Focus on safety
Last week (14 February 2018) the Justice Secretary published his initial response action plan to transform HMP Nottingham.
The action plan is the first of its kind and a new statutory duty under the urgent notifications procedure (explained in full here.)
The main features of the plan are:
Care for the most vulnerable offenders will be dramatically improved, with NHS England supporting HMP Nottingham with an additional £200,000 to improve mental health services.
Specialist healthcare staff will now spend additional time with those most at risk of self-harm, and more detailed mental health assessments will be completed by trained professionals.
A local suicide prevention policy has also been launched, providing additional staff training in managing vulnerable offenders, and the prison will continue to work closely with the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman to make sure all recommendations on deaths in custody are implemented.
The focus of the action plan is on six key areas which are summarised in greater detail below:
- Inexperienced staff
- Management & leadership
- Use of force
- Living conditions
The main focus of the action plan is on safety issues and the recommended actions take up over two pages of the four page action plan.
The main safety issues addressed include: Suicide Prevention, Self-Harm Reduction, Violence Reduction and Drugs Strategy.
The first step was a comprehensive safety audit undertaken by the national Operational System and Assurance Group, with input from the national Prison Safety Team, which was completed by 7 February and focused on the operational arrangements related to violence reduction, suicide prevention and self-harm reduction.
Recommendations will obviously be shaped by the audit but key action points include:
- Implementing best practice on reception and early days in custody, with particular reference to vulnerable prisoners.
- Introducing a Challenge, Support and Intervention Plan (CSIP) case management of prisoners at raised risk of harming others.
- Additional resources will be provided to the establishment immediately to clear the backlog of security intelligence reports.
- A concerted effort to ensure that basic procedures are followed reliably in relation to the timely answering of cell bells; removing blockages to observation panels; use of body worn video cameras; and effective operation of the incentives and earned privileges and complaints schemes.
Recommendations include more HR resources, a training needs analysis and enhanced levels of mentoring for prison officers.
Management & leadership
Here recommendations include filling vacant posts, coaching support and work on quality assurance, as well as addressing high levels of absenteeism.
Like an increasing number of establishments, HMP Nottingham had problems maintaining cells and the rest of the prison to a decent standard. Recommendations include clearing the maintenance backlog, replacing broken furniture in cells and improving the standard of cleaning.
Action will also be taken on ensuring that prisoners are able to attend more activities and spend more time out of their cells.
This action plan makes it clear that the MoJ intends to tackle failing prisons but we must wait for the next HMI Prisons inspection report to find out if real change can be effected.