Bored inmates at a prison with a ‘grim reputation’: Report criticises Aylesbury institute

Prisoner Liam Brennan is restrained by prison officers in the ITV documentary  � Wild Productions
Prisoner Liam Brennan is restrained by prison officers in the ITV documentary � Wild Productions

Prisoners at Aylesbury’s Young Offenders’ Institute must be given more to do, an independent inspection has demanded.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons said improving the ‘unacceptably poor’ quality and quantity of purposeful activity must be a priority.

The report says there have been a number of improvements since the last full inspection in 2009, with violence down and most prisoners feeling safe.

However, the inspectors said the prison, which featured in a hit ITV documentary earlier this year, still has a ‘grim reputation’, levels of self-harm are high and many cells were described as ‘filthy’.

There was also some concern about the high levels of baton use.

At the weekend, eight prisoners were involved in six-hour ‘siege’ with riot crews after trouble flared.

Chief prisons inspector Nick Hardwick said he was encouraged by improvements at the institute but there are still ‘significant weaknesses’.

Mr Hardwick said: “Aylesbury held young men long enough to give many of them good skills and experience, as well as the habits and attitudes that would help them get and hold down a job when they were released.

“Instead, young men spent much too long locked in grubby cells, and when they did go to activity, it was too often of poor quality, with inexperienced staff and bad behaviour.

“This has been the case too long at Aylesbury and needs to improve quickly.

“Aylesbury has a grim reputation, perhaps not helped by a recent TV documentary, and prisoners told us they had been very anxious when they first arrived.

“These anxieties appeared to have been stoked by staff and prisoners in their sending establishment, and were not assuaged by the grubby, restrictive and unwelcoming first night and induction wing.

“Most prisoners did feel safe at the time of the inspection, and levels of violence had reduced since the short-follow up inspection (in 2011) and were now comparable with other similar establishments.

“However, when assaults did occur they were often serious, and levels of violence against staff were concerning and higher than elsewhere.”

Other points raised by the report were:

> Too many prisoners said that it was easy to get drugs in the prison

> The communal environment was reasonable but many cells were covered with graffiti and toilets were dirty

> More prisoners than at comparator prisons said they had developed a drug problem and fewer said they received help with a drug problem. However, the drug and alcohol recovery team was a well-run and effective psychosocial service

> Most staff were positive role models but some displayed an unhelpful attitude to prisoners

> The number of complaints submitted was almost half that at comparator prisons and prisoners had limited confidence in the system

A number of recommendations were made about how the prison could be improved, including ensuring prisoners get accurate information about it as soon as possible after they know they are going there to try and dispel negative preconceptions.

It was also suggested that the use of batons be properly recorded.

You can read the full report on the Ministry of Justice website.