‘Action is needed’ at HMP Peterborough after safety concerns raised

Exteriors of HMP Peterborough EMN-150912-163043009
Exteriors of HMP Peterborough EMN-150912-163043009

The state of the women’s section at HMP Peterborough has been described as ‘shameful’ after a report highlighted safety concerns.

The report published today by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons raised concerns about the use of force by staff, bullying by other inmates and the over-use of strip-searching.

In the report Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said there were concerns instability on the men’s side of the prison - HMP Peterborough is the only jail in the country with both male and female wings - was ‘affecting the prison’s ability to focus sufficiently on the relatively more settled female prison.’

Today The Howard League for Penal Reform has called fro action to be taken to improve conditions.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The problems in our failing prison system are spreading. The chaos in men’s prisons is becoming clearer by the day, but today’s inspection report is the first in years to find that a woman’s jail is not safe enough.

“It is shameful that the challenges in the men’s prison at Peterborough have become so overwhelming that women on the site are receiving less support. As most women only stay in Peterborough for a few weeks, this report should prompt ministers to question why we send them there at all.

“Bold but sensible action is needed. Putting less strain on the system by reducing the prison population would prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

A spokeswoman for the prison, which is privately run by Sodexo, said: “We welcome the Chief Inspector’s report for the female side of HMP Peterborough. The report recognises that early days support for women was good, support for women with complex needs was good and that the prison environment was excellent. We are pleased to be recognised as one of the few prisons in the country to achieve a ‘good’ Ofsted rating for learning and skills.

“We are disappointed to receive a lower score for safety. Following the inspection, we have implemented an action plan addressing all recommendations. The plan includes actions which improve our levels of governance around searches and use of force, actions which further explore feedback around perceptions of safety and a robust improvement programme for healthcare provision.

“The award of the highest score for Resettlement shows that we are continuing to change women’s lives for the better through positive rehabilitation.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, said: “Sodexo have responded swiftly and positively to the Chief Inspector’s report. There is a renewed focus on the specific needs of the women, and a dedicated Operational Manager has been appointed to drive safety improvements. The positive outcomes for Purposeful Activity and Resettlement demonstrate that high-quality work continues to be delivered at Peterborough and we will work closely with Sodexo to ensure the weaknesses identified in the Chief Inspector’s report are addressed.”