Thursday, 24 July 2014

Ranby Report shows need for Improvement in Inspection as well as Prisons

A month after his disturbing assessment of the state of the prison system was cavalierly dismissed by Chris Grayling, Chief Inspector Nick Hardwick has produced a shocking report on Ranby , the category C prison in Nottinghamshire which has seen four suicides in the last year.

The high levels of violence and poor response to self-harm are sadly not in themselves unusual. What is troubling is how far  the prison has deteriorated since the last inspection two years ago. In 2012 Ranby was found to be reasonably good at providing purposeful activity and resettlement work but outcomes in terms of safety and respect were not sufficiently good.

The decline in performance is perhaps not surprising given the cuts in resources which Ranby , and indeed all prisons have had to face . The Independent Monitoring Board asked the Prisons Minister in their 2012-13 report how he can “approve a reduction in the level of staff and expect to provide all those who work and live in HMP Ranby a safe and secure establishment?” 

Given the further reductions in resources expected in the next few years, this is surely an issue that the Inspectorate themselves must  address more directly. Providing a factual summary of trends in staff numbers in each of their reports would be a start.

The Ranby report also suggests the need for a different kind of inspection regime. When Ofsted finds schools to be inadequate they can give a notice to improve if they think the management capable of bringing about change or place it in special measures if not. A similar approach is being introduced in health and social care.

 In the case of Ofsted, schools with serious weaknesses can be prevented from taking on newly qualified teachers.  Inspectors visit once or twice a term to check that an action plan is on course.  Providing this closer level of attention to how prisons are run is going to be necessary if the Inspectorate is to help bring about improvement rather  than simply document failure.