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HMP PENTONVILLE Prison Regime Info


Caledonian Road London N7 8TT image of HMP PENTONVILLE prison

Phone No.

020 7023 7000

Governor / Director

Gary Monaghan


Male Local



Operational Capacity


Cell Occupancy

All double

Listener Scheme


First Night Centre



Chair: Gordon Cropper
Vice Chair: Jean Silkoff and Ann Waters

Visitor Info Page

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Online Library documents for HMP PENTONVILLE

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Category B local prison holding remand, trial and short-term convicted prisoners.


Pentonville prison was the prototype for a radical design by Major Jebb - after whom the avenue on which Brixton prison stands was named. Pentonville was completed over 150 years ago and has remained in use ever since as a local prison. Although much refurbishment has taken place the original four cellblocks are as they were when the prison opened in 1842.

Pentonville has 7 residential wings:

  • A wing – Induction and First Night Centre. This wing has recently been refurbished to cater for new arrivals into custody
  • B wing – Resettlement wing
  • C and G Wings are for remand and convicted prisoners and provide services including education, workshops and offending behaviour courses
  • D Wing – Is the enhanced wing
  • E Wing – Substance Misuse Unit
  • F Wing – IDTS (Stabilisation Unit)

All wings have been refurbished and offer generally good quality accommodation with integral sanitation, showers, hot water boiler and card phones.

Reception Criteria

Normal reception arrangements: Pentonville is a local prison, it accepts all suitable male prisoners over the age of 21 from courts in its catchment area.


  • Hobbies kits during lock-up
  • In-cell power
  • Own bedding (Subject to status)
  • Own clothes
  • Playstation (Enhanced only)
  • Television (50p per week)

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Mon: 07:30 & 13:30
Tue: 07:30 & 13:30
Wed: 07:30 & 13:30
Thu: 07:30 & 13:30
Fri: 07:30 & 13:30
Sat: 08:15 & 13:30
Sun: 08:15 & 13:30


Mon: 75 minutes during core day
Tue: 75 minutes during core day
Wed: 75 minutes during core day
Thu: 75 minutes during core day
Fri: 75 minutes during core day
Sat: 3 hours per day for each wing
Sun: 3 hours per day for each wing

As well as 75 minutes during the core day one landing per night, on each wing, has evening Association between 18:00 and 19:45.

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There is a sports hall and weights / CV room with Multi-gym, free weights and a variety of fitness equipment, PE programs run throughout the week with evening provision four evenings per week and are supervised by PE Officers.
There is equality of access for all prisoners for the weights / CV sessions.
Sessions include;

  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Basketball Leaders award
  • BWLA (British Weight Lifting Association)
  • Circuits and Cardio Vascular Training
  • FA level 1 (Football Association Coaching)
  • First Aid
  • Football and minor games. Accreditation is available for CSLA (Community Sports Leaders Award)
  • Heart Start
  • Manual Handling and Diet and Nutrition
  • Remedial
  • Volleyball
  • Volleyball CSLA Award
  • Weights

There are good community links with Age Concern, Tough Talk, Arsenal FC, Street League, City and Islington College, local PCT and the Drug Free Power Lifting Team.

There are also dedicated sessions for those with disabilities and those in the DETOX unit.

There are currently no outdoor sporting facilities available.

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The Library has recently been relocated and re-furbished and opens throughout the week to allow prisoners access to reading materials.

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Every prison has a Chaplaincy department managed by a Co-ordinating Chaplain and supported by admin staff, other Chaplains and ‘Sessional Chaplains’ (faith leaders who visit for specific services or sessions). The Chaplaincy is considered an important part of the prison structure. When a prisoner arrives at a prison they are usually seen by a Chaplain within 24 hours and are invited to register as a specific religion (if they haven’t already done so) and can change their declared religion at any time.

The Chaplaincy does far more than just pastoral care; they often are able to lend radios, musical instruments and typewriters; they may take part in Sentence Planning and are available as a ‘listening ear’ and are able, sometimes, to help with domestic problems. Most Chaplaincies run various courses and activities which may or may not have a religious theme. Every prisoner has the right to follow their religious practices and attend Chapel for services pertaining to their declared faith (even when segregated).

