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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Perth

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3. SAFETY

Outcome

Appropriate steps are taken to ensure that individual prisoners are protected from harm by themselves and others.

3.1 The prison is safe; levels of serious violence are low; and there have been no escapes since the last inspection. The reception and induction processes are effective. The First Night Centre is adequate and the processes in place to prevent self harm are good.

Escapes, Absconds and Physical Security

3.2 There have been no escapes or absconds from the main prison since the last inspection. There is a secure wall and appropriate security measures are in place to cope with the demands placed on the prison by the ongoing construction work.

3.3 The arrangements at Friarton are suitable for low supervision prisoners. However, there have been four absconds from external work placements and three failures to return from licenced home leave in the last three years.

Violence

3.4 Prisoners regularly reported feeling safe. In 2008-09 there were 10 serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and 56 minor assaults.

3.5 The prison has a multi-disciplinary anti-violence strategy group which is designed to achieve a reduction in violence and verbal abuse by adopting a zero tolerance approach. The intelligence unit employs officers as analysts as this is considered more effective and offers more flexibility than using non uniform staff. Plans are in place to employ a Police Liaison Officer to help reduce levels of violence.

Supervision Levels

3.6 The process in place to allocate supervision levels is compliant with national standards and timescales. Prisoners have sight of, and sign, the relevant documentation relating to their supervision level, and the outcomes are recorded on PR2. A quality audit of the documentation is conducted by the Residential Unit Manager.

Escort Handover Procedures

3.7 The observed interactions between escort staff and prisoners were appropriate at all times. All escort vehicles inspected had water, food and first aid kits on board. However, the inside of some vehicles had not been cleaned overnight.

3.8 Most prisoners spoken to at the prison and in the court cells visited said that they had not heard the safety message in the vehicle. The safety message on escort vehicles should be played prior to every journey, in a format which all prisoners can understand, and prisoners' attention should be drawn to this message.

3.9 The information contained in the Personal Escort Record ( PER) was appropriate both on leaving the prison and on return. Some PER forms indicated a long time between a prisoner completing his court processes and leaving the court for prison. Efforts should be made to ensure that prisoners are transferred from the court to the prison without delay. There are good informal exchanges of information between the reception staff and escort staff. Prison management also meet regularly with management from the escort provider which ensures that problems are addressed early and appropriately.

3.10 All prisoners spoken to prior to escort knew where they were going and how long, approximately, the journey would take. There was evidence of long journeys being broken to allow for comfort breaks. Prisoners arriving in Perth reception from court after 16.30hrs only receive a packet of sandwiches and a 'cuppa' soup. A substantial hot meal should be served to prisoners arriving from court after 16.30hrs.

3.11 Prisoners who leave on escort after 07.00hrs will receive any prescribed medication before leaving. On the rare occasion when a prisoner has to leave the prison earlier than this, medication is not provided before departure. Arrangements should be put in place to ensure that all prisoners receive prescribed medication prior to leaving the prison under escort. Prisoners leaving the prison before 07.00hrs to go to court do not get the opportunity to have a shower. This should be addressed. They receive two breakfast rolls into their rooms the night before but do not receive their breakfast milk. Prisoners on escort should have the same opportunity for breakfast as other prisoners.

Admission Procedures

3.12 The reception is a purpose built facility. When prisoners are admitted they are placed in one of two communal holding rooms. One is used for mainstream prisoners and the other for prisoners who are considered to be vulnerable. The holding rooms have approximately twenty fixed seats around the wall. There is no television to provide information about the prison and few notices on display. There were no notices in foreign languages.

3.13 There is also a secure admission holding room with no windows and no seating. This is an extremely depressing environment, with no notices and walls lined with a metal cladding. This facility is very rarely used.

3.14 A small room is available for private interviews. This has only one chair and a low table. There should be a chair each for staff and prisoners. The reception also has a medical inspection room.

3.15 Prisoners' property is stored in two rack rooms in an upper floor. Both areas have adequate storage space and the clothing store was tidy and fresh smelling. Valuable property is stored in lockable cabinets in the storage area. The packets in which valuable property is placed are not adequately sealed with the consequence that the packets can be opened, items removed, and then the packets resealed. A more secure seal for valuable property packets in reception should be introduced.

3.16 Staff identify prisoners, check property and cash and add details to the computerised prisoner records system ( PR2) at a large work station (which dominates the reception area). Opposite the work station is an area containing showers. Prisoners are not routinely offered a shower. All admission prisoners should be offered the opportunity to shower. There is a telephone for prisoners' use in reception but it does not have a hood. All telephones should offer some form of privacy.

