Surprise Inspection Reveals HMP Whitemoor "Has Improved," But Segregation A Concern

28 July 2017, 06:07

HMP Whitemoor, near March

By Bev Rimmer

An unplanned inspection at HMP Whitemoor this week has found the high-security jail lacking in provision for segregated inmates.

The prison, near March, has been told its regime in the isolated unit is 'poor.'

But the Chief Inspector of Prisons did say Whitemoor is "generally safe," with "low levels of violence".

Peter Clarke added: "Given the complexity of the issues being dealt with at Whitemoor, we were heartened by what we found. 

"The prison’s approach to diversity was developing and every prisoner could be involved in activities that would be of benefit to them. 

Resettlement work was appropriately focused and, despite there being many frustrations about progression, it was reasonably well supported. 

"Our overriding concern was about the small but significant number of men in the segregation unit for long periods, and we considered that this needed urgent attention.”

HMP Whitemoor held 431 men at the time its inspection. All were serving long sentences for serious offences. 

Over 30% were category A prisoners. Just over half the population were black and minority ethnic men and the prison continued to hold a disproportionate number of Muslim men, who accounted for over 40% of the population. 

The Fens unit held men who had diagnosed personality disorders and there was further specialist provision in the close supervision centre which is subject to a separate inspection. 

At its last inspection in 2014, inspectors had serious concerns about the use of force and the culture and regime in the segregation unit. This more recent inspection was more positive overall, but concerns remained about some aspects of segregation. 

Muslim men were negative about many aspects of prison life and while these perceptions needed to be better understood, staff appeared to have developed more understanding of the issues. 

Few prisoners were released directly from Whitemoor and ‘resettlement’ meant re-categorisation and/or progression to a training prison or specialist unit. 

Most of the work was well managed, though many men felt ‘stuck’ with little hope of progression and work to address these perceptions required further development.

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said: “I’m pleased that the Chief Inspector has commended the work being done at Whitemoor. 

"Work is already in hand to provide more support for men held in long-term segregation, to assist them in returning to the main prison population as soon as it safe to do so.”