40 Days in Mayfield Women’s Prison; Chapter 6 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons Report into Mayfield Prison Extract 3


At the last inspection we found that outcomes for women in Mayfield were reasonably good against healthy prison tests. We made 15 recommendations in the area of safety. At this follow up inspection we found that nine of the recommendations had been achieved, two had been partially achieved, one had not been achieved and three were no longer relevant.

The large catchment area and long waiting times in court meant women sometimes arrive late at the prison. Support in women’s early days at the prison was good. The population was complex and posed inherent risks. Many women in our survey said they had felt unsafe at some time and had been victimised. Despite this there were relatively few violent incidents. However, levels of self-harm were comparatively high and support for those who were at risk or had complex needs had improved significantly. Security arrangements were very good. Disciplinary processes were generally proportionate and force was used only when necessary. Some women had been in the separation and care unit (SCU) segregation unit for long periods. These women received good care and casework to help with their progression was also good. Substance misuse services were good.

The prison’s reception area we considered to be clean and welcoming. Our survey found that women were negative about their experience in reception.  However, we saw courteous and respectful staff provide a good level of care. First night checks at reception included an interview in private to identify any safety and vulnerability concerns. First night cells were clean and well prepared, although overcrowding meant some women inappropriately spent their first few nights in the healthcare department. Staff carried out additional checks during prisoners’ first night. The induction programme was well designed, though some women told us they found it difficult to take in all the information they were given.

The prison accommodates a highly complex, challenging and varied population. Over half of those surveyed and more than at our last inspection said they had felt unsafe at some time during their stay and many said they had been victimised. However, most women said they felt safe at the time of the survey, levels of violence were not excessive and most violent incidents were minor. Staff knew the women well. Monthly data analysis on violence was adequate and was supported by an analysis of trends. Investigations into bullying and violent incidents were appropriate. The zero-tolerance response to more serious violence was enforced well. The prison did not have a formal methodology to challenge anti-social behaviour, but this was offset by excellent relationships. On the other hand, the safer custody policy was too general and did not fully reflect local issues.  In our survey, fewer women than the comparator said they had been treated fairly under the “incentives and earned privileges” scheme.

An investigation into a recent self-inflicted death had been completed and steps taken to implement lessons learned. Recommendations from previous prisons and probation and ombudsman reports were reviewed regularly to ensure ongoing compliance. Levels of self-harm are still, however, very high. Staff demonstrated an excellent awareness of individual women’s care needs.

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