Young Offenders Institution Swinfen Hall's status as a 'centre of excellence' is under threat, according to prison inspectors.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, said in her report the status was being severely tested, as its population had doubled without a similar expansion in purposeful activity.
Swinfen Hall holds prisoners aged 18 to 25, as a pilot scheme in preparation for the proposed abolition of detention in a young offender institution for those under 21.
Inspectors urged the Prison Service to ensure that appropriate activities and interventions are available to all young adults before extending this model to other prisons.
To its credit, Swinfen Hall sustained many of the strengths identified at the last full inspection, 5 years ago: n It remained a generally safe place: a significant achievement given the serious offenders it holds. n Induction, suicide and self-harm prevention and anti-bullying arrangements were all of a high standard, as was care of the vulnerable n The segregation unit was well managed, though there were serious weaknesses in recording use of the special cell. n Staff-prisoner relationships underpinned a generally respectful environment, with a good personal officer scheme, well-managed race relations and an excellent complaints system. The needs of foreign national prisoners were not, however, being met. n Resettlement provision was generally good with good quality sentence plans and the widest range of offending behaviour programmes in the country.
Concerns associated with the increased population and its extended age range included: n Insufficient purposeful activity: there were too few education and training places, and the curriculum was too narrow, some teaching was poor. n The need for new accommodation, kitchen, reception unit and healthcare centre. n First night procedures should be available to all prisoners. n A backlog in sentence plans for which there appeared to be no remedial strategy.
Anne Owers said: "Swinfen Hall is in some ways a victim of its own success: its huge expansion programme was a compliment to the success of the establishment. It is a pity that this was not better managed to ensure appropriate provision from the outset for all the prisoners it now holds.
"Nevertheless, staff are to be commended for ensuring that the deficits have been mitigated as far as possible. The Prison Service must now ensure that implementation of the plans for sufficient activity places does not face delays or cutbacks. If there are, Swinfen Hall will not regain its status as a centre of excellence and staff and prisoners alike will be frustrated and demoralised."
Phil Wheatley, Director General of the Prison Service, said: "The current prison population has placed considerable pressure on a number of establishments and created a number of challenging issues for staff and management in these establishments
"In the face of these pressures, I am very pleased that the Inspector has recognised that Swinfen Hall is continuing to maintain very high standards, providing a safe environment and offering an excellent range of offender behaviour programmes. The staff and management at the prison should be extremely proud of this achievement.
"At the same time, considerable investment has been made at Swinfen Hall, including the building of a new, much larger reception which will come on stream in June, as well as a range of measures that will see significant improvements to the provision of education and training in early
"I am confident that these improvements will ensure that Swinfen Hall will continue to perform to an excellent standard."
The inspection took place between September 5 and 9 last year.