Progress 'mixed' at prison near Rugby, one year on from being branded 'unsafe' - The Rugby Observer

Progress 'mixed' at prison near Rugby, one year on from being branded 'unsafe'

Rugby Editorial 20th Dec, 2019   0

MIXED progress has been made at a prison near Rugby, a year since an inspection found it was ‘fundamentally unsafe’ due to a ‘vicious circle of drugs and violence’.

A review into HMP Onley found there had been “no meaningful progress” in tackling drugs, with a quarter of prisoners testing positive – an increase since the full inspection.

Communal areas were found to be grubby, rats were still prevalent, and showers were in a ‘very poor’ state.

Relationships between staff and prisoners had not improved, with 60 per cent of officers found lacking in the skills and confidence to challenge poor behaviour or respond to basic requests from prisoners.

Inspectors said a lack of education, work and training places meant over a third of prisoners were locked up during the working day – ‘unacceptable in a training prison’.

But they acknowledged ‘robust action’ had substantially reduced violence, including predatory behaviour towards new arrivals.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “The lack of attention to tackling drugs was inexplicable.

“The lack of progress in improving education, work and skills outcomes for prisoners, given that Onley is a training prison, is a concern.”

“The prison has been running with staff shortages for many years. The impact this has had on staff and prisoners has been immense, and while there have been some improvements, staff shortages continue to blight progress.”

But he said the prison had worked extremely hard to address violence.

“Success in reducing levels of violence should be commended,” he said. “Prisoners were now better supported during their early days, and better protected from predatory behaviour. The prison had a much better understanding of the gang affiliations of prisoners to manage them more safely.”

He concluded that there were other ‘considerable challenges’ ahead.

“If Onley is to progress further, it needs support to recruit and retain its new staff, and ensure they are skilled and confident in their role,” he said.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “We are pleased inspectors have recognised the strong action we have taken to tackle violence at HMP Onley, making it safer for staff and prisoners.

“Further work is being done to tackle drug use, including the recruitment of more staff and the development of a substance-free wing that will help prisoners to overcome addiction.

“We are also improving the support provided to our staff, including better training opportunities and mentoring for newer prison officers.”


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