The Chaplaincy are able to organise faith activities for all main religions (as recognised by the Prison Service; this does not, at present include Rastafarian as a specific religion) and contact faith representatives to visit individual or groups of prisoners for the purpose of religious activities. The chaplaincy can also intercede on matters of religious dress, diet and artefacts. A full list of permitted artefacts can be found in the Glossary Section under Religious Artefacts.

You can contact the Chaplaincy by letter or by telephoning the main prison number and asking to speak to the Chaplaincy. The Chaplaincy works as part of the prison and cannot, therefore, guarantee confidentiality (they can explain this to you in detail). Prisoners can contact the Chaplaincy in person or by Application.

Chaplaincy Statement of Purpose (HMPS)
The Chaplaincy is committed to serving the needs of prisoners, staff and religious traditions by engaging all human experience. We will work collaboratively, respecting the integrity of each tradition and discipline. We believe that faith and the search for meaning directs and inspires life, and are committed to providing sacred spaces and dedicated teams to deepen and enrich human experience. We contribute to the care of prisoners to enable them to lead law-abiding and useful lives in custody and after release.

The Co-ordinating Chaplain at Pentonville is: Charlie Bianco

Pentonville has an Ecumenical Chapel, Synagogue and a Mosque, which is staffed by Full-time Church of England, Catholic and Muslim Chaplains.

Other Christian denominations and all other faiths permitted under the Prison Rules are represented by Sessional Chaplains.

There is further support from a pool of Prison Visitors, and other Chaplaincy volunteers.

There is a comprehensive list of opportunities for corporate worship including CE & RC Holy Mass Services on Sundays (Full Mass or Holy Communion Ecumenical Services for VPs is held separately.) Muslim Prayers are held in the dedicated Mosque on Fridays.

There are also different mid-week opportunities to encourage prisoners to engage with their faith through courses such as Muslim classes, the Alpha Course, Bible studies, and choir practice. The Chaplaincy team is committed to engaging with outside faith communities with a focus on reducing re-offending. This is done where possible by linking prisoners pre and post-release with their local faith community through agencies such as Caring For Ex-Offenders (CFEO).

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Healthcare is delivered to the prisoners of HMP Pentonville via a group of Healthcare providers including three local Trusts, and the prison itself.

There is a large purpose built healthcare centre which has 22 inpatient beds, a day care facility for patients with mental health problems that are managed on the wings. There are also a number of consulting rooms both within the main prison and in the Healthcare Centre.

On each of the wings there is a primary care facility incorporating a GP's clinic and area for dispensing of medication. These also include; Dentistry, Ophthalmology, Podiatry  & Physiotherapy


Specialist Clinics

  • CPN: Twice a week
  • Dentist: 3 times a week
  • InReach: Daily
  • Optician: Fortnightly
  • Physio: Weekly
  • Podiatry: Fortnightly
  • Stop Smoking: Weekly

NHS Healthcare Information for Pentonville

Prison Healthcare Manager: Tony Madden
Tel: 020 7023 7350

PCT: Islington Primary Care Trust
London Strategic Health Authority

Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)
PALS is there to help when you need advice, or wish to make a complaint. As a patient, relative or carer PALS provide confidential advice and support, helping you to sort out any concerns that you may have about any aspect of your NHS care.

The service aims to:
• advise and support patients, their families and carers
• provide information on NHS services
• listen to your concerns, suggestions or queries
• help sort out problems quickly on your behalf

PALS acts independently when handling patient and family concerns, liaising with staff, managers and where appropriate, relevant organisations to negotiate prompt solutions. If necessary they can also refer patients and families to specific local or national-based support agencies.

Contact Information

Tel: 020 7527 1086 or 020 7527 1087
Minicom: 020 7527 1085
Fax: 020 7527 1413
Email: pals@islingtonpct.nhs.uk

NHS Islington
338 - 346 Goswell Road

There is also a Dental Helpline for ALL NHS dental enquiries: 01702 226668

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Kensington and Chelsea College
Hortensia Road, London SW19 0QS
Tel: 020 7573 3600

Career Information & Advice Services (CIAS)
Prospects Services Ltd
Prospects House, 19 Elmfield Road, Bromley, Kent BR1 1LT
Tel: 020 8315 1500

The education service operates within the prison from two main sites on E and G Wings and over a 52 week year, closing for bank holidays and specific inset days.

