The director of HMP Peterborough has said he is pleased with progress at the jail after government inspectors visited the facility.
While concerns were raised about four self-inflicted deaths at the jail since 2011, and inspectors said more needed to be done to improve diversity and equality for black and ethnic minority prisoners, director Nick Leader said the report highlighted much of the good work staff were doing at the privately run prison.
Improving education is clearly a priority, and we are working with Ofsted to improve teaching.Nick Leader
The prison was visited by HM Inspectorate of Prisons earlier this year in an unannounced visit.
Mr Leader said: “It is an excellent report, the best we have had at Peterborough.
“The inspectors found many areas of best practice across the prison.”
The Sodexo run prison, in Saville Road, Peterborough, was praised by inspectors for their resettlement work, helping convicts re-adjust to life after their release. But they were told to improve their education work for inmates.
Mr Leader said: “Improving education is clearly a priority, and we are working with Ofsted to improve teaching. “We opened a new activity centre in February, and a lot of the work will be done there. The centre has a laundry facility, space for NVQs in catering, space for basic English and maths lessons, an IT classroom and the chance for prisoners to work on the National Prison Radio network.
“The centre opened the week after the inspectors came, and it is an important move for us.
“We are working with the probation service to help prisoners on release. Rather them getting into trouble when they come out, we want to be able to give them that support if they need it. If they are struggling to be able to open bank accounts, or make appointments, we can give help. A success for us is if they do not come back to prison.”
The prison was described as safe by the inspectors, despite the four ‘self inflicted deaths.’
The report said: “Lessons learned from four self-inflicted deaths were being applied effectively, although a more integrated approach was needed. Staff understood and used the systems for monitoring and supporting those at risk of harm very well. Listeners were effective and well supported by the establishment and local Samaritans.”
Mr Leader said: “The four deaths are obviously a tragedy for the friends and family of those concerned.
“Every death in custody is investigated by the ommbudsman, and their reports show we are identifying what has gone wrong, and working on improving it.
“For example, we have improved our reception processes.
“Safety was rated at the highest level in the report, and we are getting things right.”
Mr Leader added work on tackling diversity issues was also being done. He said: “We believe we have done a lot of work to tackle these perceptions. We have increased the number of black and minority ethnic groups’ support workers, who can act as people prisoners can contact. We have a full time diversity manager. We recently ran an Anne Frank exhibition. The exhibition told the story of Anne Frank, as well as other issues, such as the Lawrence Inquiry. It made race relations relevant.
“Prisoners have also geld it has been hard to get a release on a temporary licence if part of a black and minority ethnic group. We have been identifying prisoners who are suitable for doing work in the community, and fit the necessary risk assessments.”
The report also said some single cells in the jail were being used as double cells.
The report said: “Living conditions were good and there was an excellent new building for almost 300 prisoners. Too many cells built for one were shared and older buildings had some graffiti.”
Mr Leader said:” We do have single cells that have been modified to hold two inmates, with the inclusion of a bunk bed.
“But the facilities are much better than in the public sector prisons - they are modern, safe and offer dignity to inmates.”