" Failing Prison" HMP Birmingham making progress says Hardwick
HMP Birmingham is making good progress, despite continuing prison suicides says the Chief Inspector of Prisons, after an unannounced inspection of the West Midlands goal
HMP Birmingham is a very large inner city local prison serving the local courts and holding an unusually complex and challenging population. The prison manages a significant throughput of prisoners, with over 100 passing through reception every day.
The operational challenges the prison faced in providing a safe and decent environment are not to be underestimated. Inspectors last visited HMP Birmingham in late 2011 when its management had recently transferred from the public sector to G4S following a competitive process.
In 2011, inspectors recognised that Birmingham had been a failing prison over many years. At this more recent inspection, the prison, despite undergoing a significant change, was making good progress.
Inspectors at the latest inspection carried out from 24 February – 7 March 2014.were pleased to find that:
the prison was calm and ordered, most prisoners generally felt safe and the number of violent incidents was not high;
substance misuse services had improved and ensured a range of useful interventions;
the number of prisoners being segregated was commendably low, and use of force was low;
relationships between staff and prisoners were good and much improved from previous inspections;
the quality of formal prisoner consultation, some of it engaging with outside organisations and former prisoners, was a new strength;
mental health care support for the relatively high number of prisoners needing it was very good;
most prisoners had a reasonable time out of cell and the regime was predictable and rarely curtailed; and
resettlement services were effective but would be further enhanced if underpinned by a needs analysis of the population.
However many prisoners experienced a long wait in court cells before being moved to the prison, and this, along with regular overcrowding drafts, meant that they often arrived at reception late in the evening. Given the numbers of prisoners involved, this put first night and induction procedures under great strain with some important action inevitably missed.
First night staff were caring and generally did a good job of keeping prisoners safe. Nevertheless, there had tragically been four self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection in 2011, with recent arrival at the prison a common feature. The safety of newly arrived prisoners was a significant risk that required ongoing and heightened attention.
Inspectors were also concerned to find that:
despite some good supply reduction work, the prevalence of illicit drugs remained stubbornly high;
support for minority groups was mixed - foreign national prisoners were particularly negative about their experiences;
leadership and management of leaning and skills provision was improving and the number of education and work places had increased, although there were still not enough; and
public protection work required attention.
“Overall and in the context of the risks and challenges faced by this prison", said Nick Hardwick "this is an encouraging report. Birmingham is well led and we found a much improved staff culture. Improvement is broadly based and a commitment to meaningful consultation with prisoners seems to be a new-found strength of the prison. There is much more to do and Birmingham will always have pressures and risks to face. But the Director and his staff deserve credit for their achievements so far.”
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