Amelia Gentleman from The Guardian spent 3 days at Ashfield.
Click Here to read her article published 21st November 2011
Ministry of Justice Performance Rating for this Juvenile Centre: 3
This is on a scale from 1 (serious concerns) to 4 (Exceptional) and is worked out by the Ministry of Justice taking into account 34 criteria such as overcrowding, purposeful activities etc. A score of 3 is considered a good performance. Published quarterly.
Average weekly hours of Purposeful Activity: 30.3 (2010)
This figure is supplied by each prison to the Prison Service. Actual hours are usually dependent on activities etc. and should be taken as the maximum time either in workshops or education over a whole week.
Both of these figures are published retrospectively by the MoJ and HMPS and may have changed since the figures were published but they give a simple comparison between prisons.
CONSTITUENCY: Thornbury and Yate
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Steve Webb (Liberal Democrat)
Prisoners may write to either their ‘Home MP’ or the MP in whose constituency their current prison lies.
The address to write to is:
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
Most prisons now have PIN phones. Your relative or friend usually needs to apply to have your name and number on his/her telephone account. You will usually receive a call from the prison to check who you are and to ensure you are happy for them to call you. Prisoners cannot receive telephone calls.
There is no restriction on who prisoners can call except in the case of calls to journalists intended to be broadcast. In some cases child protection measures may mean extra checks on who they call.
Prisoners can normally make calls only during ‘association’ periods. Some prisons limit the length of time a call can last to avoid queues and people being disappointed. Prisoners’ telephone calls are very expensive; calls to landlines now cost 10p per minute and 37.5 p to mobiles (compared to 2p in a public phone box). In most prisons the phone calls can be listened to and/or recorded.
In general prisoners phone calls follow the same rules as for letters in as far as who can be contacted and what can be said. If the rules are broken the prison may terminate the call.
If a prisoner is newly convicted or transferred they should be offered an immediate ‘Reception’ phone call to tell you where they are. It may take a few days for numbers to be transferred or added.
When you write to a prisoner you must include your full name and address. In most prisons the letters are searched and can be read before being given to the prisoner.
You can write about anything but letters must not be obscene, name ‘victims’, or be a threat to discipline or security. Do not enclose any items with letters. Make sure you put sufficient postage to cover the costs (anything bigger than A5 counts as ‘large’). Prisoners can normally receive a ‘reasonable’ number of letters per week.
If you send greetings cards these should be of reasonable size and not padded or pouched. Do not send musical cards. If you are sending more than one card put them all inside one outer envelope, this saves postage. Remember to include your full details (you could put your details on a ‘Post-It’ note stuck to the card or include a letter which has your details).
Always put the prisoner’s full name and prison number. If the person has been moved their mail will be forwarded.
On conviction or transfer a prisoner should be given a ‘Reception’ letter to write to tell you where they are.
Prisoners are given a free letter each week to post out, they can send more, but at their own expense. Some prisons allow you to send in stamps.
You can send stamped address envelopes (address to yourself), for the prisoner to reply, to any prisoner in any prison.
Prisoners are not allowed to send you letters or information to be posted on social networking internet sites.
Remember all letters are opened and checked and may be read.
Full information about prisoners’ correspondence can be found in Prison Service Instruction 2011-006
You can usually send in photographs but in some prisons these must not include any image of the prisoner. Child protection measures may mean that some prisoners may not receive pictures of children, unless they are their own and were not ‘victims’. If you send pictures of children include an explanatory note identifying who the children are and their relationship to the prisoner.
It is not a good idea to send cash, this can get ‘lost’ in the prison. Prisons prefer Postal Orders, but you could send a cheque. Enclose a letter detailing who the PO/Cheuqe is for and who it is from.
Postal Orders; Make these payable to the prisoner's full name and number: Write your own name and address on the reverse.
Cheques: Make these payable to 'Serco Ltd'; and write the prisoner's full name and number on the reverse, plus your name and address.
Money you send is paid into the prisoner’s ‘Private Cash’ account and they get access to a certain amount (depending upon IEP) each week [currently £15.50 for Standard prisoners]. Include your full detail in an accompanying letter or note. It takes about a week for the money to be credited to the prisoner.
For full information about visits please refer to our ‘Visit Info’ section for this prison. Visits are very important to prisoners. At most prisons you may not give any item to the prisoner. Any items you wish to give them must usually be posted to the prison, and often after the prisoner has placed an ‘application’ for authorisation to have it sent in. The items which can be posted in are very limited. Check with the prisoner first and wait until they confirm that you can post it.
