More than a third of black and minority ethnic prisoners at England’s only therapeutic prison felt bullied by staff, according to prison inspectors. A new report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons noted that, although HMP Grendon had ‘responded well’ to the challenges of the pandemic and the prison ‘remained a safe and respectful environment’, in some areas conditions were ‘beginning to deteriorate’ and that the ‘experiences of some BAME prisoners were poor’.
According to the inspection of the category B prison in Buckinghamshire, 38% of BAME prisoners reported being victimised by staff. ‘Many BAME prisoners expressed concerns about discriminatory and ill-judged behaviour from staff,’ inspectors noted. ‘One common example given was that when black prisoners congregated together they were instantly referred to as a “gang” by staff, a term they did not use for groups of white prisoners. Further examples were provided of a small minority of staff who had made inappropriate comments and “banter” involving race to black and minority ethnic prisoners.’
Grendon runs as a therapeutic community and so all prisoners undertake therapy to address offending behaviour, live in a ‘collaborative setting’ with fellow inmates and staff and are given a say in the day-to-day running of the establishment.
The effectiveness of the regime, however, has been recently called into questions by prison reform charity the Howard League, who stated that HMP Grendon does not effectively prepare residents for the outside world, particularly criticising the lack of employment opportunities it sets up (here).
The inspectorate’s survey, meanwhile, has found that 35% of prisoners identifying as a racial minority have expressed themselves as feeling ‘unsafe’ within the prison, affecting their ability to participate in the therapeutic, democratic process. More than eight out of 10 white prisoners (85%) found that staff treated them with respect, compared to two thirds of prisoners who self-identify as being from an ethnic minority (66%).
Despite these criticisms, the inspectorate has commended HMP Grendon’s ability to ‘retain a focus throughout to continue limited therapeutic support for prisoners in a way that could be managed safely’ even with pandemic restrictions.