HMIP Inspections, Askham Grange

The last inspection of the prison was in June/July 2023. To read the full report form the inspectors go to the Ministry of Justice web site or follow the links below. The latest report said:

HMP & YOI Askham Grange is a women’s open prison on the outskirts of York. Its primary aim is to promote effective rehabilitation through release on temporary licence and other resettlement activities. We judged that outcomes for women remained good across all of our healthy prison tests. However, with the capacity to hold up to 128 prisoners it was disappointing to find that a quarter of spaces were empty, which was a wasted opportunity in such an important and highly effective prison.

The full purpose of the prison had been restored, with over three-quarters of the population accessing some form of release on temporary licence (ROTL). Nearly half of the women had an education, skills or work placement in the community, much of which was paid employment. Leaders had not yet been able to recruit a head of learning and skills and some teaching and training positions were vacant which impacted on delivery. The poor recording of employment skills developed through work was disappointing.

The prison was managed jointly with HMP & YOI New Hall and leadership remained strong. Women arriving at the prison were supported and helped to make the transition to living in open conditions. Promoting positive behaviour was a leadership priority and fundamental to the culture of the prison. Incentives to behave well were primarily promoted by access to ROTL and other rehabilitative opportunities. Leaders returned few prisoners to closed conditions and, when this was necessary, the decisions were appropriate and well evidenced.

Askham Grange remained a safe place to live, with no recorded incidents of violence since our last inspection in 2019. Leaders and managers had put in place effective responses to signs of heightened risks from women. Staff were knowledgeable about prisoners and were able to spot changes in mood and demeanour before they escalated into serious concerns or actual violence.

However, our survey showed some significantly worse perceptions from women, including more negative views about their treatment by staff, including more verbal abuse. In talking to women, they said this involved a very small number of staff who came across as rude and less caring, but it was a concern that the actions of these few were undermining otherwise very good relationships. Consultation with prisoners from protected and minority groups had dwindled, and leaders had not collated, analysed or used data well enough to identify potential disproportionality.

Health care provision and outcomes were generally very good and there was excellent support to help women stay in touch with their family and friends. The mother and baby unit (MBU) and Acorn House were exceptional examples of this. There was good support for women who had experienced trauma, including bereavement, and the help given by prison offender managers (POMs) and key workers was very positive. Joint working between POMs, two forensic psychologists, the family worker and two resettlement workers was cohesive, supportive and effective. However, some of the weaknesses we found at our last inspection in the recording, application and management of child contact restrictions persisted.

We could not understand why women had to submit overly detailed and prescriptive ROTL plans four weeks ahead of each home leave. It was clearly causing women great fear and anxiety, to the point that some said they could potentially cause a ROTL failure by not sticking to every little detail of the plan. Resettlement planning for release was good but it was difficult to understand why accommodation outcomes were not being measured in a far more robust way to evidence longer-term housing after release.

Askham Grange continues to be a very high performing prison through solid and clear leadership, supported by a community ethos and excellent joint working. It is a shame that too few women are transferred there and HMPPS should look at how more women can benefit from such a valuable opportunity in preparation for release.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
August 2023


The inspectors provided a short list of important action points

What needs to improve at HMP & YOI Askham Grange

During this inspection we identified seven key concerns (but the report only lists 6!), of which two 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. Too few women were benefiting from the excellent rehabilitation and resettlement opportunities at Askham Grange. A quarter of places at the prison were unoccupied, even though many closed prisons were holding women assessed as suitable for open conditions.
  2. Leaders and managers had not been able to recruit to key leadership, teaching and training posts, which was limiting the range of education and training provision available to women.

Key concerns

  1. In our survey, far more women than at our last inspection said they had felt unsafe at some point during their stay at the prison. In addition, far fewer women than at the previous inspection said staff treated them with respect and far more that they had received verbal abuse from them.
  2. Women were unable to review or seek to improve their employment[1]related skills as recording of these achievements was not effective.
  3. Plans for release on temporary licence (ROTL) home leave were unnecessarily detailed and prescriptive. Many women described fearing failure due to the requirement to develop very early prescriptive plans. They said it was very difficult to set out, several weeks in advance, every detail of what they would be doing during home leave and exactly when.
  4. The application and oversight of child contact restrictions required improvement.


Return to Askham Grange

To see the full reports just follow the links below