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Prison performance continues on downward trend
HMP Winchester
The annual prison performance ratings confirm the long downward trend.

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Performance ratings

On Thursday 27 July 2023, the MoJ published no less than a dozen reports and statistical bulletins and I’m still working my way through them. Today I’m taking a look at the latest (2022/23) annual prison performance ratings. Like so much of the official data over the last few years, they don’t make for encouraging reading. The headline findings are:

  • Thirteen (10.9%) prisons were given a rating of outstanding. This is the lowest number of prisons receiving this rating since 2016/17.
  • Nine (7.6%) prisons were given a rating of serious concern. This is an increase of 2 prisons from 2019/20 when 7 (5.9%) prisons attained this rating.
  • Two adult prisons received an Urgent Notification meaning that they were of such serious concern that the Justice Secretary is required to publish a public action plan within 28 days. (This figure has already been matched in the current financial year with both Cookham Wood & Bristol receiving UNs.)


The Prison Performance Tool Dashboard (PPTD) uses 17 outcome-focussed measures to formally assess prisons. HMPPS manage the performance framework, which is structured against four main priority areas. These are:

  • Security and stability
  • Training, skills and work
  • Drug and alcohol addiction
  • Family, accommodation and readjustment to society

The PPTD was used to report the 2022/23 framework and provide prison league tables. This assessed performance in each prison with comparisons made to other prisons of the same functional group. The PPTD uses a data-driven assessment of performance in each prison to derive overall prison performance scores and ratings.

Targets were not used in 2022/23. Instead, a prison’s overall score was calculated based on the relative performance within the functional group.

Four overall ratings were used:

Outstanding performance              4

Good performance                           3

Performance of concern                 2

Performance of serious concern   1

Overall, 75 prisons were rated as either good or outstanding and 44 as being of concern or serious concern.

I thought readers would be interested to see the performance of every establishment so I have reproduced the table from the report below.

HMPPS priorities

The performance measures in the PPTD are weighted according to HMPPS priorities. For 2022/23, there was an emphasis on Employment at 6 weeks following custodial release and drug and alcohol treatment measures.

Areas of Strong Performance

Open, Category B and Category C Resettlement are the only functional groups that had no prisons attain a rating of serious concern. 10 (20.4%) Category C prisons (inclusive of Category C Resettlement, Category C Trainer and Category C Trainer/Resettlement) are in the top 25% of prisons nationally for Employment at 6 weeks following custodial release. All open prisons are in the top 25% of prisons nationally for this measure. Employment at six weeks following custodial release was weighted at 20% for the Open prisons providing the largest contribution to the overall score. This is no surprise of course, as these scores reflect the primary purpose of these different types of establishment.

Areas of Poor Performance

For Security and Stability, Female prisons had the 9 highest outturn figures for self-harm incidents. However, the two Open Female prisons had rates of assaults on staff incidents and prisoner on prisoner assault incidents of zero. 15 (50.0%) Reception prisons perform in the top 25% of prisons nationally for the rate of prisoner on prisoner assaults.

For Training, skills and work, 8 (80.0%) Category B prisons feature in the poorest performing 25% of prisons nationally for Employment at 6 weeks following custodial release, however these prisons had low numbers of eligible releases.

When considering Family, accommodation and readjustment to society, 23 (76.7%) Reception prisons performed in the bottom 25% of prisons nationally for Housed on first night of custodial release. However, Reception prisons have the lowest weighting for this measure compared to other functional groups.


As an outsider, it seems that the detailed performance against these weighted ratings are of little value with scores reflecting the functions of different types of establishments. Of more value are the individual prison scores and the summary that a declining number of prisons are performing well and an increasing number performing poorly.

However, for both individual establishments and overall trends across the prison estate, I find the inspectorate’s reports much more informative and reliable.


Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here

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