HMP North Sea Camp near Boston has been awarded the highest rating of 'good' for safety.
Inspectors found negligible levels of violence and use of force by staff, earning the prison – home to just over 400 men, most serving long sentence and 60% of them sex offenders - the highest rating of ‘good’ for safety.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “There was no segregation unit, and no need for one. The fact that the population was fully integrated yet there was little if any hostility towards sex offenders was a tribute to the ethos of the prison and the care that was taken to generate an atmosphere of peaceful co-existence and tolerance.”
The report noted: “A ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy was used well to address the fears of men who were vulnerable because of their offence about living in a mixed population.”
HMP North Sea Camp was also rated as good for resettlement work – its core function as an open prison. Mr Clarke said the prison had “moved on dramatically” since the last inspection, in 2014. At that time there was still concern about a serious incident that took place during a release on temporary licence (ROTL), exposing weaknesses in the resettlement process.
Mr Clarke added: “Relationships between staff and prisoners were respectful, which was a major strength of the prison and the basis on which much of the progress of the past few years was clearly built. The senior leadership, and indeed all staff, were committed to producing a safe and decent environment in which the men could make progress towards eventual release and successful resettlement.”
Inspectors, however, raised some concerns:
· Prisoner accommodation was in a poor state. The residential units were old, far too many of the rooms were too small to be used for double occupancy and the showers and toilets urgently needed refurbishment. However, it was clear that a comparatively modest investment could deliver significant improvements.
· The prison had several houses outside the gate known as the Jubilee units, which offered men coming towards the end of their sentences excellent opportunities to gain resettlement experience. However, several of these houses were unused, virtually derelict and needed refurbishment.
The inspection also found a tension between performance measures used by HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), which judged performance based on the numbers of prisoners placed in work within the prison, and what should have been the objective of the prison, which was to maximise the use of ROTL.
The report noted: “The prison was not credited for those prisoners employed under ROTL outside the confines of the prison. The governor was, appropriately, concerned to get as many men working under ROTL as possible but the performance targets were causing some concern.”
It seems, Mr Clarke said, that the HMPPS performance measure had been designed for the closed prison estate, and it should be revisited to make it appropriate for open prisons. “As it stood, there was an incentive not to achieve in full the core purpose of the prison.”
Mr Clarke said: “Overall, HMP North Sea Camp had made very real progress since the last inspection. It was a safe and decent prison with some bold policies relating to the management of its complex population, and it was now a successful establishment.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said: “I’m pleased that the excellent work being done by the Governor and her staff at North Sea Camp has been recognised in the report. The focus on skills training and effective resettlement is really important in supporting effective rehabilitation and keeping the public safe. The Governor will build on the progress made to further improve performance at North Sea Camp over the next twelve months.”