Sunday, 20 May 2018

Prison Conditions and Suicides Linked

Last week saw publication of the full report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons into conditions at HMP Nottingham and the issuing of an 'urgent notification' to the Secretary of State. One wonders how Michael Spurr at HMPPS keeps his job, let alone earns a bonus. This from the press release:-

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, said:

“We published an immediate response to the Chief Inspector’s concerns on 14 February and have today published a comprehensive plan setting out the practical actions we are taking to improve conditions at HMP Nottingham. Drug testing has been increased, specialist staff are working with vulnerable prisoners and safety is the absolute priority for the Governor and staff every day. We have strengthened management arrangements, are providing external support and will monitor progress closely over the coming months.”

This from the Guardian:-

Prisons inspector condemns 'appalling' suicide rate at Nottingham jail

The chief inspector of prisons in England and Wales has expressed fears that inmates at HMP Nottingham are killing themselves because they cannot face conditions in the “dangerous, disrespectful, drug-ridden jail”.

In what the prisons inspectorate (HMIP) calls one of its most disturbing reports in recent years, Peter Clarke reveals he invoked for the first time a new “urgent notification” process during the inspection of HMP Nottingham in January, which calls on the justice secretary to publish an emergency action plan.

Clarke discovered there had been eight apparent self-inflicted deaths between inspections in February 2016 and January this year, and a ninth in the weeks after the most recent visit, part of what he called an “appalling and tragic” picture of suicide and self-harm in Nottingham. “The record of failure, as set out in this report, cannot be allowed to continue,” he said.

“For too long prisoners have been held in a dangerous, disrespectful, drug-ridden jail. My fear, which may prove to be unfounded, is that some could face it no longer and took their own lives.” The prisons minister, Rory Stewart, visited the prison after the urgent notification was issued and an improvement plan has been implemented.

HMP Nottingham is a category B prison that can hold about 1,000 men and young adult men. Between inspections, HMIP found eight prisoners had taken their own lives, with four of these deaths occurring over a four-week period during the autumn of 2017. Levels of self-harm were deemed by inspectors to be far too high with 344 occurrences recorded in the six months leading up to the inspection.

Reported violence had not reduced since the previous inspection and remained high, inspectors said. There had been 103 assaults against staff in the preceding six months, 198 incidents in which prisoners had climbed on to the safety netting between landings and 305 incidents involving prisoners under the influence of drugs. Combined, this led to “an atmosphere of tension and unpredictability around the prison”, the report said.

There had been nearly 500 uses of force by prison officers in the six months before the inspection, the report added. During the inspection, 40% of inmates told inspectors they felt unsafe on their first night, 67% said that they had felt unsafe at some point during their term in Nottingham and 35% said they felt unsafe at the moment they were asked.

More than half of prisoners said drugs were easily available and 15% indicated they had acquired a drug problem since entering the prison. During drugs tests, nearly 33% tested positive when new psychoactive substances (NPS) were included. 

The inspectorate found that the “inexperience of many staff” was behind some of the problems with about half of wing-based workers in their first year of service. The urgent notification protocol was triggered on 17 January to raise significant concerns regarding the treatment and conditions for prisoners in Nottingham.

At the same time, the acting prisons and probation ombudsman, Elizabeth Moody, who investigates deaths and complaints in prisons, raised similar concerns with the Ministry of Justice. She said: “The chief inspector is right to highlight the apparent inability of the prison to learn lessons and I agree that until it can demonstrate progress in this critical area the risk of future deaths will remain high.”

Stewart said:

“Through the new urgent notification process, we have quickly and decisively begun to address the very grave issues at HMP Nottingham. I personally visited HMP Nottingham immediately after the urgent notification process was triggered to see the conditions on the ground and to talk through the improvement plan. As the chief inspector recognises, there have already been a number of improvements – including increased staff support, new violence and drug reduction strategies, and specialist staff to tackle substance abuse. We remain absolutely committed to turning HMP Nottingham around.”


