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Wednesday 21 March 2018
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HMP Wakefield - some progress


HMP Wakefield was making slow but tangible progress in the face of considerable challenges, some of which were outside the prison's direct control, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the high security jail in West Yorkshire.


HMP Wakefield was making slow but tangible progress in the face of considerable challenges, some of which were outside the prison's direct control, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the high security jail in West Yorkshire.


HMP Wakefield is a high security prison that holds about 750 men, many of whom are serious sex offenders. The Close Supervision Centre (CSC) within the prison is a nationally managed resource and holds seven of the most challenging prisoners in the entire system. Progress in the behaviour and rehabilitation of prisoners at Wakefield is often slow and small advances require enormous effort.


The most significant concern identified at its 2009 inspection remained. Almost half the men at Wakefield were in denial about their offence – to some degree refusing to take responsibility for their offending. There were no programmes available to tackle the behaviour and attitudes of men in denial and little effective work was done with them.  This risked entrenching negative attitudes and undermining the work being done with the section of the population who did admit the need to change. The Prison Service should consider whether it is right to place such a concentration of men in denial in one establishment. However, there is accepted expert opinion that it is possible to make useful interventions with men who are in complete denial and HMP Wakefield should be attempting to prepare and motivate men to change.


Inspectors were also concerned that:

  • the prison had been unable to address the physical environment of F Wing, which housed the CSC and segregation unit and remained very poor;
  • there was a high rate of diversion and misuse of prescribed medication, often a significant factor in bullying incidents;
  • allegations of victimisation by prisoners or staff were sometimes not handled well; and
  • there were insufficient activity places to meet the needs of the whole population and around a third of prisoners were behind their doors during the working part of the day.

In the face of these conditions, the progress staff had made was laudable. Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • relationships between staff and prisoners in the CSC and segregation were professional;
  • it was a real achievement that some men who had been held in the CSC had been able to move to less restrictive conditions;
  • mental health support was excellent and management and governance of both the CSC and segregation were good;
  • the prison was reasonably safe and incidents of self-harm, bullying and use of force were low;
  • security arrangements were appropriate and there were good arrangements to support prisoners at risk of suicide;
  • overall, relationships between staff and prisoners were good and, other than F wing, the environment was decent;
  • there was a good learning and skills strategy and the quality of activities on offer was good; and
  • public protection arrangements were generally very good and planning to meet prisoners’ practical resettlement needs was reasonable.

Nick Hardwick said:


'HMP Wakefield is making slow but tangible progress. The complexity of the establishment is managed reasonably well and the vast majority of prisoners are not disadvantaged because of the additional security needs of the few. The prison is stable and generally safe but more management attention is required across a number of high risk areas such as self-harm prevention, segregation and the CSC. The need to occupy the prisoners more fully and purposefully remains unaddressed.'


Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:


'Staff have an extremely challenging job managing the complex population at Wakefield so it is encouraging that the Chief Inspector recognises that real progress is being made. The Governor and her staff deserve credit for their hard work in engaging prisoners in addressing their offending behaviour and maintaining strong public protection arrangements.


'I recognise the concerns raised in the report about the challenges staff face in managing prisoners who are in denial of their offence. Prisoners at Wakefield are serving long sentences, during which they will have access to a broad range of services and interventions aimed at reducing risk. They receive individual assessment and management, and for all those serving indeterminate sentences release will be dependent on demonstrating to the Parole Board reduction in risk. It is not unusual or surprising that prisoners serving long sentences deny or minimise their offence, particularly those with sexual offences who may deny their guilt due to shame or fears about status and family support. However, staff will need to continue to work with offenders throughout their whole sentence to motivate them to address their offending and to reduce their risk.'




  1. View a copy of the report.
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. HMP Wakefield is a high security prison for men typically in categories A and B. It is one of eight high security prisons across England and is a main lifer centre with a focus on serious sex offenders.
  4. This announced inspection was carried out from 8-17 May 2012.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Prisons Press Office on 0207 035 2123 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview with Nick Hardwick.
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Ministry of Justice