THE level of violence is far too high at the closed prison site at HMP Hewell, near Tardebigge.
That’s the verdict of Peter Clarke, chief inspector of Prisons in a report following a recent inspection.
He said prisoners were particularly vulnerable on arrival and ‘that first night procedures were chaotic, staff were overwhelmed and prisoners felt unsafe.’
The availability of drugs remained high, the segregation cells were ‘terrible’ with many overcrowded and inpatient health care facilities were poor.
In addition levels of self harm had increased, four prisoners had taken their own lives since the last inspection in 2014 and the prison had not sufficiently implemented recommendations following investigations into these deaths.
However on the open prison site, the inspector found no safety concerns, vocational training was good and partnerships had been formed to find permanent employment for inmates when they had finished their sentence.
He also praised the work being done to prevent prisoners from re-offending once they are released.
“At the time of the inspection, the deputy governor was in temporary charge and the prison was awaiting the arrival of a new governor,” said Mr Clarke.
“But this uncertainty had not led to lack of leadership; the management team was focused, innovative and committed to tackling the prison’s problems.
“We found improvements in many areas and examples of good practice.
“Nevertheless, very big challenges – operationally, managerially and in terms of resources – were still to be addressed and outcomes for too many prisoners on the closed site were very poor.”
However Andrew Neilson, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “No one should be so desperate while in the care of the State that they take their own life.
“Four men had lost their lives to suicide in Hewell in the two years between this inspection and the previous one, and it is alarming that recommendations made to prevent further tragedies have not been implemented with sufficient rigour.
“The report is the latest in a long line of inspections that make clear the need for urgent reform of the prison system.”
HMP Hewell is a category B local closed prison holding more than 1,000 prisoners. On the same site but half a mile away is the open prison holding 200 more prisoners.
Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service said: “I’m pleased that the chief inspector has acknowledged the progress at Hewell which is to the credit of the former Governor, his Deputy and their team.
“There remains more to do, particularly on safety, but the strong foundations that are now in place will allow the prison to address the recommendations in this report and drive further improvement over the coming months.”