Rory Stewart looks like someone who might actually do something and was interviewed by Jon Snow on Ch4 News:-

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart: ‘I will be judged on whether I can demonstrate I can turn round a prison like Nottingham’


  1. He is saying a lot of the right things. Hoping the NoJ ministerial revolving door doesn't spin him out before he is tested on his words. It is sharp of him to talk about the need to engage the public on this, and his heart seems to be in the right place, but Probation will have an uphill fight to get even into even the slipstream of his attention to the Prisons, and then he would have an uphill fight to get a re-overhaul of Probation approved by his senior, and his party. Napo had better get a GS installed and get some serious strategic lobbying on the go PDQ. So a glimmer of optimism but lots of ifs.

    1. Young Gun Rory on Twitter: "I spoke to @jonsnowC4 and @Channel4News yesterday evening about the situation in HMP Nottingham and how we can improve our prisons"

      But far greater effort had been spent twittering about the 'royal wedding'

      He was once a master of diplomacy, negotiation & relatively fearless; Sadly his generous ministerial salary & the demands of family are now over-ruling his once strong, independent heartfelt views.

  2. Almost 40% of prisoners reported either being verbally abused, threatened or assaulted by prison officers. The prison had body cameras but they weren't being worn for 'administrative' reasons. When force was used, incident reporting, reviews and governance was was either poor or weak. The inspectorate expressed concerns about disproportionate force, which is otherwise known as brutality; and expressed concerns about high numbers of inexperienced prison officers. There is evidence in the report that considerable abuse of prisoners going on and it needs rooting out before it becomes endemic.

    1. The Tory austerity programme has seen addiction services mental health services and all kinds of other support networks either being axed or cut back so severely they are no longer fit for purpose.
      Those cuts have in turn created a much quicker route into prison for many that really have no business being there.
      Prison is no longer a place where people are sent as a last resort, it's become an all encapsulating institution where those with complex social issues are sent because theres nowhere left to send them.
      It adds to the problem rather then finding solutions.
      I note too a lot of reports in the last few weeks are concerned that the prison population is almost at capacity, so conditions are bound to only get worse.
      I feel that the prison crisis can't be fixed by just focusing on the prison system in isolation. Much of the prison problem is created on this side of the wall. Prison only reoresents the "middle" bit, attention needs to be paid to whats going wrong pre custody and post custody, the road in and the road out. They too are big and important contributers to the prison crisis.


    2. The prison population stands at 83,229 today and grows daily.
      Given the current ratio of staff to prisoners, inactivity drugs and mental health issues, it's not surprising that prison conditions and suicides are linked.
      What is surprising is that there isn't even more.

    3. Death is the tory party policy the poor the jailed the ill .


  3. Rather than to go out on a limb and fix the problems, Rory is asked to not be judged on what he can’t fix. That is not good enough, so don’t be fooled with his approach. The rest of us cannot goto work and ask only to be judged on what we’re good at.

  4. And while they bang on about this “urgent notification” system the reality is that the problems at HMP Nottingham have been widely documented since 2017 and which an inspection report identified in 2016. They’ve had over 2 years to fix it and nothing was done.

    1. Aug 2016 NOMS Action Plan

      "recommended" - response

      "NOMS should ensure that the next governor of Nottingham has sufficient time in post to build upon the recent progress" - The new Governor is now in post having taken up the role on 1 June 2016 - Tom Wheatley

      "There should be a therapeutic area or inpatient unit to cater for the high level of men with significant mental health needs" - This will be subject to obtaining the relevant NOMS/ NHS funding for additional officers and the specialist healthcare staff

      "Determined efforts should be made to ensure that all wing staff treat prisoners with decency and respect, provide support when needed" - 10% check of personal officer entries made by staff

      "All new arrivals should have a speedy, comprehensive and efficient reception, including prompt access to a GP" - A bus to bed review has been conducted and further proposals will be developed to reduce the time prisoners spend in reception.

      "All acts of self-harm should be recorded and prisoners subject to ACCT procedures should receive appropriate care from well trained staff" - A nominated member of the safer custody team will interrogate the daily operations report to ensure that all self harm incidents are recorded... Training in Safer Custody and Mental Health will be included in the overall establishment training plan subject to resources and/or availability.


      Dated Feb 2018, which includes...

