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Concerns Raised Over Deaths At Portland YOI


8:13am 4th December 2014

Concerns about self-inflicted deaths and poor training have been raised about Portland Young Offenders Institution.

A report has been published from an unannounced inspection of the jail.

An inspection back in 2012 had shown the prison, which holds a mix of young adult and adult male prisoners, was improving but this latest report has more mixed results.

Inspectors did find the prison was fundamentally safe and good attention was being given to how prisoners were being received.

But they were worried to find there had been three self-inflicted deaths since the last full inspection and there had been no clear recommendations to stop further incidents from happening.

The Inspectors do admit the mixed age population, pressures of overcrowding and the age of the prison does put greater strains on staff but they say if Portland starts following their recommendations then the situation will improve significantly.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said:  "This is a mixed report and contains significant criticisms under all of our healthy prison assessments.

"Learning from investigations into deaths in custody certainly required greater attention and the lack of meaningful activity was a real concern.

"However, there was some more impressive work and evidence of some progress. The population mix was challenging but staff were experienced and trying hard to support prisoners and challenge poor behaviour, although the lack of purposeful activity undermined their endeavours."

Here are the main findings from the inspection:

- good attention had been given to how prisoners were received into the prison, with swift reception processes and first night arrangements properly focused on risk.

- the levels of recorded violence were not high for such a population, but the prison had only recently started to improve its approach to identifying bullying.

- use of force was not excessive and the use of segregation was low.

- relationships between staff and prisoners were reasonable.

- resettlement provision was generally good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

- support for prisoners with substance misuse issues had worsened, in part as a consequence of staff shortages and increased demand, and there was evidence that psychoactive substances such as Spice were available.

- most accommodation was old and inadequately maintained.

- purposeful activity and the provision of education, training and employment was poor.

- there was sufficient activity for just three-quarters of the population and what was available was not used well.

- some prisoners had inadequate contact with their offender supervisors and there was a lack of appropriate offending behaviour programmes.

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

"I am pleased the Chief Inspector has recognised that Portland is a fundamentally safe prison.

"Reducing self-harm and self-inflicted deaths remains a top priority for the Service and we continue to work very closely with the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, who investigate all deaths in custody, to ensure we can learn from their recommendations and try to prevent deaths and self-harm wherever possible.

"Since the inspection, additional staff have been recruited to provide over 130 extra activity places which will substantially improve the levels of purposeful activity.

"The Governor will continue to take forward the recommendations to make further improvements." 

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