If there is a serious emergency - close family serious illness, death, or other reason you need to inform the prisoner immediately, you should telephone the main prison number and explain the problem to the operator who will transfer you to the appropriate person. If you are unhappy about their response redial and ask to speak to the Chaplaincy. Prison staff will not pass on general messages but only critical and very urgent messages. You should provide full details of the prisoner including their number.
Support and Advice
There are many very good charities and agencies who offer support and advice to people with family or friends in prison. We have a special section ‘Help/Support’ which has details and contact information for many of these. Do not hesitate or feel shy about calling any of these; they are there to offer support and advice.
EMAIL A PRISONER
This service operates at this prison. Email a Prisoner enables you to send messages to prisoners, in the UK and Irish prisons that operate the service, from any computer, without any of the hassles of writing and posting a letter, and it costs less than a second class stamp!
Your message is delivered to the prison within seconds so that it can be delivered to the prisoner by the prison staff in the next delivery.
It is free to sign up to Email a Prisoner and only takes a few seconds - all you need is an email address (EMaP can help you if you don't have an email address).
Once a member you will be able to send a message to any prisoner in the UK or Ireland, provided you know their prisoner number, from just 25 pence per message.
Click Here for link to Email a Prisoner website
Story Book Dads/Mums
Story Book Dads/Mums operates at this prison.
The imprisoned parent records a story and a message which is then edited and enhanced using digital audio software and editors remove mistakes and add sound effects and music. Finally a CD is made, a personalised cover created, and the finished disc sent to the child. The whole service is free.
Click Here for more information
Prison Video Link (PVL)
All prisons with video link facilities have at least one courtroom and two briefing rooms where the defendant can hold a conference with their solicitor before and, if required, after their court hearing.
If court hearings are not taking place it may be possible for solicitors, barristers and Probation Officers to hold interviews with a prisoner via video link to save having to visit the prison.
The facility is also available to assist the Parole Board in dealing with oral hearings.
It should be noted however that court hearings must take priority. At other times, operational reasons may mean bookings are refused or cancelled at short notice.
To book the Video Link facility telephone: 0117 303 8000 ext 8160/8055
Ashfield has a comprehensive multidisciplinary substance misuse strategy involving detoxification, group work and individual sessions. Education provides drug and alcohol awareness courses and the substance misuse team offers relapse prevention, harm minimization and acupuncture courses.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP)
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales (HMI Prisons) is an independent inspectorate which reports on conditions for, and treatment of, those in prisons, young offender institutions and immigration detention facilities. They provide independent scrutiny of the conditions for and treatment of prisoners and other detainees, promoting the concept of 'healthy prisons' in which staff work effectively to support prisoners and detainees to reduce reoffending or achieve other agreed outcomes.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMCIP) is appointed from outside the Prison Service, for a term of five years. The Chief Inspector reports to Ministers on the treatment of prisoners and conditions in prisons in England and Wales.
The Inspectorate’s programme of inspection is based on a mixture of chronology and risk assessment. Full inspections run on a five or three year cycle; all unannounced follow-up inspections run on a risk-assessed basis.
Prison establishments holding adults and young adults are inspected once every five years. Establishments holding juveniles are inspected every three years. This type of inspection lasts for at least one week. The Inspectorate collects information from many sources, including the people who work there, the people who are imprisoned or detained there, and visitors or others with an interest in the establishment. Inspection findings are reported back to the establishment’s managers. Reports are published within 16 weeks of inspection. The establishment is then expected to produce an action plan, based on the recommendations made within the report, within a short period following publication.
Full follow-up inspections
Follow-up inspections are unannounced and proportionate to risk. In full follow-up inspections inspectors assess progress made and undertake in-depth analysis of areas of serious concern identified in the previous full inspection, particularly on safety and respect.
Short follow-up inspections
Short follow-up inspections are also unannounced and conducted where the previous full inspection and our intelligence systems suggest that there are comparatively fewer concerns.
Three escort inspections are conducted every year.
One month prior to each full announced inspection, an inspector will visit the establishment to plan the inspection and request a range of preliminary information. In addition, researchers will attend to conduct a confidential survey of a representative proportion of the prisoner population. Results from the prisoner survey are provided for inspectors prior to the inspection and constitute an important source of evidence.
All inspections are conducted against the Inspectorate's published inspection criteria, 'Expectations'. Expectations' are based on international human rights standards, as well as Prison Service Orders and Standards, and over all issues considered essential to the safe, respectful and purposeful treatment of offenders in custody and their effective resettlement.
