HMP Hull – An Impressive Culture of Reform, But Prisoners Still Locked Up For Most of the Day

An independent review of progress (IRP)at HMP Hull, a category B prison holding around 900 prisoners, showed an encouraging commitment to improvement, although a lack of action in purposeful activity and health care demonstrated that more needed to be done.

Inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons were following up on their visit to the jail in July 2021, where they found that outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good in all four healthy prison areas, having slipped considerably since the previous inspection in 2018. Violence had increased, and inspectors were not confident that use of force was always necessary, proportionate, or safe. A worrying eight self-inflicted deaths and two non-natural deaths had occurred, yet there was no evidence that recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) had led to improvement in prisoner safety. Inspectors found most prisoners locked in their cells for 23 hours a day.

At this IRP inspectors found encouraging signs at the prison, which held a mix of remanded or newly convicted men from the local community as well as a group of vulnerable prisoners. There had been good or reasonable progress against eight of the 12 HMI Prisons recommendations and Ofsted themes, although there remained insufficient progress against four. Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “There had been considerable effort by the senior team in response to our recommendation that clear and up-to-date strategies were needed, along with rigorous oversight, to drive improvement.”

Insufficient progress had been made in the provision of purposeful activity. Most prisoners spent around 1.5 hours per day unlocked, which included just 30 minutes in the open air. Although a prolonged COVID-19 outbreak and HM Prison and Probation Service restrictions had hindered progress in this area, many of the plans to improve were not being followed. Only around 14% of the population were engaged in off-wing activity at any given time. The gym and workshops were not operating at full capacity.

Inspectors were impressed by improvements in prisoner safety, facilitated by a revised strategy and better use of data. The number of violent incidents, against both staff and prisoners, had fallen sharply by 60% and 55% respectively. Knowledge of the challenge, support, and intervention plan (CSIP) was widespread, thanks to the safety team’s commitment to training staff and use of force was subject to improved scrutiny.

The impressive achievements in managing violence and offending were not supported by improvements in health care provision. Although a monthly ‘safe and secure’ meeting provided greater strategic oversight of the PPO recommendations, inspectors found that health care leaders did not attend. Some health care recommendations had still not been implemented.

Mr Taylor said: “The governor, his senior team and staff should be congratulated on what they have achieved so far in addressing the shortcomings we identified at the last inspection. As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the renewed confidence in the prison now needs to be translated into a much greater ambition in the amount of time that prisoners are unlocked from their cells.”

Read the report: HMP Hull independent review of progress