HMIP Inspections of Lancaster Farms

The prison was given an inspection in the August 2022, 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:

“Built just outside the city of Lancaster in 1993, HMP Lancaster Farms has fulfilled several functions in its comparatively short history, and now serves as a category C resettlement prison, which has capacity for 560 adult men in a modern and reasonably well-appointed prison campus with six residential units. In keeping with the very reasonable built environment, the grounds are also open and very well maintained, something which boosts prisoners’ sense of well-being.

Overall, this was an encouraging inspection. Although outcomes in purposeful activity needed to improve radically, our findings showed that a score of ‘reasonably good’ had been sustained in our two of our healthy prison tests, safety and respect, while outcomes in rehabilitation and release planning had improved and were now also ‘reasonably good’.

We described the prison culture as positive, safe, and respectful, and one which encouraged good behaviour. In our survey, for example, prisoners expressed positive views about their treatment by staff, which was confirmed in our observations of relaxed and friendly staff-prisoner interactions. Such relationships were clearly a strength of the prison, although there was room for further improvement through more effective key work arrangements and the opportunities that will emerge with a less restrictive regime and greater time unlocked.

Many safety indicators were similarly positive. Prisoners told us they felt well-treated on arrival and incidents of violence had fallen, as had use of segregation and use of force. Access to illicit substances remained problematic, and there had been an uptick in incidents of self-harm, although many of these were attributable to a very small number of individuals. Prisoners we spoke to who had experienced a self-harm crisis reported receiving good care.

Prison leaders argued that the main threat to safety and well-being was debt-related bullying, and although some work had been done to address the problem of debt, initiatives lacked rigour. The limited regime and boredom were also likely to be contributory factors which threatened safety; nearly a quarter of prisoners locked up during the working day and there were only sufficient activity places for about a third of the population. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the provision of education learning and skills as ‘requires improvement’. Building and sustaining an active and challenging regime – arguably the central purpose of a resettlement prison – is a key priority for this establishment.

Leadership in the prison was reasonably good. The prison had a settled staff group and leaders put great store by the imminent introduction of proposed new staffing profiles which they said would better target resources as a first step toward regime improvement. Senior management had also encouraged several interesting and creative initiatives aimed at supporting more vulnerable prisoners. Similarly, the recent appointment of a manager with responsibility for the promotion of an equality was a necessary first step if this important agenda was to be energised going forward. Leaders perhaps needed to be slightly more self-analytical, even self-critical, in their assessment of delivery, and we suggested an approach that included greater ambition and more robust and measurable targets for improvement.

As a prison, Lancaster farms has a number of impressive qualities, including clarity of purpose, a reasonable environment and infrastructure, and an engaged staff group. Our sense was that the prison very much had the potential to be a high performing institution and this report highlights the priorities and concerns which we hope will encourage that potential.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
October 2022″


The inspectors also provided a short list of their key concerns

What needs to improve at HMP Lancaster Farms

During this inspection we identified 13 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. There was not enough purposeful activity for prisoners and too many prisoners were locked up for too long.
  2. Work to promote fairness and equality had not been prioritised. There was insufficient oversight of outcomes for prisoners in protected characteristic groups.
  3. Leaders and managers did not deliver consistently well-planned education, skills and work that linked directly to prisoners’ future ambitions and career goals. There were no release on temporary licence (ROTL) work opportunities or high-quality careers information, advice and guidance, throughout prisoners’ sentences.

Key concerns

  1. Body-worn video cameras were often not used, which undermined oversight, accountability and learning with respect to the application of force.
  2. The availability of illicit substances remained a considerable threat.
  3. Incidents of recorded self-harm were increasing. Leaders were not doing enough to address underlying reasons for self-harming such as improving access to purposeful activity or actively managing issues around debt.
  4. Too many prisoners were living in overcrowded conditions that did not afford sufficient living space or adequate privacy.
  5. Some cells were shabby and showing signs of wear. Repairs to flooring, for example, took too long and ventilation in many cells was poor.
  6. Too few escorts were provided for the required number of hospital appointments, many of which were routinely cancelled.
  7. Prisoners did not have reasonable access to a dentist and waiting times remained high.
  8. The quality of education, skills and work provision was inconsistent. Teaching staff did not plan learning or training that took full account of prisoners’ starting points and future aspirations. They did not develop prisoners’ employability skills sufficiently, including English and mathematical skills.
  9. Leaders and managers had been slow to improve the quality of learning and skills provision. Quality improvement actions often focused on processes rather than improving the quality of prisoners’ learning and training experiences. Leaders did not provide suitable training and development activities to improve tutors’ and trainers’ teaching and training skills quickly.
  10. Leaders and managers had failed to ensure the effectiveness of allocation arrangements to education, skills, and work and had similarly failed to ensure consistent attendance at such activities. Many prisoners were allocated to courses that they had not chosen or remained on courses beyond the planned end date. Too many prisoners were unable to attend their face-to-face education and skills activities when staff were on leave

Return to Lancaster Farms

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