HMP Hull 'reasonably good but self-harm needs to be addressed'

By agency reporter
August 10, 2018

HMP Hull, an inner-city local jail in East Yorkshire holding more than 1,000 men in a mix of modern and Victorian-era accommodation, was found to be “reasonably good” in a range of key aspects of prison life.

Publishing a report on an inspection of Hull in March and April 2018, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that, as in the previous inspection in 2014, the prison was working well in comparison to most other local prisons. Despite overcrowding, HMP Hull had a “strong sense of community.” In 2018, it was again assessed as reasonably good in all four HMI Prisons ‘healthy prisons’ tests – safety, respectful treatment, purposeful activity (including training and education), and rehabilitation. “In the context of the challenges faced by the prison system in recent years, this was not an insignificant achievement”, Mr Clarke added.

Most prisoners – in a population ranging from young adults to the elderly, with sex offenders making up 43 per cent – said they felt safe. Though violence had increased since 2014, inspectors found much of it was relatively minor. Drugs remained a challenge, with drug testing data suggesting a positive rate of 24 per cent, but this was very nearly half the rate of 12 months ago.

Mr Clarke said: “Tragically, since we last inspected, five prisoners had taken their own lives and levels of self-harm had increased drastically.” The prison was working to implement recommendations from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), which investigates deaths, but the quality of case work for prisoners in crisis was still not good enough. Inspectors urged the prison to gain a clearer understanding of why self-harm had increased.

Hull had retained many experienced staff but also had a significant tranche of newer staff, all of whom received good mentoring and support. “We felt this made a significant contribution overall to what we found to be an authoritative and confident yet relaxed staff group. Most prisoners felt respected.” Overcrowding was a problem, with two-thirds of prisoners sharing cramped cells. There was also a backlog of much-needed repairs and many facilities were in poor condition. However, most prisoners kept their own cells clean and communal and external grounds were well maintained.

Inspectors identified the promotion of equality and diversity as a priority area to be addressed. “Progress was being made, not least through the appointment of a full-time equality manager, but there was still no policy or equalities strategy specific to the prison and consultation with minority groups was limited. The evidence indicated more negative perceptions among some minority groups and some feelings of marginalisation, although investigations when complaints were made were fair and thorough.”

The quality of education and vocational training was good at Hull and Ofsted inspectors judged the overall effectiveness of learning and skills and work to be ‘good’. Rehabilitation and release planning were reasonably good. Sex offenders could benefit from an excellent range of offending behaviour programmes, though public protection arrangements at Hull needed to be much better and improvement needed to be prioritised.

Overall, Mr Clarke said: “HMP Hull is a prison doing its best and this is an encouraging report. Strong leadership and a positive staff culture underpinned, in our view, the maintenance of reasonably good outcomes during challenging times. There seemed to be a strong sense of community at the prison that combined the positive characteristics of a prison proud of its traditions, a culture of competence and an openness to new ideas and creativity. We saw plenty of evidence of managers and staff being keen to embrace new work. There is, as ever, more to do, but the governor and his staff should be commended for their hard work and achievements.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, said: “I’m pleased that this report recognises the good work being done by the Governor and his staff at HMP Hull, who deserve considerable credit for the progress made. We take deaths in custody incredibly seriously and are introducing a new system to ensure each prisoner has dedicated support from a specific prison officer. We will use the recommendations in the report to make further improvements over the coming months.”

Opened in 1870, HMP Hull originally held men and women. In 1939, it became a military prison and was later used as a civil defence depot. It reopened as a closed men’s borstal in 1950 and in 1969, it became one of the first maximum security dispersal prisons. In 1986, HMP Hull assumed its role as a men’s local prison and remand centre. In 2002, four wings as well as a new health care centre, sports hall and multi-faith centre were added, and other parts of the prison, including the kitchen, education and workshops, were refurbished.

* Read the full report here

* HM Inspectorate of Prisons


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