All too often, prison inspections provide bleak insight into the reality of life behind bars. Drug problems, rising violence, illegal highs, overcrowding – prisons are often hit with negative reports; which isn’t surprising, given the level of cuts made in the justice sector.

Despite the considerable challenges, some prisons are achieving great things – and are offering improved environments for the inmates, plus better opportunities for rehabilitation. HMP Ford is one such establishment – here’s some more details.

Ford Prison – Some Details

HMP Ford is a category D open prison in West Sussex. This is the lowest category prison, which means most inmates are either nearing the end of their sentence or have committed a white-collar crime.

In the past, Ford Prison has come under criticism for its lax security. This was particularly the case in 2006, when 70 people (including three murderers) absconded. This isn’t the only issue the prison has had in recent years. In 2011, a riot broke out after inmates were asked to undergo breathalyser tests. Around 40 inmates smashed windows and set off fire alarms, with eight blocks then set on fire. The situation wasn’t helped by a Sun newspaper journalist breaking into the prison as part of an undercover story, then reporting about the poor security.

Fantastic Improvements

The most recent inspection of HMP Ford proved that the prison has made real improvements. Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, commented: “On the whole, this is a good inspection report. The new governor and his team are clearly committed to moving the prison forward. The progress that has been made in the past, particularly since the serious disturbance in 2011, is a credit to the prison staff and leadership.”

The report found that levels of bullying and self-harm were very low, and that there was also little evidence of violence. Most prisoners reported feeling safe within the prison. It also found that security measures were appropriate and that the number of prisoners absconding had gone down year on year.

Good Staff / Prisoner Relationships at HMP Ford

The report also highlighted that relationships between staff and inmates were generally positive, and that any vulnerable prisoners were being suitably monitored and supported. The same applied for those with substance addiction.

The quality of teaching on offer was also found to be good – which is a significant factor in terms of rehabilitation. There were plenty of opportunities for inmates to engage in high quality, meaningful work and there were also training programmes for prisoners to take part in.

Areas for Improvement

Overall, the report was positive. Clarke recommended a few areas for improvement; noting that there were still some diversity issues within the establishment, and a ‘failure to understand the disproportionate treatment of black and minority ethnic prisoners.’

The residential units were also found to be poorly maintained, and the inspection highlighted the fact that resettlement activity, particularly access to resettlement services, was confusing.

A Positive Outlook

Overall, it’s a great result for Ford Prison – and welcome news to see that a prison is performing well, despite problems such as budget cuts.

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