Aylesbury jail ‘needs immediate support to mitigate risk to prisoners and the community’

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A report released today follows an unannounced inspection of HMP Aylesbury

Inspectors visiting HMP Aylesbury found a prison thrown into chaos by changes to its role made in response to national prison population pressures, HM Inspectorate of Prisons has said as its report is published today, Tuesday, March 14.

HMP Aylesbury previously housed young men aged 18 to 21 convicted of violent crimes and serving long sentences. But with rising numbers of prisoners needing accommodation elsewhere in the estate, it had been suddenly redesignated as a Category C training establishment.

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Issues relating to this transition were behind almost all of the prison’s problems identified at this inspection.

HMP AylesburyHMP Aylesbury
HMP Aylesbury

Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said: “Aylesbury has been a prison in difficulty for some time – successive inspections have found it struggling with its existing role as a young offender institution.

"But those challenges have been compounded by this sudden and chaotic redesignation to a Category C training jail coupled with extreme staffing problems.

"The prison needs significant and immediate support from the prison service to mitigate the level of risk it presents, not only for prisoners held there but also for the community into which high-risk offenders are being released with little to no work to reduce their risk of reoffending.”

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A shortage of staff in all grades and disciplines was evident at Aylesbury. This included access to healthcare, time out of cell, education, skills and work and rehabilitation services.

The inspection took place between November  22 and December 9 2022The inspection took place between November  22 and December 9 2022
The inspection took place between November 22 and December 9 2022

The nearly 40 per cent of prisoners who were unemployed often had less than an hour out of their cells a day. Many prisoners said they were unable to shower every day.

Those in employment were frequently unable to benefit from this because of staff shortages or broken equipment.

Even when prisoners were able to attend workshops, they were not being taught to the standard they needed to prepare them for employment on release.

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Work to reduce reoffending was in flux. Seventy per cent of the population were assessed as a high risk of serious harm to the public. There were only limited offender management or progression opportunities, virtually no key work, and hardly any support for resettlement on release.

Safe release planning was compromised by the prison offender managers’ high caseloads and problems with allocating cases promptly to community offender managers in areas like London and the south-east.

Charlie Taylor added: “Until Aylesbury receives the support it desperately needs to improve, it will remain a high-risk institution.”

Andrew Neilson, of the penal reform charity the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This report on Aylesbury reveals why growing the prison population with little thought for the consequences creates more problems for everyone.“An under-staffed prison which has failed repeatedly to help young adults move on from crime has now been placed under even greater pressure because the government is resorting to panic measures to respond to rising numbers.

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"The result has been disastrous, with little or no support to prepare people for safe release.“Investing in employment, education and healthcare and reducing the prison population would do far more to prevent crime than locking people in cells all day with nothing to do.”

A copy of the full report, published on 14 March 2023, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.