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Maidstone prison in County Road failing to rehabilitate inmates according to report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons

By Ed McConnell

Maidstone prison is failing in its work to rehabilitate and rehome offenders.

A team of 20 officials from HM Inspectorate of Prisons visited the category C County Road facility unannounced in August and carried out an 11-day inspection.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said the foreign nation training prison’s work to reduce the risk of prisoners reoffending was poor.

Maidstone Prison
Maidstone Prison

At its last inspection in 2011 the facility held mainly sex offenders but after a role change two years ago now houses 552 foreign nationals, around 90% of whom return to their country of origin at the end of their sentence.

“This is a disappointing report. The prison was a reasonably decent place where people were treated respectfully, but it was unsure of its role – something for which both local managers and the National Offender Management Service must take responsibility." — Nick Hardwick

According to the report this poses a “unique challenge that the prison had yet to get to grips with,” with a very weak focus on resettlement and a lack of interventions to reduce reoffending.

Inspectors also noted a lack of robust public protection arrangements, promotion of equality, legal support and education management.

However, the prison was found to be reasonably safe, with non-excessive levels of violence and good levels of support for new arrivals and access to time out of cells.

There have been regular finds of illicit alcohol and legal highs, with staff responding well to the use of new psychoactive substances and educating inmates accordingly.

Those at risk of self-harm receive generally good care, with the Prison and Probation Ombudsman’s recommendations after a recent suicide implemented.

Fifty-five recommendations were made, along with 19 housekeeping points.

The report was branded disappointing by the inspectorate.

Mr Hardwick said: “This is a disappointing report. The prison was a reasonably decent place where people were treated respectfully, but it was unsure of its role – something for which both local managers and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) must take responsibility.

"As a consequence, outcomes in a number of key areas were seriously lacking. This was especially so in the key area of reducing the risk of reoffending and preparing prisoners for a return to their communities. This serious shortcoming must now be unambiguously addressed by both NOMS and local managers working in partnership.”

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the NOMS, said: “Maidstone’s primary purpose is to hold foreign national offenders, who are due for deportation on completion of sentence, in a safe and purposeful regime and to work with Home Office Immigration colleagues to facilitate deportation at the earliest opportunity.

“I’m pleased that the inspection found the prison to be safe and decent with good activity and education provision. Ninety percent of prisoners in Maidstone are deported and we will look at what more can be done to prepare them for life on release but there are limits to the level of resettlement work we can do with prisoners who will be discharged outside the UK.”

Head of NOMS Michael Spurr pictured at an event to celebrate inmates at Maidstone Prison winning The Windlesham Trophy, Prison Gardens Award Scheme
Head of NOMS Michael Spurr pictured at an event to celebrate inmates at Maidstone Prison winning The Windlesham Trophy, Prison Gardens Award Scheme

In the UK there are 10,442 foreign prisoners, equating to 12% of the total population, with Polish, Irish, Jamaican, Albanian and Romanian inmates making up almost a third of that figure.

Among Maidstone prison’s population are 65 Asian, 126 African and 67 Caribbean inmates and 259 men identifying as ‘other white’, a category which includes eastern Europeans.

The most common religions are Christianity (331), Islam (186) and Hindu (12).

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