All prisoners are given an education induction briefing by education staff.

Discrete classes for mainstream and VPs include Skills for Life from below entry level to and including level 3, literacy & numeracy, ESOL (English for Speakers of other Languages), ICT and Art.


Classes available include;

  • Art
  • Basic Education
  • Computer Studies
  • Cookery
  • Crafts
  • Creative Writing
  • Drama
  • English
  • Key Skills
  • Literacy
  • Maths
  • Music
  • Numeracy
  • Open University
  • Pottery

The Prison in partnership with City & Islington College and LAP has retained the Matrix Quality Standard for Information Advice & Guidance (IAG). IAG is provided to prisoners on request and/or referral from: Induction, wing officers, workshops, education. The Education department also offers specialist dyslexia help through the TTRS (Touch-type, Read, Hear, Spell) ICT programme.

Outreach provision includes ICT, Skills for Life, financial literacy, literacy & numeracy including ESOL, these are available in the workshops and gym, the Skilled for Health provision via the Health care unit is supported in this provision by a skills for life practitioner for literacy & numeracy.

Accreditations available include;

  • Audio Sequencing
  • CLAIT Plus
  • ECDL
  • ICT
  • New CLAIT
  • Open College Network London Region accredits Art for painting and drawing
  • Programming-HTML



OFSTED inspect education establishments from schools to colleges to prisons. They inspect education facilities within prisons and have inspected HMP Pentonville.

Inspection judgements
Inspectors use a four-point scale to summarise their judgements about achievement and standards, the quality of provision, and leadership and management, which includes a grade for equality of opportunity.

Key for inspection grades

  • Grade 1 Outstanding;
  • Grade 2 Good;
  • Grade 3 Satisfactory;
  • Grade 4 Inadequate.

Click Here for further information on how inspection judgements are made.

Scope of the inspection
In deciding the scope of the inspection, inspectors take account of the provider’s most recent self-assessment report and development plans, and comments from the local Learning and Skills Council (LSC) or other funding body. Where appropriate, inspectors also consider the previous inspection report , reports from the inspectorates’ monitoring visits, and data on learners and their achievements over the period since the previous inspection.

Last Inspection Date: 11/05/2009


Summary of grades awarded

Effectiveness of provision: 3
Capacity to improve: 3
Achievement and standards: 3
Employability training: 3
Literacy, numeracy and ESOL: 2
Personal development and social integration: 3
Quality of provision: 2
Leadership and management: 3
Equality of opportunity: 3

To read their report click here

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Prison Workshops
Contract Services x2

Employment includes;

  • Catering
  • Gardening
  • Horticulture
  • Industrial Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Painting and Decorating

Prisoners can apply to work in different areas depending on level of clearance which is decided at a weekly labour board. Workshops are open Monday to Friday am and pm. The workshops are shortly undergoing a review to connect, where possible, training opportunities within the prison with post-release jobs.

Workshops include; a Textile Workshop, Light industrial repairs, Light Industrial packing, cleaning, catering and Prisoner Representative jobs. Education opportunities in workshops are available through City and Islington College.

Workshop Six works in partnership with Speedy Hire and accreditation is available in BICS (British Institute of Cleaning Science) and Bio Hazard , Open College Network, London region (OCN, LR); Welfare at Work and Industrial Sewing Machine Use, Basic PAT testing (Portable Appliance Testing).

Basic Skill Analysis is carried out as appropriate and Skills for Life examinations in literacy and numeracy. We currently (April 2009) aim to provide around 696 activity spaces each weekday.

