HMP Leicester, HMIP inspections

The last HMIP inspection of the prison was carried out in February 2023. The full report can be read by clicking on the links below, but the inspectors said in their introduction:

Dating from the 19th century, and located in the city centre, HMP Leicester is a small reception prison, the main purpose of which is to serve the courts of Leicester and elsewhere in the East Midlands. Holding up to 348 adult men, almost all on a single wing, the prison experiences many of the operational pressures inherent in its function. For example, it receives almost 1,500 new prisoners directly from the community each year, some 40% of whom are held on remand or awaiting sentence, and the daily movement of prisoners in and out of the establishment is considerable. The prison also holds a significant number of prisoners who are foreign nationals.

We last inspected Leicester in 2018, when we observed reasonable outcomes against three of our four healthy prison tests, although we reported at the time that the prison needed to be safer. At this inspection it was pleasing to find that outcomes in safety were much better, and that outcomes remained reasonably good in respect, and rehabilitation and release planning. Only in purposeful activity, and in keeping with many other prisons we have visited, did we find that outcomes were not good enough.

Challenges for the prison included its size, the lack of facilities for prisoners and staff, and an antiquated infrastructure. Space was at a premium – hardly enough for staff to engage with prisoners, especially confidentially, and most prisoners lived in overcrowded conditions. There had been significant investment in the prison but living and working conditions were still not good enough. Locally, leaders could have done more in the meantime to demand and ensure better standards with respect to cleanliness and access to amenities, equipment and kit. Despite this, many prisoners seemed fairly content; they liked being at the prison because it was close to their homes and the strength of staff-prisoner relationships mitigated many of the problems. This strength needed to be exploited to help address the shortcomings in other key priorities, such as the better promotion of equality, more reliable arrangements for redress and more useful arrangements for consultation.

The improvement in the safety of prisoners was noticeable. They were received and inducted reasonably well, the rate of violence had reduced considerably and vulnerable prisoners received good care. There was much better management of the segregation unit and use of force had fallen by over 40%. Three prisoners had taken their own lives in 2019, but self-harm had fallen by a third and those in crisis or at risk were generally well cared for. However, leaders had yet to tackle the supply and demand of drugs: strategies needed to be re-energised, better coordinated and applied more consistently.

Similarly, the prison regime needed to be further opened up, with more activity places and more opportunities for unlock. Very few prisoners could access full[1]time activity, although the operation of a ‘split regime’ helped to mitigate the worst effects. On average, prisoners could get about five hours a day out of cell, although when we checked during the working day we found about a third locked up and only just under a quarter doing something purposeful. In contrast we found that prisoners had good access to social visits, the library and the gym. Work to support offender management, public protection and ultimately release planning was generally both useful and effective. It was noteworthy that attempts were also being made to support the large, remanded population, a group that is often overlooked.

Overall, this is an encouraging inspection that describes a prison doing its best in difficult circumstances. The senior team was small, and each had a significant remit, but they communicated well with staff and were often seen around the prison. We were impressed by their resilience and commitment as well as their grounded assessment of the prison’s strengths and weakness. They had, however, more to do to recruit and retain staff and maintain staff morale, despite the positive culture we observed.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
March 2023


The inspectors provided a summary of their concerns

What needs to improve at HMP Leicester

During this inspection we identified 13 key concerns, of which four should be treated as priorities. Priority concerns are those that are most important to improving outcomes for prisoners. They require immediate attention by leaders and managers.

Leaders should make sure that all concerns identified here are addressed and that progress is tracked through a plan which sets out how and when the concerns will be resolved. The plan should be provided to HMI Prisons.

Priority concerns

  1. The prison’s strategy to reduce the supply of and demand for drugs was not sufficiently robust. There was a lack of effective joined up working between leaders and no plan to coordinate, drive and measure the effectiveness of actions taken to address issues. The frequent redeployment of staff impacted on target searching and suspicion testing, and drug testing was predictable to prisoners.
  2. Work to support prisoners’ recovery from addiction was not prioritised. The regime on the recovery unit was limited, staff had not received specialist training, and a lack of time and space reduced therapeutic support.
  3. The emergency cell call bell system did not function effectively, posing a potentially serious risk in an emergency.
  4. There was a lack of full-time activity places and those that were available were not always filled. Full time kitchen workers were required to live in the worst accommodation in the prison which did not incentivise prisoners to fill these roles. The split regime meant that some prisoners could not access classroom vacancies in subjects that they needed to study.

Key concerns

  1. The prison required a comprehensive strategy to tackle the underlying the issue of self-harm, for example, one that focused on risks following a prisoner’s arrival, as well the risks caused by isolation and a lack of access to purposeful activity. Leaders did not yet use data sufficiently well to inform self-harm reduction plans, and current actions were too small in scale to address the fundamental issues leading to self-harm.
  2. Many cells were in need of refurbishment and/or redecoration. The worst accommodation was on the Parsons Unit, where many of the cells were damp with evidence of mould and cockroach infestation.
  3. The promotion of equality needed to be prioritised and energised. The quality of work to support prisoners with protected characteristics was inconsistent, data were not used well to improve outcomes, and there was minimal guidance and support for equality peer workers.
  4. The gym was in need of refurbishment. Damage had been caused by a leaking roof, and a temporary platform for exercise was not fit for purpose.
  5. Prisoners’ attendance and punctuality at work and education sessions was not good enough.
  6. The standard and consistency of teacher and instructor support for prisoners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities required significant improvement. Teachers, for example, needed to implement support plans with greater consistency.
  7. Work activities, and aspects of education provision, required improvement. Work instructors did not plan sufficiently demanding work for many prisoners, and those who studied subjects on their wings did not benefit from well-planned lessons.
  8. The family service provider, PACT, no longer delivered any parenting courses or offered individual casework support to prisoners.
  9. Too many prisoners who should have been released from Leicester were transferred to HMP Lincoln during the latter part of their sentence, undermining work to support resettlement and release planning

Return to Leicester

To see the full report go to the Ministry of Justice web site

This section contains the reports for Leicester from 2001 until present