Whitemoor Prison Concerns

8 June 2011, 06:00 | Updated: 8 June 2011, 09:08

A surprise inspection of Whitemoor Prison in March has revealed "significant concerns".

Around 500 of the country's most dangerous prisoners are held in the Cambridgeshire jail.

Criminals must be sentenced to a minimum of four years in jail to be housed at Whitemoor, which is a high-security prison.

An unannounced inspection of the prison has revealed:

  • 60% of prisoners say they had felt unsafe in the prison at some point, with a third telling inspectors they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection.
  • Concerns about a lack of trust between inmates from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and prison staff.
  • There is not enough work to keep prisoners purposefully occupied.
  • Greater priority needs to be given to help prisoners maintain or rebuild relationships with their families.

However there were some positive findings arising from the report.

These include:

  • Prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm were well cared for and the number of fights and assaults had reduced.
  • The prison was safer than previous reports indicated, with sound and proportionate security, illicit drug use much reduced and a well run close supervision centre.
  • Most prisoners had over eight hours out of their cell on most days.
  • Education provision was of good quality, and there had been an increase in vocational training.
  • Offender management arrangements were good, with appropriate opportunities for prisoners to address their offending behaviour.
  • The unit for prisoners with severe personality disorders provided a very good therapeutic environment.

Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, said: "Overall, Whitemoor was an improving prison with many strong features but some ineffective relationships between staff and prisoners remained the biggest brake on faster progress.

The most serious aspect of this was the lack of trust between black and minority ethnic and Muslim prisoners and prison staff.

The prison needs to be clear these are not acceptable failings and, with the support of the prison service nationally, demonstrate that effective action has been taken to address these concerns."

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said: "I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has recognised the improvements made at Whitemoor since the last inspection and his conclusion that drug use has reduced. 

It is now a safer and more secure environment.

The prison manages challenging and long-term prisoners and provides good opportunities for them to address their offending behaviour.

The Governor and his staff will work hard to tackle the areas where more improvements can be made."