'Expectations' is the document which sets out the detailed criteria HMI Prisons uses to appraise and inspect prisons. These criteria are used to examine every area of prison life, from reception to resettlement, including;
• safer custody
• health services
• good order
The concept of a healthy prison is one that was first set out by the World Health Organisation, but it has been developed by this Inspectorate, and is now widely accepted as a definition of what ought to be provided in any custodial environment. It rests upon four key tests:
• safety: prisoners, even the most vulnerable, are held safely
• respect: prisoners are treated with respect for their human dignity
• purposeful activity: prisoners are able, and expected, to engage in activity that is likely to benefit them
• resettlement: prisoners are prepared for release into the community, and helped to reduce the likelihood of reoffending
Inspection reports are published within 16 weeks of the inspection. Prior to publication, the Prison Service (or whoever is responsible for the establishment) is invited to correct any factual inaccuracies within the report. The establishment is then expected to produce an action plan, based on the recommendations made in the report, within two months of publication. A progress report on the action plain is produced after a further 12 months.
Last Inspection by HMCIP: 10 - 14 May 2010 - full unannounced inspection
Report Dated: August 2010
Published: 27th October 2010
“ The full unannounced inspection of HMYOI Ashfield took place in May this year before I took up my appointment. The inspection took place and the initial draft of this report was written during the tenure of my predecessor, Dame Anne Owers. I am grateful for her comments and advice about the report.
“ Ashfield is a young offenders’ institution for young men aged between 15 and 18 years old, which has long shaken off its early difficulties and has attracted good inspection reports for some time. This inspection showed even further progress, and some excellent and innovative practice, with demonstrable effect on the life chances of many of the young men there. Our only caveat would be that, at the time of the inspection, the establishment was barely half full, and operating at a capacity and size that was very beneficial to staff and young people.
“ Ashfield was a much safer place than when we last visited. In a survey in 2009, 43% of young people said they had felt unsafe; at this inspection, this had reduced to 21%. Procedures for supporting young people in the early days of custody were very good, and there was good support for vulnerable young people and those at risk of self-harm. The Brunel Unit had developed into a very focused and supportive environment for some of the most challenging young people. However, there was no coordinated care planning for young people who might be being managed under a variety of different support and planning systems. The loss of funding for social work posts had left a serious gap, particularly for looked-after children and Ashfield must take steps to ensure the needs of looked after children are properly identified and addressed.
“ The environment had become rather tired, though considerable efforts were now being made to refurbish units left empty due to under-population. Relationships between staff and young people were generally good, though there was evidence that a few staff need more support to observe or set proper boundaries. Race relations work was very well-developed, but other aspects of diversity – particularly support for foreign nationals and young people with disabilities – needed further development. Health services were very good and mental health services excellent – and much needed, with an annual caseload of 250.
“ The amount and quality of activity at Ashfield was extremely good. We found hardly any young people on the units during the main part of the day, and there was a wide range of education and vocational training. Two departments – PE and catering – were outstanding, not only for the training and programmes they delivered within Ashfield, but also for their use of outside work placements while young men were serving their sentence, and, very unusually, providing monitoring and support for them after they were released. Young people had plenty of time out of cell, and regular exercise.
“ Resettlement was also an improved, and very good, service. Outside agencies – both voluntary sector and businesses – were involved in delivering services, and providing opportunities for community placements during sentence and employment opportunities on release. Most young people left Ashfield with a college place or employment to go to, and there were some innovative schemes, such as that run by the St Giles’ Trust, to support and house young people after release. Training planning was effective, and there were good links with nearby youth offending teams. The distance from home of many young people made family visits problematic, but there was some proactive family support work, including family group conferencing and restorative justice. There was a new unit for young people serving long and indeterminate sentences, which would need further development.
“ Ashfield has made sustained improvement since its earlier inspections. Managers and staff have brought an enthusiastic and innovative approach, developing good internal support systems, drawing in external agencies and in some cases supporting young people in the crucial period after release. At the time of the inspection, Ashfield delivered good outcomes in three of the healthy prison tests and reasonably good outcomes in one – an impressive result – but it was also only about half full. This had undoubtedly contributed to the improved feelings of safety among the young people, the ability to refurbish tired residential units, and the capacity to provide full and constructive activity. With the closure of Huntercombe, Ashfield is likely to fill up again. It is disappointing that the reduction in the juvenile population has not also resulted in a reduction in the size of over-large establishments for young men – but it is to be hoped that the real and demonstrable progress that Ashfield has made will be sustainable, even as it expands again.”