      The national Operational System and Assurance Group, with input from the national Prison Safety Team, will conduct a comprehensive safety audit at HMP Nottingham - 7 Feb 2018

      The Challenge, Support and Intervention Plan (CSIP) case management of prisoners at raised risk of harming others will be introduced - 31 March 2018

      Additional resources will be provided to the establishment immediately to clear the backlog of security intelligence reports - 21 March 2018

      Capital Funding has been provided to create two private interview rooms within the prison’s reception area - 1 April 2018 (NB: In 2016 the recommendation was that "All new arrivals should have a speedy, comprehensive and efficient reception, including prompt access to a GP and privacy for confidential interviews.")

      Health commissioners to provide additional funding of approximately £200k/year to enhance 7 day a week mental healthcare - 1 April 2018

      Given the existing 23 month lag, I wonder how much has actually been achieved to date?

    3. Is 23 months sufficient time for the "next governor of Nottingham... to build upon the recent progress"???

      Is NOMS/HMPPS really fit for purpose?

      Isn't it time that Spurr simply fucked off - either by resigning & pocketing his pension or by being sacked & losing everything?

  5. I listened tonight to a law in Action Programme about Ayslum and the law - a solictor said the only thing that ensures the Government change processes and Rights etc., is when they lose legal actions -

    That is obviously true of much in relation to prison and parole and I doubt it will change much with any Minister, especially a Conservative or Lib Dem - including Rory Stewart.

    I have seen so many new ministers say in some form or another - just give me some time and our fresh start will bring positive changes - then they get moved if they are anygood and if they are no good like Mr Grayling and Lord McNally the Lib Dem one - what they say is irrelevant anyway.

    The other thing that causes them not to carry through what they say is a GeneraL Election.

    The Labour party in the East of England have emailed members about this possibility today

    "Dear Andrew,

    I don't know whether you've seen but there has been a lot of talk in the press today about the prospect of a snap General Election in the autumn.

    It has been reported that Tory MPs went back to their constituencies this weekend and began taking steps ahead of a snap general election:

    We simply cannot afford to be caught by surprise.

    Here in the East, we've started making preparations for an early General Election but we need your help.

    Can you help us pay for vital campaign support in our most marginal seats

    After the last General Election, Jeremy challenged us all to stay on a permanent campaign footing - let's step up and meet that challenge.

    Best wishes,

    The Team

    Labour East

    Reproduced from an email sent by Labour East. Promoted by Hollie Ridley on behalf of Labour East both at Unit 1 Whitehall Estate, Flex Meadow, CM19 5TP."


    1. Regarding that politics Home article linked above - the first comment - below the line seems apposite to me.

      It begins: -

      "You can tell when tories are planning a 'snap' election, when they start to reverse policies and promise to spend money. Like paying for replacing flammable cladding on high rise public buildings, 12 months late, and promising more money for the NHS, over a few years."


      Clearly as might have been anticpated the day after the EU Referendum - HM Government are in a right mess over taking appropriate action about the Referendum Result - and more elections cannot be ruled out - The last General Election failed to resolve matters and as happened in 1964 and 1972 another election in within two years is a genuine possibility _ I believe even if we have had two in the last three or four years already.

      It is only by changing the number of MPs who support the ruling party that policy can be definitely implemented unless there is some sort of coalition Government/ or Government of National Unity and I doubt that such would be attempted without another General Election, although some restructuring maybe essential to get us through the self inflicted mess created by Mr Cameron and Co and reinforced by Mrs May and her band of divided followers.

  6. Blog suggestion - Isn't It Time Spurr Fucked Off? A selection of articles & commentaries which highlight his many failures & ever growing bonus payments might begin to focus the mind of Young Rory Stewart, ambitious MP for Borders & Penrith. [The 'Marriage of the Thistle and the Rose' took place at Stirling Castle in 1503 between King James IV and Princess Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England. This union of the Scottish and English Royal families eventually led in 1603 to the succession of a Stewart (now with a change of spelling) to the throne of England. The Union of the Crowns (Scottish Gaelic: Aonadh nan Crùintean; Scots: Union o the Crouns) was the accession of James VI of Scotland to the thrones of England and Ireland, and the consequential unification for some purposes (such as overseas diplomacy) of the three realms under a single monarch on 24 March 1603.]