HMP Lowdham Grange is more violent than its last inspection three years ago
The privately-run training jail, HMP Lowdham Grange, which holds many men serving very long sentences, was found by inspectors to be a mostly respectful jail with reasonably good rehabilitation work.
However, the prison, which is run by Serco, had become more violent since it was last inspected three years ago and there had been a “quite marked deterioration in the provision of education, skills and work.”
This area of purposeful activity was assessed as poor, the lowest assessment.
The report noted that “the number of violent incidents was high and some were serious.”
Much of the violence related to the trade in illicit drugs in the prison.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the prison had an encouraging new violence reduction strategy with a prisoners’ ‘violence hotline’, which was commended as good practice.
Mr Clarke said: “While much of what we saw was good and seemed to us a good foundation for progress, it was too early to say if the approach was working.
"Levels of violence remained high.
“In keeping with the amount of violence evident, use of force had doubled and the use of segregation was also high.
"Oversight and accountability for the use of force and segregation required significant improvement.” The use of technology to scan mail as a potential source of drugs was “a useful initiative” and the availability of drugs had reduced in recent months.
The amount of self-harm in the prison had increased significantly and, since 2015, two prisoners had taken their own lives.
Most prisoners had 'quite good' time out of cell but outcomes in education, skills and work had deteriorated.
Mr Clarke said: “The range of provision was diminished and quality assurance arrangements were lacking. Teaching, learning and assessment outcomes were poor and too few completed their courses.”
On a more positive note, the prison environment was reasonable, although internal areas could have been cleaner.
Access to services was generally very good and included a well-used internal advice line.
Outcomes for minority groups were reasonable but some negative perceptions among these groups required further exploration.
Health services were good but delays in access to some important elements of health care were excessive.
Prisoners could wait up to 64 days for a routine GP appointment.
Mr Clarke added that, in view of the risk posed by many of the 920 men held at Lowdham Grange, it was reassuring that work to support risk reduction and rehabilitation was reasonably good.
Overall, Mr Clarke said: “Our findings at Lowdham Grange were adequate if inconsistent.
"There had been some progress but there was very much the sense that the prison was doing just enough.
"For example, the prison’s level of attention to our 2015 recommendations was very disappointing and a missed opportunity.
"We did see some innovative practice, and recent improvements needed to be embedded.
"There was much more to do, however, to enhance the prison’s very poor training offer.”
Michael Spurr, chief executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, said: “Lowdham Grange holds a challenging long-term prisoner population.
"Outcomes from this inspection confirm that they manage risk, public protection and rehabilitation requirements reasonably well but need to do more on safety and in providing quality education and training for prisoners.
"Serco are committed to improving performance at the prison and we will closely monitor their response to the recommendations in this report.”