3.17 A prisoner Listener is deployed in reception each evening. Potentially, this is a very good initiative. However, the Listener is deployed in one of the admission holding rooms where it is impossible to have a private conversation. It is however an opportunity to provide information about the Listener process. During the course of one evening the Listener left the reception before the most vulnerable prisoner was admitted. A review of Listener deployment in reception should be carried out to achieve maximum benefits.

3.18 All prisoners are held in the escort vehicles until prison staff check warrants and take possession of cash and property. Once this process is completed prisoners disembark, are identified and escorted into the reception area, and are located in one of the two main holding rooms. They are then searched.

3.19 Cash and personal property is usually opened and checked in the presence of the prisoner who then signs for a receipt. However, inspectors noted that when a prisoner took a shower staff opened the property and cash and checked it in the prisoner's absence. Property and cash should always be opened and checked in the presence of the prisoner.

3.20 Following the search the prisoner's details are added to PR2 whilst standing at the work station. During this process, staff also conduct cell sharing and suicide risk assessments as well as an assessment of a prisoner's supervision level. When the reception is busy this is not a calm environment in which to conduct a suicide risk assessment. The prisoner is in view of other prisoners in the holding rooms. Although no other prisoners are within hearing of the process prison staff carrying out their duties create a busy environment around the prisoner which some individuals may find distracting and upsetting and may detract from the effectiveness of the risk assessment.

3.21 If a prisoner is considered to be vulnerable prior to the commencement of the suicide risk assessment then the assessment takes place in a private interview room. It is recommended that suicide risk assessments during reception should be carried out in a private and calm environment.

3.22 Once a prisoner's risk assessments are completed and their details are on PR2 they are given a healthcare assessment before transferring to the hall. New admissions are provided with a 30 pence telephone credit to allow initial contact with family.

3.23 During the reception process staff interact appropriately with prisoners at all times.

First Night in Custody

3.24 Perth has a First Night in Custody Centre ( FNIC) located on the second floor of 'A' hall. The FNIC area is separated from the rest of the floor by a grille gate. There are 11 rooms providing accommodation for up to 22 prisoners. Each room has a clean bed pack containing a pillow slip, sheets and duvet cover ready for the new occupant. There is also a pack with tea bags, sugar etc. Toothpaste and a toothbrush are not available in the room for new admissions. Such toiletries and a razor are issued the following day. Toothpaste and a toothbrush should be available in each room in the First Night in Custody Centre as part of the admission pack.

3.25 A folder containing first night information is available in English in each room. There is no provision for non-English speakers or for those who have difficulty reading. Information in the First Night in Custody Centre should be available for non-English speaking prisoners, and prisoners who have difficulty reading.

3.26 On entry to the FNIC a prisoner is allocated a room and made aware of the first night folder. On the day following admission prisoners are seen by a member of the chaplaincy team and attend the health centre. They are then re-located to their hall of allocation where they attend the induction programme.

3.27 Rooms in the FNIC are normally vacated by the afternoon and a team of prisoners clean the rooms and put in new bedding and admission packs. The other half of the floor where the FNIC is located is occupied by protection prisoners. This means that staff are not able to concentrate solely on new admissions. Prisoners in the FNIC are not allowed to mix with the other prisoners and this helps ensure their safety. However, this means that after admission they spend a long time locked in their rooms particularly when the other prisoners have their evening recreation. They are allowed out of their rooms for approximately one hour before the hall is locked up for the evening. This is an opportunity for staff to interact with the new prisoners but it is not carried out in a structured way.

3.28 The FNIC has great potential but at the moment it is only doing the absolute basics. The regime could be improved and risks reduced if there was a structured interview with a member of FNIC staff, during which immediate needs could be identified. A first night induction DVD played through the in cell television system in a range of languages would help ensure that important admission information is provided in a format understood by all prisoners. There are no peer tutors involved in supporting prisoners on the FNIC. Other prisons have found that peer tutors are an invaluable aid in the FNIC particularly in centres where staff are also busy with other prisoners. It is recommended that a more structured approach based on good practice in other prisons is adopted in the First Night in Custody Centre.

Induction Procedures

3.29 The 'Core Screen Assessment' is completed in the Links Centre the day after admission to the prison. Officers use a private interview room where a good quality assessment is carried out in safe surroundings. This is an area of good practice.

3.30 The induction programme itself is delivered over three days, and this seems to work well as many prisoners struggle to concentrate on the first day or so as they try to stabilise addictions issues. A translator is brought in if required for induction purposes.

