HMP Dovegate an impressive institution working with high-risk violent men, inspection finds

By agency reporter
July 23, 2018

Dovegate Therapeutic Prison (TP) in Staffordshire, which holds 200 men from across the prison service undergoing intensive programmes to reduce the risk they pose, was found by inspectors to be an impressive institution.

The men, most of whom are serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious offences, live in one of five therapeutic communities (TCs), and an induction unit. The TP is linked to the mainstream HMP Dovegate but was inspected separately.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector or Prisons, said: “The underlying ethos of TCs is that both staff and prisoners have a real say in how the communities are run. Men involved must be willing to be open about their offending and related institutional behaviour and to being challenged by their peers and staff. Therapy is embedded into all TC activities, not just in individual and group therapy sessions. It is a structured, externally validated intervention, and for men who go through the whole process, it lasts approximately two and a half years. Most men in the TP were serving very long determinate or indeterminate sentences.”

Inspectors found Dovegate TP to be a safe prison. Despite the histories of violent offending by many prisoners, there was very little violence in the TP. Men received good support on arrival, including the small number who felt vulnerable and were at risk of self-harm. There had been no self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection in 2013. Dovegate TP was also a respectful prison, with good staff-prisoner relationships at the core of the therapeutic approach. Physical conditions were excellent, as was the external environment, and men felt well cared for, both by staff and their peers. Consultation arrangements were very strong, and the food provided was good. Time out of cell was also good, though teaching and learning was not consistent.

Most men felt they were making progress in the TCs and inspectors were struck by the insights the men had about their past behaviour and offending and about how different and productive their future could be.

Overall, Mr Clarke said: “Dovegate TP was impressive. A national resource, it was part of the offender personality disorder pathway. It worked with men intensively over a period of years to better understand their problematic behaviour, attitudes and thinking patterns and to help them change. Most men who reached the end of the process made progress, and over 80 per cent of respondents in our survey said they felt they had done something at the prison to make it less likely they would reoffend in the future. Learning, skills and work activities needed to better complement the prison’s therapeutic aims, and the clinical model underpinning therapy work needed to be implemented in full. However, in nearly all other respects the work the prison was carrying out was excellent.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, said “I am pleased with this report which rightly recognises the impressive performance and positive environment at Dovegate Therapeutic Community, in particular the constructive staff-prisoner relationships. Many high risk prisoners are benefiting from the intensive work done to support rehabilitation and reduce the risk of reoffending.”

HMP Dovegate was built in 2001 as a category B training prison. It had the first purpose-built custodial TP holding up to 200 residents. A small local prison servicing the courts also exists within the main prison. A TP consists of several distinct therapeutic communities (TCs) in which people choose to live together, support each other, challenge others and be challenged on all aspects of their offending. It aims to alter people’s way of thinking, enabling them to change their lives for the better. The TCs are run democratically, which means that where possible all members of the community are involved in making decisions that affect the community. Prisoners are encouraged to play an active role in their community and a variety of roles and representative jobs are available. Communities are learning experiences and everything was designed to have therapeutic value and provide men with an opportunity to develop within a safe environment.

* Read the full report here

* HM Inspectorate of Prisons


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