Report on an Announced Inspection of Hydebank Wood YOC

It would be wrong to see this as anything other than a concerning report. Pockets of good practice were evident but, in general, progress was slow and issues to be addressed were fundamental. The prison needs to reassert its key purpose in addressing the needs of vulnerable young men. Their needs should be put first and the prison organised in a way that prioritises their safety, develops mutual respect, and helps them to acquire the skills and resources to enable a sustainable resettlement

Inspection 18 -22 February 2013 by the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and the Education and Training Inspectorate

Inspectors were concerned that:

– Most prisoners reported feeling safe but many felt victimised by other prisoners or staff

– although self-harm incidents were low, attitudes to this issue were sometimes complacent

– management of security was reactive and arrangements often lacked proportionality

– We had limited confidence in the prison’s approach to tackling what was perceived locally to be a drug problem

– promotion of equality lacked any sophistication even in priority areas

– Discrepancies in outcomes and perceptions between Protestant and Catholic prisoners were not well understood or effectively challenged

– In our survey, Catholic respondents were more negative than others about a wide range of issues

– Prisoners disliked the food and food handling was poor

– There was significant regime slippage, frequent and unpredictable lock-downs

– activities were often cancelled at short notice, all of which was fundamentally disrespectful

– Management and leadership of learning and skills were poor

– Was of particular concern that only a small number of prisoners accessed work or education regularly

– Curriculum was too narrow and was not matched to the needs of prisoners, employers or the local labour market

– Coordination of lifer case management – the responsibility of Maghaberry Prison – was poor and there had been no annual lifer reviews since 2011

Chief Inspectors’ Foreword
Hydebank Wood is Northern Ireland’s main young offender facility holding just over 180 young men, although arrangements are complicated by sharing the site with women prisoners (Ash House). In recent years, the lack of continuity in management has been a significant feature which might, in part, have contributed to some disappointing findings at this inspection. Across the range of healthy prison tests we assessed, only in resettlement work were outcomes for prisoners reasonably good. Outcomes in other tests were not sufficiently good or poor. However, the implementation of our previous recommendation ensuring that 17-year-olds would no longer be sent to Hydebank Wood was a commendable improvement.

The overall safety of the institution was a concern. Most prisoners reported feeling safe but many felt victimised by other prisoners or staff. There had been inertia in developing a robust approach to violence reduction, and more needed to be done to challenge poor behaviour effectively. Lessons had not been fully learned from recent deaths in custody, and although self-harm incidents were low, attitudes to this issue were sometimes complacent. Care provided to the most vulnerable could be improved.

The management of security was reactive and arrangements often lacked proportionality, although disciplinary procedures were generally fair. Use of segregation had reduced but the facility and regime were poor. Recorded use of force was not high but systems to ensure accountability for its use were weak. We had limited confidence in the prison’s approach to tackling what was perceived locally to be a drug problem, or in supporting those with drug issues.

The prison was clean and physical conditions were mostly reasonable. We observed some very good staff/prisoner interactions but others which suggested disengagement and indifference on the part of some staff.

The promotion of equality lacked any sophistication even in priority areas. Discrepancies in outcomes and perceptions between Protestant and Catholic prisoners were not well understood or effectively challenged. In our survey, Catholic respondents were more negative than others about a wide range of issues. Faith provision was valued by prisoners. Health care had improved but still had a way to go to provide good outcomes in all areas. Provision for mental health had also improved, although services to support prisoners who self-harmed needed to be better. Prisoners disliked the food and food handling was poor. The menu cycle did not provide the opportunity to have a balanced diet.

Most prisoners spent too long locked in their cells and lacked opportunity to spend time in the open air. There was significant regime slippage, frequent and unpredictable lock-downs, and activities were often cancelled at short notice, all of which was fundamentally disrespectful. Management and leadership of learning and skills were poor and coordination needed to be improved. There were not enough activity places, and what was available was poorly utilised. It was of particular concern that only a small number of prisoners accessed work or education regularly, and that levels of attainment and accreditation were low. The curriculum was too narrow and was not matched to the needs of prisoners, employers or the local labour market. Quality assurance and self-evaluation arrangements were weak and had not identified sufficiently the aspects of the provision that were underperforming. Too many prisoners with low levels of literacy and numeracy did not have their needs met.

However, we found that the library was excellent, the gym offered some good opportunities, and relationships between teachers and prisoners were good. Strategic management of resettlement had improved. There was a detailed strategy and the offender management unit was well established, with every prisoner allocated a sentence manager. Coordination of lifer case management – which remained the responsibility of Maghaberry Prison – was poor and there had been no annual lifer reviews since 2011. The working-out scheme was underused with only a few prisoners involved in the past year. The home leave scheme was working well and public protection arrangements had improved. An appropriate range of offending behaviour programmes was offered, and Parole Commissioners’ requirements were being met.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) funded a range of voluntary groups to assist prisoners and their families with practical matters, such as accommodation, benefits and substance misuse. There was a good visitor centre and parenting courses.

To conclude, it would be wrong to see this as anything other than a concerning report. Pockets of good practice were evident but, in general, progress was slow and issues to be addressed were fundamental. The prison needs to reassert its key purpose in addressing the needs of vulnerable young men. Their needs should be put first and the prison organised in a way that prioritises their safety, develops mutual respect, and helps them to acquire the skills and resources to enable a sustainable resettlement. We have made a number of recommendations that should assist that process.

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About truelabour

Investigative Journalist/Researcher for major media. Exposing the truth and police corruption with in UK police service.Certain forces say their motto is Honesty & Integrity One must ask is it lip service or genuinely meant. CO-OP Labour Party member questioning is the party standing for working class of Britain. Trade Union Activist & promoting diversity,community cohesion within multicultural Britain. Anti fascist speaks out against all foams of discrimination.
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