A long way to go at 'monster mansion'

THIS week's report on Wakefield Prison by chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers came after an unannounced inspection in April.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons carries out a role equivalent to Ofsted, the education watchdog.

The report revealed that the 558-prisoner jail, dubbed “monster mansion” because of its high-profile population, was making some improvements, but still had a long way to go.

In the introduction to this week’s report, Ms Owers said: “Our last inspection of Wakefield, 18 months ago, reported significant concerns about the staff culture, and the access to activities, at this high security prison.”

At the time of the previous inspection, there were particular worries about lack of staff interaction with prisoners, an atmosphere of excessive control and allegations of bullying and intimidation. Prisoners had very little activity.

Ms Owers added: “This inspection records some progress in relation to the prison’s culture.”

The report’s main points are:

l Safety: the prison has well-established procedures for preventing suicides and bullying. But the way the prison worked at night needs urgent attention. Use of force is low, as is use of illegal drugs by prisoners.

l Respect: staff-prisoner relationships have improved, although still need to develop. The general standard of accommodation is good – the prison is very clean. Complaints about racists incidents are well investigated but some racial issues are not being identified. Healthcare services need significant improvement.

l Activities: Time out of cells is poor – some prisoners spending more than 20 hours locked up most days. Some improvements in education.

Of 79 recommendations made at the time of the last report, 27 had been achieved, 17 partially achieved and 35 not achieved.

The report said the absence of a “public protection policy” meant there were gaps in the prison’s system for monitoring prisoners’ contact with people outside. The report said: “For example, a prisoner convicted of rape could easily have written to his victim.”

However, no examples of such incidents had been reported.

Ms Owers said: “Overall, Wakefield was clearly a prison on the move. But there was a great deal of movement still required in order to make it a fully effective prison.”

Prison governor Dave Thompson said he was encouraged by the report.

He said: “It recognised that the prison was on the way to becoming a high-performing prison but there’s a lot of work to do. But I have confidence in the staff to move things, and as this inspection happened six months ago things have already moved forward.”