Inspectors found that there was ‘virtually no opportunity’ for prisoners to demonstrate rehabilitation in order to qualify for temporary release at a category D prison in south Gloucestershire. In a recent inspection of HMP Leyhill, it was noted that the prison required ‘urgent improvements’ in its approach to the release of prisoners. Two-thirds of Leyhill’s population have been convicted of sexual offences and the majority are serving long sentences.
Inspectors were concerned that there was ‘virtually no opportunity to demonstrate their level of risk’ to make it possible for temporary releases. Half of all parole hearings were deferred last year because of a lack of evidence supporting release. Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that it was a ‘serious concern’ that the management of such arrangements was ‘not sufficiently robust or timely’. Throughout the pandemic, the opportunities for prisoners to work within the community or be released to visit family have been limited. Despite plans for the easing of restrictions for release, only 5% of the population had been confirmed opportunities to work outside the prison and the lack of opportunities prevented prisoners from demonstrating suitability for release.
A lack of places in accommodation following release from prison meant that some prisoners waited months for release after being granted parole. In one case, a prisoner with disabilities was still being held more than a year beyond the date that his release had been approved. It was recommended that a ‘multidisciplinary management oversight’ be implemented to consider all cases and also “identity any gaps in planning and take effective remedial action”.
The inspectors were also concerned about prison-staff relationships with almost two-thirds of prisoners (65%) reporting feeling bullied or victimised by staff. Only half of prisoners (53%) felt that staff treated them with respect. Many black and minority ethnic prisoners felt ‘targeted by staff because of their ethnicity” and were “afraid to speak up for fear of repercussions’.
Leyhill’s management was praised for its Covid shielding arrangements. ‘With half of the population aged over 50 and more than a third in high-vulnerability groups, these measures had limited potentially serious consequences from the pandemic, ‘Taylor said. Only a few positive cases had so far been confirmed.