‘Serious’ drugs problem highlighted at prison

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Drugs and bullying have been highlighted as significant concerns by an inspector in his report on Thorp Arch-based Wealstun prison.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said the prison had a serious drug problem and almost half of the prisoners said drugs were easy to obtain.

Nick Hardwick said: “The change in Wealstun’s role has been a significant challenge for the prison, yet despite this, outcomes for prisoners remain reasonable in most areas.

“However, the prison is clearly slipping backwards.

“The deterioration in safety is the most obvious example but there is a disturbing sense of lack of grip in other areas too. The issues identified in this report need to be addressed quickly and effectively to prevent them from becoming even more serious.”

HMP Wealstun was originally two separate prisons which were brought together to form one prison with a category C and a category D side.

In 2008 the open prison closed and Wealstun began operating a year ago as a large category C training prison.

The report stated that this was a major physical and cultural change.

The prison’s previous strengths have stood it in good stead, however, safety had deteriorated sharply since its last inspection.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

l The prison had a serious drug problem, and almost half of prisoners said that drugs were easy to obtain.

l One in six prisoners said they had developed a drug problem while in prison and drug use and the debt associated with it was a significant factor in the high levels of bullying and violence in the prison.

l Action to tackle the availability of drugs was not sufficiently rigorous and poor behaviour too often went unchallenged.

l Staff-prisoner relationships appeared to be mixed and inconsistent.

l It appeared that victims of bullying were frequently placed on suicide and self-harm monitoring and moved to the segregation unit.

l There was little effort to reintegrate prisoners into the main regime and too many in the segregation unit were transferred to other prisons, and there was evidence that some prisoners were deliberately self-harming so that they would be moved to the segregation unit and then transferred from he prison.

l Although the work of the offender management unit was reasonable and public protection was well managed, resettlement activity as a whole had insufficient priority and the number of offending behaviour programmes was inadequate.

Inspectors found that:

l Within the mixed staff-prisoner relationships, there were examples of staff providing excellent support to prisoners.

l The environment was good and clean.

l Black and minority ethnic prisoners were much more positive about their treatment than in many other prisons.

l Mental health work was excellent; and most prisoners had good time out of cell, and there were sufficient work, activity and training places available, most of which was of good quality.

Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said: “As the chief inspector acknowledges, the change of role at Wealstun has been challenging.

“I am pleased that the outcomes for prisoners remain reasonably good but accept that the prison needs to improve in a number of key areas.

“The new governor and his team will develop an action plan to address the weaknesses identified.”