HMIP Report, Leyhill

The prison was given an inspection in June 2023, 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:

Leyhill is a category D open prison in rural Gloucestershire which, at the time of our inspection, was holding 437 adult male prisoners. Just under half of those held were aged over 50, and many presented a high risk of harm, often coming to the end of lengthy sentences. Over 40% were serving indeterminate sentences and more than half had been convicted of a sexual offence, although all lived communally. Comprising two main accommodation units, with the recent addition of some modular accommodation, the prison campus was set in well-cared-for grounds that undoubtedly contributed to the calm and settled feel of the institution.

Overall, this was a positive inspection. Although it was our first since 2016, outcomes in our healthy prison tests of safety and respect remained ‘good’, our highest assessment, and ‘reasonably good’ in rehabilitation and release planning. Only in purposeful activity did we find a concerning deterioration. In this test, our assessment had fallen from ‘good’ to ‘poor’, indicative of a significant missed opportunity, especially in the context of an open prison.

Prisoners were generally received well into the prison and, although our survey revealed some negative prisoner perceptions about their personal safety, violence was rare. There was some evidence to suggest that greater staff visibility around the prison would have supported more assurance and confidence among the prisoner population. Over a quarter of the population thought it was easy to access illegal drugs, although the mandatory drugs testing rate was comparatively low. All other indicators concerning safety were encouraging with, for example, very little self-harm and very few abscond or temporary release (ROTL) failures.

The prison was an overwhelmingly respectful institution. Relationships between staff and prisoners were good, the environment was excellent and there had been improvements to living conditions. Prisoner consultation and systems for redress were effective and some very useful work was taking place to support and promote equality. Outcomes in health care were similarly good.

Prisoners had opportunities for spending time out of their rooms, access to the grounds, and a range of enrichment activities. Beyond that, however, the regime had significant shortcomings. Enrichment activities for an increasingly younger population were less well developed than for those aged over 50, and prisoners were not allowed to use an impressive new sports field unsupervised. The curriculum failed to meet prisoner needs and not all work and education opportunities were meaningful or useful. Too few learners obtained qualifications that might have assisted progression and the reading strategy had been implemented too slowly. More needed to be made of the otherwise useful ROTL supported external work placements programme. Our partners in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of work and education provision to be ‘inadequate’, their lowest assessment.

The prison was working hard to encourage prisoners to maintain family ties and offender management interventions were generally good, with reasonable amounts of individual contact. An on-site psychology team provided support to complex prisoners and those presenting the greatest risk and in general, public protection arrangements were robust. Release planning focused on providing practical support and accommodation and was effective, as evidenced by the 88% of prisoners approaching release who, in our survey, indicated they were being helped to prepare for it.

As we concluded our inspection, the prison was facing a period of transition as a new governor took up post. Our assessment was that the prison had been well led, was settled and had a focus on ensuring decent living conditions and good relationships. The inadequacies of the regime were, however, concerning and needed to be prioritised.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
July 2023

The inspectors listed areas which require attention

What needs to improve at HMP Leyhill

During this inspection we identified nine key concerns, of which three 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 provision of education, skills and work was of not of sufficiently high quality and did not equip prisoners with the skills they needed to gain employment on release.
  2. 2. Prisoners with additional learning needs did not receive the support they needed.
  3. The lack of training and effective supervision of support orderlies posed a potential safeguarding risk for frail, elderly and vulnerable prisoners.

Key concerns

  1. Waiting times for access to certain allied and specialist clinics and services were excessive, with up to six months to see a podiatrist and an optician, and five months to see a physiotherapist.
  2. The reading strategy was ineffective, which meant that prisoners who struggled to read did not get the help they needed.
  3. Enrichment activities for younger prisoners were less well developed than those for prisoners who were retired or aged over 50. Some complained of boredom and not having enough to do during evenings and weekends, and they were not allowed to use the sports field unsupervised, which limited their access to healthy recreational activity.
  4. Work to reduce the risk of reoffending was not informed by an adequate overall analysis of the population’s risks and needs.
  5. Prison-employed prison offender managers did not receive enough training or supervision.
  6. There were not enough opportunities for eligible prisoners to work while on temporary release in the community.

Return to Leyhill

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

  • Inspection report (3 MB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Leyhill by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (12–22 June 2023)
  • HMP Leyhill – report (PDF) (547 kB), Report on a scrutiny visit to HMP Leyhill by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (23 February and 2–3 March 2021)
  • HMP Leyhill (860.97 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Leyhill (5-16 September 2016)
  • HMP Leyhill,  Announced inspection of HMP Leyhill (16-20 April 2012)
  • HMP Leyhill, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Leyhill (24 – 26 May 2010)