Learning aims recorded for Skills Funding Agency OLASS
Adult Literacy
Adult Literacy (Entry 1, 2 and 3)
Adult Numeracy
Certificate for IT Users (CLAiT Plus)
Certificate for IT Users (New CLAiT)
Entry Level Financial Literacy (Entry 3)
ESOL Skills for Life (Entry 1)
ESOL Skills for Life (Entry 2)
ESOL Skills for Life (Entry 3)
European Computer Driving Licence
Functional Skills English (QCF)
Functional Skills Information and Communication Technology (QCF)
Functional Skills Mathematics (QCF)
Health and Safety at Work
Health and Safety in the Workplace (QCF)
Introductory Basic Construction Skills
Key Skills in Application of Number - level 1
Key Skills in Application of Number - level 2
Key Skills in Application of Number - level 3
Key Skills in Communication - level 1
Key Skills in Communication - level 2
Key Skills in Communication - level 3
Learning Support
Non-externally certificated - Entry Level, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9), PW A
Non-externally certificated - Level 1, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9), PW A
Non-externally certificated - Level 1, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14), PW A
OCN Entry Level, PW A, Information and Communication Technology (SSA 6)
OCN Entry Level, PW A, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14)
OCN Level 1, PW B, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9)
OCN Level 1, PW B, Information and Communication Technology (SSA 6)
OCN Level 1, PW B, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14)
OCN Level 2, PW B, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9)
OCN Level 2, PW B, Information and Communication Technology (SSA 6)
OCN Level 2, PW B, Preparation for Life and Work (SSA 14)
OCN Level 3, PW B, Arts, Media and Publishing (SSA 9)
QCF provision - Level 1, Information and Communication Technology (SSA 6), PW A

Unit Award Scheme (see also individual Unit titles)


Current Wages


Employed: £6.50 to £12.50

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  • Enhanced Thinking Skills (ETS)
  • P-ASRO
  • Short Duration Programme

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  • Links with the British Library
  • ROTL to work
  • New Resettlement Wing opened (with work opportunities)
  • Links with Street League and Only Connect (charities)


Family Days Available


Guardian Has To Stay


Own Children




Age Limits

Up to 18

No of Visitors Permitted

3 adults plus children

Grandchildren are allowed only if the prisoner has parental responsibilities for them.

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Ministry of Justice Performance Rating for this prison: 2
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: 17.2 (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.

Annual Budget: £27,400,000 (2011-12)*
Approx cost per prisoner place (2010): £38,927
*The annual budget allocated to the governor covers all major costs of running the prison but excludes most costs related to education and healthcare.

Parliamentary Information
CONSTITUENCY: Islington South and Finsbury
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Emily Thornberry (Labour)

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.

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 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. Make these payable to ‘H M Prison Service’, write your name on the back and also the prisoner’s full name and prison number. Any money sent which is deemed to be ‘anonymous’ can be stopped.
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].

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.

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


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: 020 7023 7000 ext 7334

Drug Strategy

HMP Pentonville says;

"2009 will see the implementation of the Integrated Drug Treatment System (IDTS) at HMP Pentonville. This is basically an Enhanced Drug treatment programme for prisoners with substance misuse problems, with the underlying theme being Continuity of Care. It is absolutely vital that a multi-disciplinary approach is adopted in the delivery of this treatment programme, involving Clinical staff, CARATs staff, Discipline staff, DIP Officers and community based drug treatment agencies.

"The main emphasis is placed on the initial 28 days treatment of the prisoner, whereby he will receive the expected clinical care, but apart from CARATs assessment, careplan and referral process, they will be delivering a structured psycho-social programme which includes various harm minimisation and health promotion modules.

"On a much wider Drug Strategy approach, we still maintain a very strong Supply Reduction team which involves the Mandatory Drug Testing Programme(MDT), The Dog Handlers, and Intelligence Officers. On the other hand we actively support prisoners who wish to rehabilitate themselves by treating their drug addiction problem. For them, we have the Voluntary Drug Testing Programme, Drug Intervention Programmes like the Short Duration Programme (SDP), and Prison Addressing Substance Related Offending (P-ASRO). To help with an easier transition back into the community, we have the CARATs team and DIP workers from some of our local London Boroughs (Islington, Haringey, Camden, & Newham) where we have built very strong links with.

"At HMP Pentonville we realise the importance of reducing the availability and use of drugs in prison and have made it an establishment-wide objective right across the various Functions. All staff play a part in the delivery of our Drug Strategy."


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.

Full inspections
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 their intelligence systems suggest that there are comparatively fewer concerns.

Escort inspections
Three escort inspections are conducted every year.

Pre-inspection visit

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.

