HMIP Reports, HMP Cardiff

The prison was given an inspection in July 2019, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

HMP Cardiff is a category B local prison for men. At the time of this inspection it held a little under 750 prisoners. It is a traditional local prison, situated in the heart of the city, and serving the courts of south-east Wales. The prison consists predominantly of Victorian buildings, but there have been some more modern additions in recent decades. The prison was last inspected in the summer of 2016 when we found that outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good in two out of four of our inspection areas. Purposeful activity and resettlement were judged to be reasonably good.

I had also been present during the 2016 inspection, and was pleased to find that in the intervening period the prison had made real progress. The grades had improved in all but one of our healthy prison tests, rising in safety, respect and purposeful activity. In view of the challenging context in which prisons, particularly local prisons, have been operating in recent years, this represents a very significant achievement. It is my judgement that much of the improvement can be ascribed to the excellent relationships that existed between staff and prisoners, and the obviously energetic and well-focused leadership of the senior team. These positive relationships had, in turn, contributed to the ability of the prison to address some of the basics that shaped the character of a jail, such as levels of violence, the prevalence or otherwise of drugs, and the living conditions experienced by prisoners.

Importantly, the prison was relatively safe. Fewer prisoners than in similar establishments told us they felt unsafe, which is an enormously important indicator that affects so much else that happens in a jail. We often see the corrosive impact of violence on many aspects of prison life when the prisoners themselves are living in fear. It is much to Cardiff’s credit that while violence figures across the prison estate have generally been rising at an alarming rate in recent years, they had managed to buck the trend. Violence had not increased since the last inspection.

The comprehensive drug supply reduction strategy had undoubtedly had an impact. At the last inspection there were very real concerns about the flow of drugs entering the establishment and in, particular, the role played in this by prisoners being recalled to prison. Illicit drugs were still a very real problem, but the positive mandatory drug testing rate had dropped, and at least there was a sense that there was a degree of control over the situation. The prison would undoubtedly benefit from more technology to assist them in their efforts, and the lack of a body scanner was a significant gap in their defences. In the meantime, they cannot afford to relax their vigilance in any way, and it is our view that although it should be subject to regular review, the current searching regime for new prisoners entering the jail remained proportionate.

Alongside the stabilisation of violence and drug supply, living conditions had improved significantly since the last inspection. Communal areas and cells were cleaner, there was a programme of renewing cell furniture, showers had been improved on some wings, there was now much easier access to basic kit and bedding than at the last inspection thanks to the prison now having its own laundry, and lavatories were better screened. It was certainly true that there were still overcrowded cells, but in general, for a local prison of its type and age, a great deal of progress had been made.

Cardiff prison was, of course, not immune from the social problems that affect wider communities. Some 65% of prisoners arriving at the prison reported having mental health problems. Over half of new arrivals reported drug problems, and a third said they had problems with alcohol. In the six months prior to our inspection more than 350 prisoners required alcohol detoxification. There was also the worrying statistic that since the last inspection, levels of self-harm had risen threefold. More needed to be done to understand why this had happened. All of this placed enormous demands on health care provision, the details of which can be seen in the body of this report. It was a mixed picture, and some of our key concerns and recommendations focus on the provision of services to meet very high demand.

A further social issue that had a significant impact on the prison, and the service it could give to those in its care, was that of homelessness on release. Over the six months prior to the inspection an extremely high figure of 47% of the prisoners being released from the prison did not have any form of accommodation to go to. The community rehabilitation company (CRC) did not follow through with prisoners adequately after their release, and so it was not known how many prisoners eventually found appropriate accommodation. The well-established correlation between homelessness in these circumstances and the risk of reoffending is well known. This was a problem that is clearly beyond the ability of the prison service to address on its own. I have therefore taken the unusual step of making a recommendation to both HMPPS and the Welsh Government that they should work together to find solutions to this very serious problem.

Overall, this was an enormously encouraging inspection as it showed what can be achieved in a traditional local prison. HMP Cardiff disproves the clichés about inner-city Victorian prisons inevitably being places of squalor, violence and despair. The improvements since the last inspection were incredibly encouraging to see, and were testimony to the hard work that had brought them about. On this, my second inspection of Cardiff, it was also clear to me that many prisoners had responded positively to the improvements and wanted to make their own contribution to the prison and thereby to their own futures

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM  September 2019                                 

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Cardiff

To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:

  • HMP Cardiff (563.78 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Cardiff (15-26 July 2019)
  • HMP & YOI Cardiff (597.51 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP & YOI Cardiff (25–26 July, 1–5 August 2016)
  • HMP Cardiff, Announced inspection of HMP Cardiff (18–22 March 2013)
  • Garchar Ei Mawrhydi Caerdydd, Arolygiad lle rhoddwyd rhybudd o Garchar Ei Mawrhydi Caerdydd (18–22 Mawrth 2013)
  • HMP Cardiff, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Cardiff (28-30 June 2010)
  • CEM Caerdydd, Adroddiad arolygiad dilynol byr dirybudd o Garchar Ei Mawrhydi Caerdydd (28-30 Mehefin 2010)
  • HMP Cardiff/CEM Caerdydd, Unannounced inspection of HM Prison Cardiff (7-11 January 2008)/Arolygiad lle rhoddwyd rhybudd CEM Caerdydd (7-11 Ionawr 2008)