The Home Secretary needs to act and ensure that Stockton Holme House prison gets the support it needs to respond to a damning report by inspectors who found a catalogue of problems when they held an unannounced inspection earlier this year.
And Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has written to her demanding that she puts in the necessary leadership to address the failure to fully implement recommendations, on everything from safety of staff and prisoners and escalating violence to education and rehabilitation.
The inspection is measured over four ‘healthy prison areas’ – safety, respect, purposeful activity, and rehabilitation and release planning. Of these, three areas have remained at the same ‘not sufficiently good’ level since the last inspection. These are safety, respect, and rehabilitation and release planning. The final area, purposeful activity, has slipped from being rated ‘reasonably good’ in 2017 to ‘not sufficiently good’.
At the last inspection in July 2017, 62 recommendations were made. As of the latest inspection, just 24 of those have been achieved, a further 8 partially achieved and 29 remain unachieved. One was determined to be no longer relevant.
One in five prisoners reported feeling unsafe at the prison. The levels of overall violence were found to be a similar level to comparative prisons but there has been a sharp increase in assaults against staff and inspectors found little evidence of a strategic plan to address this. Three prisoners had killed themselves since the last inspection and incidences of self-harm had more than doubled. The quality of assessment of those prisoners at risk of self-harm and suicide varied greatly.
Time out of cells was also found to be insufficient for a category C prison and while recreational facilities were good and well equipped, there remain problems with access. Many cells are not currently fit for purpose, with broken furniture and overcrowding remaining an issue.
“I’m extremely concerned to read this damning report which shows many failings inside Holme House – I know the prison staff have tried to do their best in the most difficult of circumstances.
“But is clear from reading the report that there are management failings across the prison but that goes all the way back to the Home Office which has failed to ensure that the prison has made the progress it should have.
“In my letter to the Home Secretary I will be highlighting the fact that the number of prisoners has doubled in the lasts 28 years since it opened yet there are now fewer prison officers than in 1992.
“I will also be questioning the Home Office approach to training, education and health care. The Department’s own research shows that these are the things that enable rehabilitation and a second chance and prevent reoffending. That clearly isn’t happening when a third of prisoners simply aren’t able to get to workshops or training because they’ve been locked up all day.
“Offenders, 80% of whom have drug or other problems at this prison, need to get treatment and training and are extremely vulnerable to re-offending. Presumably almost all of the offenders at a prison like this will either have had a pretty short sentence or be near the end of a longer sentence. It is a risk to the public if prisoners like this aren’t getting the support they need to have a second chance.
“This report has laid out many recommendations across the key areas and I hope to see these implemented swiftly and appropriately. It is vital the Home Secretary prison tackles the prison’s issues with rehabilitation which is essential to keeping re-offending rates low.”