A prison inspector has raised concerns about ‘significant gang issues’ at Highpoint Prison – which had been missed by managers.
Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, also said there was not enough purposeful activity for the 1,300 inmates, while his biggest concern was that offender management was ‘undermined’ by a lack of contact between high risk prisoners and supervisors.
“Prisoners’ perceptions that there were significant gang issues in the prison appeared to be well founded; prison managers had not identified this,” said Mr Hardwick.
He said the large perimeter fence and rural location were a security challenge but the threats posed by illegal drugs and mobile phones were ‘Proactively managed’.
“Nevertheless, positive drug testing rates were high and there had been significant finds of both,” his report said.
“A quarter of the prison told us it was easy to get drugs in prison – although this was a lower proportion than we sometimes see elsewhere.”
He did say that staff and prisoner relationships were good, and said the prison made use of the activity places it had.
Mr Hardwick said the prison ‘tried hard’ to provide purposefull activities for inmates, but that there were not enough places.
Around 15 per centof prisoners were unemployed and left locked in their cells during the working part of the day.
The report also said poor visiting arrangments made it difficult for the men to see their families.
The inspector also raised concerns about the use of prison orderlies.
“Some staff seem to have avoided their own responsibilities and left it to the orderlies to carry out confidential and sensitive procedures, such as first night risk interviews, Orderlies were anxious about this and told us they were concerned they did not have the experience or training to take on such significant responsibilities,” Mr Hardwick said.
Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) said: “The physical environment at Highpoint presents certain challenges but I am pleased that the chief inspector has acknowledged that the prison has a fundamentally safe environment with strong relationships between staff and prisoners.
“The Governor will use the recommendations in the report to build on the progress that has already been made and address concerns raised, particularly around the areas of purposeful activity and offender management.”