The inspection
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 prisoners 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
• work
• diversity
• resettlement

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

Post-inspection action
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: 24 February – 4 March 2011 - unannounced full follow-up inspection
Report Dated: June 2011
Published: August 17th 2011

They said:
“Pentonville is an iconic prison, but not always for the right reasons: its four central wings are over a hundred and fifty years old, it has a large and transient population drawn from some of London’s poorest boroughs, and its prisoners have amongst the highest incidence of mental ill health and substance abuse of any local prison in the country. Despite these almost insuperable challenges, this unannounced follow-up inspection found that Pentonville was making some progress but inevitably there was much more to do.

“ Reception remained immensely busy and staff had little time to address all the immediate issues presented by prisoners. Similar pressures on first night and induction arrangements meant that much work remained to be done to ensure the safety of prisoners in their most vulnerable early days in custody. The atmosphere in the prison was generally calm but violence reduction and anti-bullying systems were weak. Tragically, there had been four apparently self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection and, while some aspects of the care for those at risk of self-harm were good, other areas were underdeveloped.

“ Many men arriving at Pentonville were dependent on drugs and\or alcohol and treatment arrangements had improved with the introduction of the integrated drug treatment system. There had also been some success, working with the police, to reduce the flow of illicit drugs into the prison. Security was mostly proportionate and use of force was not excessive. The segregation unit was basic but decent.

“ Staff-prisoner relationships appeared reasonable, but were not supported by an effective personal officer scheme. The environment was generally clean but some accommodation was overcrowded, with unscreened toilets and poor showering facilities. Race issues were well managed but some other areas of diversity, particularly services for foreign nationals, were underdeveloped. Faith provision was comprehensive. There was an impressive health care centre and most services were good.

“ Time out of cell varied, but was reasonable for those with activities to attend. Despite some ambitious plans, there was still too little activity to occupy all prisoners and many prisoners remained unemployed. Opportunities to access education had expanded significantly but too few prisoners achieved qualifications. Access to the library had improved and more prisoners were now able to take part in PE.

“ The strategic management of resettlement required improvement, but some promising partnership working was underway with some neighbouring local authorities. While offender management and public protection were satisfactory, progress on resettlement had been slow. There was still no custody planning for remand and short sentence prisoners and, while some basic needs assessment took place, there were too few services to help prisoners reintegrate successfully into the community.

“ Pentonville is amongst the most challenging local prisons in the country to run. Its ageing and crowded fabric offers limited scope for change or development, its population is not only transient but also hugely needy - and sometimes challenging - and resources are declining. Despite all this, managers and staff were working hard to make the prison a safer and more decent place. There was now a little more purposeful activity and some exciting, if nascent, ideas to work with local authorities to improve resettlement outcomes. It goes without saying that there is much more to do. Indeed the scale of the issues facing Pentonville means that it is also essential that the prison is supported by an effective London-wide strategy – but there is now at least a positive sense of direction.”

Nick Hardwick June 2011
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons


Click Here to download the full report

Previous Report
by HMCIP: 11 – 15 May 2009 - announced inspection

They said
“This inspection report should have focused solely on the undoubted improvements that had been made at Pentonville under the then Governor. The last two inspections found that the prison was performing poorly and failing to reach acceptable standards of safety or decency. This inspection found considerable improvements in many areas, and in particular in aspects of respect. However, the prison’s reputation and governance is inevitably tarnished by the discovery, after the inspection, that six men had unnecessarily and pointlessly been transferred to Wandsworth for the duration of the inspection, under an arrangement made by managers in both prisons to provide for mutual assistance during their respective inspections. Of even greater concern was the fact that Pentonville in return received some vulnerable and selfharming individuals for the period of the Wandsworth inspection, at considerable prejudice to their wellbeing.

“Pentonville was dealing with a potentially vulnerable population, as evidenced by three recent self-inflicted deaths. Support in the crucial early days of custody, where prisoners are known to be at their most vulnerable, had very recently improved. However, the decisions of managers to swap prisoners during the two inspections increased the risk of self-harm and suicide for the transferred prisoners at this critical time. Two of the prisoners transferred from Wandsworth had made serious self-harm attempts when told of the transfer, and one self-harmed again three times immediately following his transfer. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman is separately investigating the circumstances surrounding the self-inflicted death at Wandsworth of another prisoner who moved to Pentonville, following a court appearance, the week before the Wandsworth inspection, and was held there over the inspection period.

