Cumbria’s only prison has become safer since it changed from a closed training prison to a category D open establishment, a new report says.
HMP Haverigg, on a sprawling former RAF station in a remote area south of Millom, was inspected in May and HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said the site had a troubled history and had been the subject of much criticism from the Inspectorate in recent years, “particularly in relation to safety and control.”
However, in 2019, HM Prison and Probation Service redesignated the prison – holding 310 men, the majority high-risk sex offenders – as an open prison.
The change coincided with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and “the prison’s response to the pandemic, while maintaining the momentum behind the transition, has therefore been the main strategic challenge for the establishment over the last 16 months.
“It is greatly to the credit of the acting governor, her management team and the staff and prisoners of Haverigg, that they have progressed so well.”
Safety at Haverigg had improved to ‘good’, the inspectorate’s highest assessment. Much of this success was predicated on good staff-prisoner relationships, a traditional strength at Haverigg, with prisoners in the survey being very positive about their experiences in the prison.
Very little recorded violence
There was very little recorded violence or substance misuse. Around 110 prisoners were aged over 55 and inspectors found a calm and relaxed atmosphere at Haverigg.
Staff, in turn, seemed to inspectors to be greatly relieved that the prison had gained for itself a new lease of life, one that they were embracing, although some expressed anxiety about the need to gain the new skills required for working with the particular type of prisoner now held at Haverigg.
Meeting the needs of men convicted of sexual offences was quickly established as the new purpose and specialism of the prison.
Prisoners had very good access to the prison grounds and nearly everyone was involved in some kind of purposeful work or education.
Mr Taylor added: “We were similarly encouraged by the way the prison was sustaining its approach to sentence management, critical risk of harm reduction work and rehabilitative services. As the prison settles into its new role, these services will take on even greater significance.”
Removal of security fencing
The prison, using prisoner labour, was in the process of removing the now superfluous security fencing, as well as other restrictions. “This was not an insignificant task,” Mr Taylor said. “A workshop had even been created to make use of the reclaimed steel.
“Similarly, the prison’s extensive grounds were being developed and opened for prisoner access rather than being cordoned off.”
Prisoners were prepared for release through release on temporary licence (ROTL). Local employers spoke highly of the work ethic of Haverigg prisoners but inspectors urged the prison to expand the range of ROTL options to include more high-skilled occupations.
Overall, Mr Taylor said: “More, of course, remained to be done. Some governance arrangements needed to be tightened up and while prisoners mitigated the worst impact, many accommodation facilities required investment and renewal. The challenge of ensuring a safe but accessible offer of temporary release also needed to be met.
“These issues, which are supported by our recommendations, do not, however, detract from our encouraging findings. Haverigg is fast becoming a very capable establishment and is progressing to a point where it soon may well be one of the better open prisons in the estate.”