Despite some problems, HMP Highpoint was improving on many fronts, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the Suffolk training prison.
HMP Highpoint, an old RAF station which uses many of the original buildings, holds 1,300 men on two extensive and adjacent (North and South) sites. In addition to its training function, Highpoint has been designated a resettlement prison serving London and Essex. At its last inspection in 2012, inspectors described a complicated prison that was delivering some reasonable outcomes. This inspection found a similar picture: despite some very serious challenges and contradictory evidence, inspectors found a prison that was working hard to sustain generally reasonable outcomes.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
the prison was well ordered and benefited from the confidence that comes through visible leadership;
there were a number of initiatives to understand and challenge violence and the illicit drug supply;
poor behaviour was dealt with robustly;
there was a sense that enough prisoners felt able to make some investment in their future while at the prison;
despite three self-inflicted deaths since 2012, self-harm was relatively low, while the care of the most complicated cases of people at risk of self-harm or suicide was excellent;
conditions in segregation had improved and staff in the unit dealt with a small number of very poorly behaved prisoners with sensitivity;
conditions on the residential units ranged from reasonable to very good;
relationships between staff and prisoners were good and managers led by example;
the amount of time prisoners spent out of their cells was adequate;
the provision and effectiveness of work and activity was judged by Ofsted to be good overall, with sufficient places for 1,100 out of 1,300 prisoners; and
the quality of teaching, learning and assessment was good.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
when surveyed, many prisoners raised safety concerns and levels of violence were higher than inspectors often see;
the large site made supervision a challenge and there was clear evidence that new psychoactive substances, ‘hooch’ and the associated issues of debt, bullying and intimidation were serious concerns;
offender management was ineffective and not well integrated and many prisoners lacked a full assessment of their offending risk or a sentence plan; and
public protection work and risk assessment concerning release on temporary licence also required improvement.
Martin Lomas said:
“There is a real possibility that Highpoint could be a problematic prison. Sprawling multiple sites, disparate accommodation, limited staff numbers and a large population held some distance from home in a remote rural location are big risk factors. Highpoint’s achievement is that despite this and the evidence of other significant problems, the prison is doing reasonably well and improving on many fronts. Good leadership, confident and reliable staff, a commitment to decency, a culture and approach that seems to incentivise prisoners, and a focus on the basics, makes Highpoint a competent institution, much to the credit of the governor and his staff.”