Nick Hardwick August 2010
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
Click here to read the full report
HMCIP: August 2008
"Ashfield is a privately-run male juvenile establishment, holding 387 young men at the time of the inspection. It has been open for around nine years, and its first three years were extremely troubled, culminating in a very poor inspection report in 2002 and a temporary takeover by the public sector Prison Service.
"Since then, inspection reports have described rapid and sustained improvement, which this report shows has continued. Previous performance in safety, respect and activities had been maintained, and there had been improvements in the establishment’s resettlement work.
"Ashfield remained a largely safe place, where fewer young people than at comparator prisons said they had felt unsafe. Late arrivals, however, impacted on the establishment’s ability to support young people in the early days of custody. Both assaults and the use of force were high, though steps were being taken to address the underlying causes, using some innovative interventions. The role of the ‘reorientation’ unit was unclear, and the lack of an on-site social worker was affecting safeguarding work and work with looked-after children.
"Relationships between staff and young people were appropriate, and the role of personal officers was unusually well developed. Procedures for managing race and diversity had improved, though the perceptions of black and minority ethnic young people remained particularly poor. Both healthcare and the support for young people with substance abuse problems had improved.
"As at previous inspections, the quantity and quality of purposeful activity for young people at Ashfield was very good. Education offered a broad curriculum, with specialist support for those with attention deficit and hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Some vocational courses had been introduced, and the Connexions work had improved. Young people were out of their cells for an average of just under 10 hours a day, and physical education activities were good.
"At the last inspection, resettlement was rated as not performing sufficiently well. This had improved significantly, with improvements to both strategic management and the delivery of services. Attendance at planning reviews had improved, though, as over a quarter of young people lived more than 100 miles away, few families were able to attend. Support for young people serving long and indeterminate sentences remained inadequate.
"This is another positive inspection of Ashfield. Managers and staff had responded to weaknesses highlighted in previous reports, with some innovative approaches. Though relationships between staff and young people remained generally good, the high level of assaults and use of force bore witness to the difficulty of managing this volatile population safely in large establishments and units. Nevertheless, this report shows that Ashfield had been able to sustain and continue the progress it has made over the last six years."
Anne Owers December 2008
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
Click here to read the full report
Independent Monitoring Board
By law every prison and immigration removal centre must have an Independent Monitoring Board. IMBs in prisons derive their responsibilities from the Prison Act 1952 (Section 6). Prison Rules dealing with IMBs are numbers; 74 to 80
IMBs were known as ‘Boards of Visitors’ and are still referred to in the legislation under their old titles, although this is likely to change in the near future.
The Independent Monitoring Board for each establishment is made up of independent and unpaid volunteers from the local area. They monitor the day-to-day life in the establishment and ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained. Members have unrestricted access to all areas of the prison at all times and can talk to any prisoner they wish, out of sight and hearing of a members of staff. They visit all areas such as; kitchens, workshops, accommodation blocks, recreation areas, healthcare centre and chaplaincy.
If a prisoner or detainee has an issue that they have been unable to resolve through the usual internal channels, they can place a confidential request to see a member of the IMB. Problems might include concerns over lost property, visits from family or friends, special religious or cultural requirements, or even serious allegations such as bullying. In addition, if something serious happens at the prison, for example a riot or a death in custody, IMB members may be called in to attend and observe the way in which it is handled.
IMB members sample food, can attend adjudications and should visit people held in the segregation unit. They must also be kept informed on such issues as the use of restraints.
The IMB meets regularly, usually once per month, and has an elected Chair and Vice Chair. Members work together as a team to raise any matters of concern and to keep an independent eye on the prison.
CLICK HERE - to read the latest IMB reports for any prison.
Click on the year and then select the prison.
Information in this section has been kindly provided by the individual prison and the Ministry of Justice. This is supplemented with information from various government websites, Inspectorates and IMB reports and specialist departments within the Prison Service, government, and regional assemblies/parliaments.
Some of the data is published retrospectively: IMBs/Visiting Committees publish their reports up to 6 months after the end of the reporting period and at different times throughout the year, HMCIP publish their reports up to 6 months after the inspection. Population and performance figures are the latest published but can be considerably out of date.
Please Note: Information is constantly changing: The information on our website is regularly checked but if you have additional information, or if you believe that any of our information is incorrect or any links appear to fail please click on ‘Contact’, below.
Before acting upon any information you are advised to contact the prison directly to ensure there have been no recent changes.
Last Update: March 2012