Prison praised for good performance

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A Northumberland prison has been praised for performing well during a period of ‘considerable change’, but inspectors have raised a number of concerns.

HMP Northumberland – formed after the former young offenders’ institution Castington and adult training prison Acklington were merged together – has undergone its first inspection.

The 1,300-capacity facility has been credited for its cleanliness, the relationships between staff and inmates, good levels of teaching and satisfactory procedures to tackle violence and self-harm.

On top of that, more prisoners said they felt safe than in similar prisons and the report found that the use of force and segregation were ‘low and well managed’.

However, inspectors did criticise the prison on a number of grounds, including the fact that a third of inmates were locked up ‘doing nothing during the working day’.

The report also states that, although the prison’s training regime had potential, there were ‘insufficient places’ to meet the needs of the population.

It adds that allocation arrangements were ‘poor’, meaning existing places weren’t fully utilised and punctuality was ‘erratic’.

Further work is also needed to improve offender management, as caseloads were too high and some structures and processes were ‘weak’.

On balance though, inspectors said that as their visit took place when the prison was undergoing a period of change and upheaval, it should take credit for what is a reasonably good report.

Nick Harwick, chief inspector of prisons, said: “This inspection took place at a time of significant change and uncertainty for HMP Northumberland.

“Castington and Acklington had integrated well and felt like one entity, which was a real achievement.

“We were impressed by the energetic and committed management team who were delivering some solid outcomes.

“The prison’s priorities, however, must be to deliver on the work begun in resettlement and to get prisoners usefully occupied in this training prison.”