Prison watchdog praises ‘distinct improvements’ made at HMP Wakefield

Inside HMP Wakefield.
Inside HMP Wakefield.

An independent watchdog has praised staff and chiefs at HMP Wakefield for making a number of “distinct achievements and improvements” at the city’s prison.

The latest Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) report says the state of some dilapidated buildings, standards of service, training and staff morale at the jail had all improved.

Wakefield prison houses some of the country’s most dangerous inmates and is one of only eight High Security prisons in England.

David Smethurst, chairman of the IMB board, said: “It is very pleasing to be able to recognise a number of distinct achievements and improvements in this report.”

“Some very important pioneering work is being undertaken to achieve a rehabilitative community in this prison.

“The Board is particularly impressed by the initiatives being developed to involve prisoners in different ways, to help guide their fellow prisoners to reconsider their lives and to move forward.”

The report, published this week, said the prison’s Segregation Unit and Close Supervision Centre buildings, which were in need of repair, are now being renovated.

Members of the board also praised staff for work on the resettlement of prisoners in communities upon release.

The report said: “One particular area which needs mention, and continued support, concerns the pioneering work being undertaken on resettlement, elaborated under each of the pathways designed to achieve a rehabilitative community.”

However, the IMB said that there were several deaths in custody during the reporting period.

The report said: “There remains concern at the level of restraint used for end of life persons and the impact on their families.

“This is not monitored by the IMB, but has been reported by the Ombudsman.”

Concerns were also raised about bullying, which is now being monitored by the IMB, and living conditions for high-risk prisoners held in the Close Supervision Centre.

But the report said the centre was run “well” by dedicated staff who work in a caring manner while under pressure.

Issues with learning and skills programmes in the jail have been addressed and are being tackled positively, the IMB said.

The report also recognised the work of the prison’s Assessment and Interventions Centre, which has developed a Wayfinder scheme for prisoners to help rehabilitation through peer support.

Around 20 prisoners are currently taking part in the scheme, where they attend conferences with other inmates and discuss topics including psychological issues.

The IMB board is made up of volunteers from the community.

Its latest report comes after Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons published a report on the prison in July 2014.

Wakefield jail manages around 750 prisoners, many prisoners of the highest risk categories, including a large proportion of serious sex offenders.

The report has been published to the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice.