SIGNIFICANT levels of violence, readily available drugs and overcrowding are rife in HMP Hewell, a report has found.
Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisoners, today (Tuesday) highlighted ‘substantial safety concerns’ following an unannounced inspection of the Tardebigge prison.
Inspectors found prisoners at both the closed and open sides reported feeling less safe and more victimised than prisoners at comparable locations. On the closed site levels of violence were significant including a murder in early 2013 and arrangements to confront violence and investigate incidents were inadequate.
Since the last inspection there had been six self-inflicted deaths, all on the closed site, and both illicit drugs and diverted prescription medications were readily available.
Other issues – mainly in the closed site – included use of force increasing, 40 per cent of cells being overcrowded and problems with providing basic services including clothing and cleaning materials. There were also complaints serious allegations against staff had been investigated poorly, while the report found there was much work to do to improve the quality of work, education and training while offender management work was poorly organised and under-resourced.
However inspectors did report prisoners at risk of self-harm felt reasonably well cared for, cleanliness had improved since the last inspection and most prisoners were positive about the levels of respect shown by staff.
Mr Hardwick said Hewell continued to face ‘real difficulties’ and concerns were substantial on the closed side with much to do to make it a more respectful place.
“The prison was not doing the basics properly, as evidenced by poor access to amenities, a weak applications system and poor investigation of sometimes very serious complaints.
“The frustration this created for prisoners was evident in negative outcomes such as bullying and self-harm,” he said.
“A new governor had begun to address basic service provision. A methodical, systematic and incremental approach to the prison’s problems was needed and this process had started.”
Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said he accepted progress had been too slow and a new Governor, who was now getting to grips with issues in a systematic and structured way, had been appointed to lead a performance improvement programme.
“Given that Hewell had tragically suffered a number of suicides, I’m pleased the inspection found that prisoners at risk of self-harm were being well cared for and that relationships between staff and prisoners were positive,” he said.
“This provides a solid foundation to achieve the improvements required and I’m confident that the action taken by the governor will achieve this.”