said staff treated them with respect and more said they had a member of staff they could turn to with a problem;
  • there were good links with one employer and a few prisoners had opportunities to gain valuable work experience; and
  • there was very good support for prisoners' practical resettlement needs, provided by the Lincolnshire Action Trust, who helped prisoners find accommodation, work and education on release and helped men maintain constructive relationships with their families.
Nick Hardwick said:

'This is a very concerning report. HMP Lincoln has some strengths it can build on. Good relationships between staff and prisoners, some good new facilities either established or shortly to become available, and resettlement services that were better than we often see elsewhere. However, this was undermined by a serious lack of professionalism in many areas that compromised safety and the smooth running of the prison. Some of this required further investigation and action by the Prison Service nationally. The inspectorate will announce a date for its return to HMP Lincoln shortly so that the prison has a clear focus on the improvement it needs to put in place urgently.'

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

'I acknowledge that the performance at Lincoln has declined. This is not acceptable and we have taken urgent action to address the Chief Inspector's concerns. The Governor has been replaced and measures are being implemented at pace to improve safety, decency and regime provision across the prison.'

Notes to editors:

  1. View a copy of the report.
  2. 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.
  3. This full unannounced inspection was carried out from 20-24 August 2012.
  4. HMP Lincoln is a category B local prison holding male prisoners.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons on 020 7035 2123 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview with Nick Hardwick.
HM Inspectorate of Prisons

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