HMIP Inspections, Full Sutton

The prison was inspected in February / March 2020 and in their report the inspectors said:

“HMP Full Sutton is a high security dispersal prison for men, holding category A and B prisoners. It is situated near York, and at the time of this inspection held around 560 prisoners. Over 80% are assessed as presenting a high or very high risk of harm to others, and nearly 60% are serving indeterminate sentences. The prisoner population is complex, including prisoners convicted of a wide range of very serious offences.

At the last inspection, held in January 2016, we found the prison to be performing well, achieving grades of reasonably good in safety, respect and rehabilitation and release planning, and good for purposeful activity. On this occasion, the grades awarded for respect and rehabilitation and release planning remained the same, while safety improved to our highest grade of good, and purposeful activity declined to be not sufficiently good.

In terms of safety, Full Sutton had the lowest levels of violence in the high security estate, with a comparatively small proportion of prisoners (22%) reporting to us that they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. It was pleasing to see that the segregation unit had improved considerably since the time of the last inspection. The incentives and earned privileges scheme (IEP) was used in a way that did genuinely encourage good behaviour, and it was good to find that Challenge, Support and Intervention Plans (CSIPs) were being well used. Less positively it was disappointing that drugs suspicion testing was not being used as effectively as it should be in an establishment such as Full Sutton, with only a third of requested tests being carried out, of which a third were proving positive. This represents a missed opportunity to make Full Sutton even safer than it already is.

Our survey found that those prisoners suffering with mental health problems or who were disabled (44% and 38% respectively) had more negative views of their treatment, including their safety, than others. The reasons behind these perceptions need to be properly analysed and action taken to address them. We also found that there was a lack of strategic management of equality and diversity issues, and when this is rectified it should help with addressing the negative perceptions of disabled prisoners and those with mental health problems.

Our findings in the area of purposeful activity were disappointing. There were not enough work or activity places for the population, and allocation was too slow in some cases. Our colleagues from Ofsted recognised that plans were in place to bring about improvements, but those had yet to materialise. For instance, knowledge and skills gained by prisoners were not recorded, and there was no opportunity to achieve accredited qualifications. Although the prison’s plans around this were in place, they had not been implemented at the time of this inspection, and Ofsted were clear in their judgement that the provision of education, skills and work required improvement. The prison was very confident that its plans would come to fruition quite quickly, and said they would be encouraging Ofsted for an early re-appraisal of progress.

Public protection work was generally robust, which was an important finding given the high risk posed by so many of Full Sutton’s prisoners. However, it was disappointing that around 40% of prisoners did not have an up to date assessment (OASys) of their risks and needs. In a prison such as this, with many prisoners serving very long sentences, it is obviously important that they should feel that their needs have been recognised and that there is an opportunity to make progress. We also found that more could be done to help prisoners maintain meaningful contact with families and friends. On a very positive note, psychology staff were well integrated across the prison, and we have identified the way in which this has been done at Full Sutton as good practice.

 Full Sutton is a prison that performs its important function well. It is fundamentally a safe and decent establishment, benefitting from energetic leadership and a staff group who interact well with the prisoners in their charge. If the plans that are now in place to improve the provision of education, skills and work bear fruit, and a few key issues in other areas are addressed, there is no reason why Full Sutton could not aspire to be one of the best performing prisons in the country.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
April 2020


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To read the full reports click on the links below