“This was despite the fact that, in general, the inspection found that there had been a strong focus on safer custody procedures at Pentonville – both in relation to violence reduction and suicide prevention – though all staff were not yet fully confident about implementing procedures. The biggest underlying problem was substance use: both the availability of drugs in the prison, and the absence of effective support for drug users entering Pentonville. Both impacted on bullying and safety: over half the prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some time. All vulnerable prisoners were held in the vulnerable prisoner unit at the time of the inspection, rather than spilling over into other wings, a practice that we criticised at the previous inspection. We later discovered that six vulnerable prisoners had been transferred to Wandsworth for the duration of the inspection. Inspectors were swiftly able to establish that such prisoners had been held on another wing in the previous week, and that an assault had taken place there.

“The inspection did find considerable improvements to the environment. A previous disregard for the basics of a decent environment had been robustly tackled, and standards of hygiene, facilities and food were now acceptable, given the age and condition of the prison. Staffprisoner relationships were mainly positive, though they lacked the underpinning of an effective personal officer scheme. With strong leadership from senior managers, work on race relations and with foreign nationals was good. This was reflected in the perceptions of black and minority ethnic and foreign national prisoners in our survey, which were much more positive than usual. Support for prisoners with disabilities was much less well developed and this too was reflected in survey responses. Healthcare was improving, with an excellent day care centre, though primary mental healthcare, and the speed of transfer to NHS facilities for those with acute mental illness, were inadequate.

“There continued to be too little activity for prisoners. Time out of cell was much more predictable and regular than previously, but about a quarter of prisoners were unemployed, and could spend 22 hours a day in their cells. Much of the education was of a high standard, but there were only 70 full-time equivalent places, though some prisoners were able to access short sessions in the day care centre in addition. Of the 500 jobs, 100 were cleaners, and some work was mundane, with few opportunities to gain accreditation for employment. Resettlement work had improved since the last inspection, and was based on a thorough needs assessment. Links with some neighbouring local authorities, and with community drug intervention teams, were particularly good. Help was available across most of the resettlement pathways, though surprisingly few of the prisoners surveyed were aware of it. This may well have reflected the fact that there were no formal custody plans between initial assessment and prisoners’ discharge, to ensure that active steps were taken to contact prisoners and respond to changing needs.

“This could have been a positive report, reflecting the considerable work and management attention that had gone into ensuring that Pentonville was able to deliver a reasonable standard of care to its prisoners. Sadly for the many staff and managers who have worked hard to achieve this, the Pentonville and Wandsworth inspections will be remembered rather for exposing the irresponsible, pointless and potentially dangerous actions of some managers, who lost sight of their primary duty to the prisoners in their care. This is deplorable not only because of its effects on individuals, but because of the underlying mind-set: that prisoners are merely pieces to be moved around the board to meet performance targets or burnish the reputation of the prison.

“The actual consequences for Pentonville prisoners during this inspection were, thankfully, relatively minor; but the reciprocal exchange of Wandsworth’s prisoners during its inspection exposed men to unacceptable risk and mistreatment. Both the consequences and the approach that gave rise to them are necessarily reflected in our assessments. This should never happen again; and it is welcome, though it should not have been necessary, that the Director General of the National Offender Management Service has instructed Governors to that effect.”

Anne Owers September 2009
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 IMDs 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


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December 2014 Headlines
> Treat Prisoners as Human Beings, Not Criminals
> What are prisons for
> A search for any trace of the governmentís Rehabilitation Revolution
> Tell us why you did it?... You must be joking I didnít do it
> Care Act - what does it mean for prisoners
> Doctor Frankenstein and his monster
> Human Rights: truth and lies
> Scapegoating the undeserving poor
> Interview
> The first Miscarriage of Justice
> Month by Month - December 2014
> The 2014 Longford Trust Awards
> Is it all in the mind
> Time
> Learning in prison
> Take your first Steps to Success in 2015
> Spotlight Police and Crime Commissioners
> From over the wall
> Over-tariff IPPs: an appeal for your stories
> Paperwork is the key
> Adjudication - donít let those days count against you
> Insider Dealing
> Christmas Stories
> Christmas Messages
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