IMB Ashfield’s latest report, published on 2 October, highlights the very good work being done at the establishment.
The Board’s conclusion is that HMP Ashfield is, ”a very well run prison, which is led dynamically and uses its greater autonomy afforded by its contracted-out status to develop creative and imaginative solutions to issues. It takes its responsibilities very seriously both to the general public and to the prisoners in its care. “
Over a 12 month period, Board members have made regular (at least twice weekly) visits into the prison to talk informally to prisoners and staff, inspect the facilities, observe the full range of activities, attend meetings, examine relevant documentation, study data and investigate and answer prisoners’ concerns and complaints.
Board members were impressed by the overall quality of accommodation, the Prison’s Equality agenda, the range of vocational training and employment opportunities afforded, the successful implementation of a non-smoking regime and the delivery of sex offender treatment programmes before the Government announced their withdrawal nationally in March 2017. New courses have now been introduced to replace them.
Prisoners also frequently commented to Board members that the standards of healthcare and catering at Ashfield were the best they had encountered within the prison service. Board members noted the positive atmosphere on the wings and the Report judges that “ HMP Ashfield provides a particularly safe, orderly, stable and supportive environment and it is to be commended on this. This is one of the prison’s strengths.”
The Board had some concerns about shower and laundry arrangements, the lack of specialist training for staff in a prison with a high percentage of elderly prisoners and about the operation of the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme which is used to reward good behaviour and also penalise men for disciplinary infringements. The other principal concern the IMB highlighted was the difficulty often experienced by prisoners re-categorised as suitable for Open (Cat D.) conditions in finding places in establishments of an appropriate Category in the south of England.
Overall, however, the Report was very positive and complimentary. Chair of the Board, Caroline Thompson, stated:“Ashfield is to be congratulated. It is very unusual, especially at the moment when so much of the prison estate is in crisis, for a prison to receive such a complimentary report as this. Board members remain impressed with the professionalism and dedication of all the staff who work at Ashfield. Prisoners here are often serving long sentences for very serious offences, but they are treated humanely and with respect and given help to rehabilitate.”
Read the report in full here.