Lava lamps help calm inmates at Doncaster prison, new inspection report reveals

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Lava lamps, music and art equipment are all being used to help calm inmates at a Doncaster prison, a new inspection report has revealed.

The newly-released 75-page dossier into life inside HMP Doncaster follows an inspection earlier this year - and praised a ‘serene’ area for helping prisoners relax.

Main findings of the report say that conditions at the 'overcrowded’ private jail are improving and that it was now ‘much safer’ since its last inspection.

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No showers, 23 and a half hour lock-ups and bad food, says prisoner at Doncaster...
Lava lamps are used to help calm inmates at Doncaster prison in a special serene area.Lava lamps are used to help calm inmates at Doncaster prison in a special serene area.
Lava lamps are used to help calm inmates at Doncaster prison in a special serene area.

Inspectors also found the amount of violence, drugs and alcohol was decreasing inside the Marshgate jail, which has been run by SERCO for nearly twenty years.

The HM Chief Inspector of Prisons report said: “Doncaster prison is a challenging institution, and the Inspectorate has, in the past, been highly critical of the outcomes we have observed there.

"It is pleasing therefore to report that, overall, the findings of this inspection are very encouraging. Doncaster is now a much safer prison.”

At the time of the inspection the prison held just over 1,100 men and young adults, a third of whom were on remand.

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Receiving in excess of 250 new prisoners every month, the jail also holds about 165 foreign nationals and provides separate accommodation for over 170 men convicted of sexual offences.

The report added: “Nearly every measure of safety that we assess, such as the amount of violence, the number of disciplinary proceedings, use of segregation and use of force were falling and fewer prisoners now told us they felt unsafe.

"There had been eight self inflicted deaths since our last inspection, although the recorded incidents of selfharm had remained constant. Despite this, the work undertaken to support those in crisis seemed to us to be useful and effective.

“The prison remained overcrowded, but the environment was generally much improved.”

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It added: “Doncaster is a very well led prison. The director and his management team were responsible for a capable and confident culture.”

“Doncaster is not an easy prison to run. Leaders and their staff are to be congratulated on the progress they have achieved even during challenging times.”

The last inspection in 2019 made 33 recommendations, 13 of which were about areas of key concern.

It added: “The levels of assaults, against staff and prisoners alike, had decreased substantially since the last inspection and were now lower than the average for similar prisons. In our survey, fewer prisoners than at the time of our last inspection said that they had felt unsafe during their stay.

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“Use of force had also reduced since the last inspection and was lower than the average for the type of prison.

"The number of prisoners segregated had reduced since the last inspection.

“Living conditions on the segregation unit were bleak, but relationships between staff and prisoners were good.

“Fewer prisoners than at the time of our last inspection said that it was easy to get illicit drugs and alcohol.

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“The prison remains overcrowded, with about 700 prisoners living two to a cell designed for one.

“Most showers were in poor condition, with a lack of ventilation and a fly infestation. The communal areas were clean and well maintained.

“Food provision was reasonable, and the on-site shop provided early access to the full selection of goods.”

The report continued: “Time out of cell was very limited, at around two and a half hours per day for most, but this was better for full-time workers, who had about

seven hours a day unlocked.

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“Many prisoners spent around 21 and a half hours in their cells, and some even longer.

"Leaders should urgently prioritise increasing time unlocked and the provision of regular education, skills and work activities to enable a larger number of prisoners to attend them.

It added: “The environment was generally much calmer and more ordered than we found at the last inspection.”

There had been 378 recorded uses of force in the previous 12 months, which was lower than at the time of the last inspection and the average for this type of prison. Just over half had included the use of restraint techniques, with the remainder involving the application of guiding holds and/or handcuffs.

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Leaders have identified violence, drugs and gangs as the main threats to the stability of the establishment.

A "calming suite” has recently opened and was being used by any prisoner who would benefit from its use.

It said: “This was a welcoming and serene area, where prisoners could access a variety of distraction materials, including lava lamps, music and art materials.”

The report added: “Prisoners are treated with respect by staff throughout their time in custody and are encouraged to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions.”

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It concluded: “Prisoners are treated with respect for their human dignity.

“Communal areas and cells were in a reasonably good state but too many prisoners lived in overcrowded conditions."

The full report is available HERE

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