Stoke Heath Prison is found to be safe say inspectors
Inspectors have found Shropshire's Stoke Heath Prison to be “overwhelmingly safe" with efforts stepped up to tackle the smuggling of illicit drugs.
Despite concerns about the lack of "purposeful activities" to stimulate some inmates, the inspection carried out last November found that levels of violence had not risen since the previous check almost four years ago.
Inspectors also found strong work to tackle drugs with the management making "effective use of electronic security aids, including equipment to identify illicit items such as mobile phones, drugs and weapons.”
The report revealed that prisoners were getting photocopied domestic mail following a tip-off that some letters coming into the prison had been impregnated with a new psychoactive substance.
It also stated that there were prison plans to remove the restriction when a scanner is installed to detect the drugs without photocopying.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the 2015 inspection of the jail near Market Drayton had found reasonably good outcomes. And he said good work was being done to confront the scourge of drugs and violence.
“At this inspection (in November 2018) we were pleased to find a very similar picture, despite some deterioration in the provision of purposeful activity. The prison remained “overwhelmingly safe”. Violence, unlike at many other prisons, had not increased since 2015, with an encouraging decrease since the summer of 2018 following a spike earlier in the year.
“Work to address violence and incentivise prisoners was reasonably good and, overall, we found a prison that was ordered and under control,” Mr Clarke added. However, use of force by staff had increased, and was high, and more needed to be done to ensure “comprehensive governance and accountability” of its use.
Inspectors were concerned about the prison’s response to self-harm, which had risen sharply. While prisoners in crisis said they felt well cared for, they were often left locked up for extended periods.
The report also stated that a major weakness of the prison was that about a third of inmates were inactive and locked up during the working day as there was insufficient activity at the prison which can hold up to 782 adult inmates. However, it also stated that achievement rates for those who attended education, vocational training or work were generally good.
“Stoke Heath has benefited from stable and competent leadership that has attended to trying to get the basics right. This is not to argue that there aren’t further improvements that can be made – there are many. The prison was dealing with the same risks and challenges that other less successful training prisons face and yet it remained a largely well-ordered place where the prisoners, for the most part, trusted the staff," Mr Clarke added.