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Report on an announced inspection of HMP Usk/Prescoed 19 – 23 April 2010 by HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons. Report compiled July 2010, published Thursday 30th September 2010

concerns:
- very few black and minority ethnic prisoners appeared to progress to the open prison and this required investigation

- Usk needed to improve its focus on some core resettlement and public protection tasks, particularly given the risks posed by the population;

- Work with indeterminate-sentenced prisoners at both sites was underdeveloped.

- more innovative work was needed at Usk to address the issues posed by the significant number of sex offenders denying their offences

- visits arrangements at Usk were particularly poor

Introduction
Usk and Prescoed are two jointly managed, but very different, prisons in Monmouthshire. Usk is a closed category C training prison, mainly holding sex offenders. Prescoed is an open prison, focused on resettling suitably assessed prisoners into the community. This full announced inspection found that both prisons were impressively safe, respectful and purposeful, although – unlike Prescoed – Usk needed to improve its focus on some core resettlement and public protection tasks.

We were impressed by the levels of safety at both sites, which were readily confirmed by prisoners. Early days in custody were generally well managed. There was little violence, bullying or self-harming, and drugs were not a substantial problem. The atmosphere at both prisons was relaxed and, as a result, levels of adjudications, use of force and segregation were all low. There were very few absconds from Prescoed, and relatively few prisoners had been returned to closed conditions.

The environment at both prisons was clean and well ordered, although some cells at Usk were too small for sharing. Staff-prisoner relationships were generally excellent, supported by a reasonable personal officer scheme. Most aspects of diversity were well managed but – as reported at previous inspections – we were concerned to find that there were very few black and minority ethnic prisoners at the open prison. The Director of Offender Management for Wales needs to satisfy herself that this continued anomaly is entirely explicable and justified. The chaplaincy provided a generally good service, and health care was excellent on both sites.

There was plenty of purposeful activity at both prisons, with a good amount of time out of cell at Usk and a full open regime at Prescoed, including an impressive number of suitable prisoners working in the community. Our colleagues from Estyn considered that the management, range and quality of education and learning and skills was generally good. Library access was good as was PE, despite the constraints of the site at Usk.

Strategic management of resettlement was generally sound and informed by some needs analysis. Offender management was generally good at both sites, although the role of offender supervisors at Usk required clarification. Completion of offender assessments were generally timely and, at Prescoed, there were effective mechanisms to identify resettlement need, although more needed to be done to check progress before discharge. Some aspects of public protection arrangements at Usk required improvement, particularly given the risks posed by the population. Work with indeterminate-sentenced prisoners at both sites was underdeveloped. There was reasonable work along most resettlement pathways, but more innovative work was needed at Usk to address the issues posed by the significant number of sex offenders denying their offences. The visits arrangements at Usk were particularly poor.

This is a very positive report on both Usk and Prescoed. Levels of safety were impressive, and relationships between staff and prisoners excellent. Both sites offered plenty of purposeful activity, and there was extensive use of release on temporary licence to support resettlement at Prescoed. At Usk, there were a number of significant weaknesses in resettlement that needed to be addressed. Nonetheless, staff and managers deserve considerable praise for what they have achieved at two disparate sites.

As at other Welsh prisons we have visited recently, staff raised concerns with us about suggestions from national managers that there may changes to their prisons' role, particularly Usk. Clearly, no prison can be immune from change in the current economic climate, but care should be taken to sustain the hard-won achievements that we have identified at Usk and
Prescoed.

Nigel Newcomen HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons

Last updated 29 September, 2010