HMP Onley had a 'troubling' inspection last year - here's what progress has been made since

HMP Onley has made 'very mixed' progress since a troubling inspection last year, a report compiled by independent inspectors has revealed.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 10:51 am
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 10:52 am
HMP Onley.

The training prison near Rugby holds 740 men, 80 per cent of them from London, was found to have taken robust action to tackle violence, including predatory behaviour towards new arrivals.

But the independent review of progress (IRP) report, undertaken in November, found there had been no meaningful progress against illicit drugs.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, recalled that at the full inspection in November 2018 inspectors were concerned about safety, assessing it as poor, the lowest assessment, for the second consecutive inspection.

Respect, purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning – the three other ‘healthy prison tests’ – were all not sufficiently good in 2018.

At that time, inspectors found chronic staff shortages and inexperience, and that staff lacked the confidence and skills to challenge poor prisoner behaviour.

And prisoners had too little time unlocked.

At the IRP, a year later, Mr Clarke said: “In the area of safety, our area of greatest concern, the prison had made mostly good or reasonable progress.

"Prisoners were now better supported and informed during their early days at the prison and were better protected from predatory behaviour.

"The prison was managing its intelligence more effectively and had a much better understanding of the gang affiliations of prisoners to manage them more safely.

"The prison had worked extremely hard to address violence.”

Levels of violence have been found to have reduced substantially.

But Mr Clarke added there had been no meaningful progress in tackling drug availability.

A quarter of prisoners were testing positive for drugs, more than at the inspection.

Relationships between staff and prisoners had not improved overall.

Increased staffing levels meant that staff supervision was often better, but about 60 per cent of officers had less than 12 months’ experience and did not have the skills and confidence to challenge poor behaviour or even respond to very basic requests from prisoners.

Action to improve the external and communal areas of the prison had been minimal.

Communal areas were still grubby, rats were still prevalent and showers were in a very poor state.

With the arrival of new staff, a new fuller daily regime had been introduced, allowing for greater time unlocked, but this regime remained beset by cancellations and was not reliably delivered.

Mr Clarke said: “This was compounded by a lack of education, work and training places and poor attendance, leaving more than a third of prisoners locked up during the working day, which is particularly unacceptable in a training prison.”

“It was clear the prison had focused on safety as a main concern and its success in reducing levels of violence should be commended.

"However, the lack of attention to tackling drugs was inexplicable.

"The lack of progress in improving education, work and skills outcomes for prisoners, given that Onley is a training prison, is a concern.

"There are other considerable challenges ahead.

"The prison has been running with staff shortages for many years.

"The impact this has had on staff and prisoners has been immense, and while there have been some improvements, staff shortages continue to blight progress.

"If Onley is to progress further, it needs support to recruit and retain its new staff, and ensure they are skilled and confident in their role.”