A report by HM Inspector of prisons praised work which had reduced violence and drug misuse in the jail, but raised concerns over shortcomings in public protection work, which it said had deteriorated.
It stated: “The quality of public protection work had deteriorated. Procedures were ineffective, poorly understood, and presented possible risks to the public
“There were 222 prisoners due to be released from the establishment over the next three months and about 40 per cent of them were assessed as high risk. However,the IRMT (Inter-departmental Risk Management Team) did not routinely discuss high-risk prisoners approaching release and therefore missed an important opportunity to provide assurance that risks had been identified and would be managed. The senior probation officer had recognised this significant gap, and there were plans to address it shortly after the inspection.
“Among the population, about 60 per cent of prisoners were potentially eligible for multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) on release. The OMU (Offender Management Unit) did not have an escalation process for routinely confirming MAPPA management levels with community offender managers well enough ahead of release. We found little evidence of any confirmed levels in the cases we looked at. This meant that offender supervisors were unable to contribute effectively to release arrangements.”
Over half the population, 530 men, were assessed as presenting a high risk and about a third were convicted sex offenders
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “It was unacceptable that high risk prisoners approaching release were not receiving the detailed consideration that their potential risk to the public should have demanded.”
But he said the jail, an adult and young adult men’s resettlement prison, showed “reassuring” improvements since its previous inspection, particularly in reducing violence overall.
He said in February 2016 Moorland was uncertain about whether it would be privatised and was suffering very badly from the impact of illicit drugs, particularly new psychoactive substances like ‘spice’.
He said he was ‘heartening’ to see the progress in the past three years. Safety and respect had both gone up from an assessment of ‘not sufficiently good’ to ‘reasonably good’, and purposeful activity, including training and education, remained at sufficiently good. However, its work on rehabilitation and resettlement remained at ‘not sufficiently good.’
The improvements in safety and respect were a “significant achievement, and testament to a huge amount of hard work by all the leaders and staff at Moorland.
Levels of violence had not only stabilised, but had actually decreased – bucking the national trend over that period.”
But despite this overall reduction, assaults against staff had doubled and were higher than at similar prisons. Use of force by staff had increased since the last inspection, though levels were now similar to other category C prisons.
Self-harm was very high and it was ‘disappointing’ that there were insufficient Listeners - prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to fellow prisoners.
Staff-prisoner relationships had improved considerably since 2016 and the prison’s key worker scheme was having a beneficial impact. In-cell telephones were “beneficial in many ways.” The prison was urged, though, to develop a better understanding of survey data suggesting adverse results for black and minority ethnic and disabled prisoners.
The most serious concern for inspectors was the lack of effective public protection measures. Over half the population, 530 men, were assessed as presenting a high risk and about a third were convicted sex offenders.
Inspectors also noted that “arrangements to conduct and review telephone monitoring were chaotic and unmanageable. Child contact restrictions were poorly managed, and there were no assessments to support decisions.”
Mr Clarke added: “Moorland has now been a resettlement prison for a number of years, and this whole area of responsibility, not only to the prisoners but also to the public, needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
Overall, however, Mr Clarke said: “This was a good inspection, and although there were some vital areas where improvement was still needed, it was obvious that the findings of the last inspection had been taken seriously. I would urge the leadership and staff at Moorland not to feel defensive about some of the issues raised in this report, which some might interpret as criticism
“This was a reassuring inspection, and shows what can be achieved even in difficult and testing times, but it would be unduly complacent not to acknowledge that further improvement is necessary and achievable.”
Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Director General of Prisons, said: “This is a very promising report, and the decrease in violence and use of drugs is a testament to the huge amount of hard work by staff at HMP Moorland. We take the concerns raised around public protection very seriously and the prison is already implementing new plans for managing offenders’ release.
“We are also rolling out the key worker scheme - which gives each prisoner a dedicated officer for engagement and support and has led to a reduction in attacks on staff elsewhere - which should help the prison to build on the good progress that the inspection team have highlighted.”