A NEW report has found that inexperienced prison officers at HMP/YOI Hindley were struggling to manage a very challenging prison dominated by a “tsunami” of drugs, high levels of violence and self-harm and failing infrastructure.

Hindley was facing serious staffing challenges, with a rate of attrition of officers in the top ten of prisons nationally, a high number leaving within their first year of employment. More than 40 per cent of basic grade officers had less than one years’ experience, and 58 per cent had less than two years.

This very inexperienced cohort of officers were managing a very challenging population, with a high proportion of prisoners having links to organised crime, high levels of violence and self-harm and more than half of prisoners testing positive for illegal drugs during routine drug testing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, inspectors found that staff lacked confidence in challenging poor behaviour.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor, said: “Hindley is facing an uphill battle: many prisoners arriving at the jail had an existing drug problem, and a large minority had known links to organised crime, so it’s unsurprising that the prison had a near tsunami of drugs. The situation was so bad that mandatory drug testing found more than half of prisoners were on drugs at any one time. Combined with the indolence, boredom and frustration created by a really poor regime, and some very inexperienced staff, it is no surprise that the prison just wasn’t safe enough.”

Time out of cell was limited and there were not enough activity places for the prison population. Almost a third of prisoners were unemployed and 28 per cent were in part-time jobs. Unemployed prisoners typically had less than three hours a day out of their cells. The prison’s new and recently implemented daily regime was causing prisoner and staff frustration because employed prisoners did not have enough time for domestic activities, association, and gym.

Accommodation at Hindley was cramped and a fifth of prisoners lived in overcrowded conditions. The showers lacked ventilation and common areas were mouldy and dirty. The prison, built in the 1960s and extended in the 1980s, was showing its age and needed investment, including to upgrade physical security, which would help to reduce the influx of drugs. However, the prison’s radical re-build and expansion programme, that included essential improvements, had been delayed until at least 2027.

Mr Taylor continued: “Despite our criticism and the obvious strategic challenges, there was no sense of helplessness at the prison. Some very good offending behaviour and resettlement work was taking place: the PIPE unit, providing psychological interventions, was impressive, as was the preparedness of leaders to try new ideas and work hard to make improvements. Serious investment cannot come soon enough, but in the meantime building staff capability and confronting drugs, as well as diverting prisoners into useful activity that will motivate them, must be the priorities.”

* Read the full report here.

* Source: HM Inspectorate of Prisons