3.31 There is a well-structured approach to delivering induction. Staff review the admission list and filter out those who have attended the induction less than six months before. Prisoners can still attend if they wish but applying this process means that more focus can be placed on prisoners who do need guidance. This does not affect services such as housing advice which are automatically picked up from core screen referrals.

3.32 There is no input to induction from peer tutors or senior managers. No family induction session is offered to families of newly convicted prisoners. These issues should be addressed.

3.33 There are well-produced power point presentations in plain English to explain the complexities of prison life. The same model is delivered to remand and convicted prisoners. There are comprehensive arrangements in place for foreign languages in the form of a CD and power point show with translations. This is an area of good practice.

Progression

3.34 There is an internal progression within the main prison based initially on the classification of prisoners. On admission all prisoners including protections go to the FNIC. After the first 24 hours they are allocated to another hall, usually 'B' hall. Prisoners in 'B' hall are usually moved to 'C' hall if they are serving more than four months. There is no other internal progression.

3.35 In terms of national progression, the relevant risk management processes are in place and appear to be working effectively. The Governor or Deputy Governor chairs monthly meetings to make decisions about progression to the Open Estate or a national Top End.

3.36 Prisoners at Friarton expressed some frustration about the lack of progress made by certain prisoners to work placements and the home leave scheme. On checking the process inspectors found that managers were aware of the situation and were making some changes designed to clarify and simplify this area.

3.37 Despite the complaints from Friarton the management of progression and transfer to other prisons seems to be operating effectively.

Suicide Risk Management

3.38 There has been one suicide in each of the last two calendar years, one in 2009 and one in 2008. This is a reduction on a peak of four in 2007. The monthly average of new ACT2Care cases opened in 2008-09 was 27 and in the current year the average is 23.

3.39 There is evidence that management try to learn from suicides by conducting an in-depth audit and a review of the circumstances. There is also a regular audit of paperwork and a report to monitor the process.

3.40 The prison has a total of seven safer cells. Two in 'C' hall are of the modern SPS safer design, with Wessex furniture, electric power and a bed. Neither of these cells was being used during the inspection, but they had not been properly cleaned and aired. Safer cells should be kept ready for occupation at all times. There are four safer cells in 'B' hall and one in 'A' hall. All five are of an old design with no power, and the prisoner sleeps on a mattress on a raised concrete plinth. Two of these were in use and the remainder were clean and ready for occupation. It is recommended that all safer cells should be of the modern design.

3.41 Perth has five trained listeners in the main prison and three in Friarton hall. Inspectors met with Listeners and were told that the number of calls was low. There are regular meetings with Samaritans and a member of staff on each site co-ordinates the activities. Listeners reported that staff were generally supportive of the scheme and there were no barriers to meeting a client, including during the hours of lock-up.

3.42 A review of the paperwork indicated that the prison tailors interventions to the individual needs of the prisoner. For example there is evidence of "at risk" prisoners being placed in a normal cell. There was a very good example of an immediate care plan allowing an "at risk" prisoner to be in normal accommodation and then amending the care plan when concerns arose about the deteriorating condition of the prisoner. This is an area of good practice. The paperwork showed that families are sometimes in attendance at case conferences. This is an area of good practice.

3.43 The local Suicide Risk Management Group is supposed to meet once per quarter. However the paperwork indicates that the group has only met on two occasions in 2009. The Suicide Risk Management Group should meet at least once every quarter.

3.44 Case conferences meet the minimum requirement of staff attendance and Chaplains routinely visit prisoners on ACT2Care.

3.45 Overall, ACT2Care is operating effectively, with a strong focus on keeping prisoners safe and developing care plans based on individual need.

Night Duty

3.46 Night shift instructions are readily available throughout the prison, and all officers on night duty are able to refer to information contained in the instructions. No night shift staff are first aid trained as a matter of course. At least one member of the night shift staff on duty should be first aid trained. There are sound handover protocols in place for healthcare, ACT2Care and observation of prisoners. All staff displayed a good knowledge of night shift procedures.

Staff Training

3.47 The establishment is meeting its targets for core competency training. However, although there are adequate, suitably experienced ACT2Care trainers, new nurses have been unavailable to complete this training. Arrangements should be put in place to ensure that new nurses complete ACT2Care training.

3.48 Staff attendance rotas at Perth are organised so that training can be delivered every Wednesday. This underlines the establishment's commitment to meeting training targets.

3.49 There is also a robust staff rotation policy in place. The policy statement was revised in partnership in October 2008 and includes provision for monitoring success. The staff rotation policy and practice is an area of good practice.