To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the findings of Urgent Notification: HMP & YOI Chelmsford, published by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons on 27 August 2021 that (a) chronic failings at Chelmsford have now been evident for at least a decade and (b) despite serious concerns about the prison’s work to prevent suicide or self-harm being raised in 2018, outcomes had deteriorated further, what steps (i) the Government has taken to ensure progress on those matters in the last five years and (ii) he will take to help ensure the lives of prisoners at HMP Chelmsford are protected.
We accept that HMP Chelmsford needs to improve and prior to the Urgent Notification, it began receiving specialist support through the Prison Performance Support Programme (PPSP) – which provides intensive support to some of our most challenging prisons.
To date, around £6 million has been invested through the PPSP allowing repairs to address decency, advanced technology to improve security, family ties and additional staffing to support improvement.
We are working hard to reduce self-harm and the number of those taking their lives in custody. Vulnerable prisoners are supported through the ACCT case management and we are currently rolling out further improvements to this framework. We have also given 25,000 new and existing staff self-harm and suicide prevention training to help them better support prisoners with complex needs and refreshed our partnership with the Samaritans who provide the excellent Listeners scheme, which trains selected prisoners to provide emotional support to their fellow prisoners.
There is evidence of progress at HMP Chelmsford during 2018/19 and 2019/20, prior to the pandemic. The April 2019 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) Independent Review of Progress report noted some positive progress including:
“…reasonable progress in addressing violence, supported by additional national and regional resources” as well as “…good progress in improving the quality of care to those at risk [of self-harm].”
It also noted that the “Governor continued to set a clear vision for the prison and had retained the support of those around her” and that “regional and national resources had been used to good effect”.
The report acknowledged the benefits of additional central investment, including complete refurbishment of two landings, new flooring in cells and communal areas, new showers and new serveries. Since the inspection an x-ray body scanner was also installed at the prison – to prevent the flow of illicit items which fuel instability.
An initial detailed plan of action is being developed in response to the Urgent Notification and will include actions beyond those already agreed under the PPSP. This will outline how we are addressing the immediate concerns at the prison and will be published in due course.