HMP Foston Hall is a closed category prison and young offenders’ institute in Foston, Derbyshire, England. Operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service, the women’s prison is made up of seven wings, providing different units of the prison. The prison holds a vast range of prisoners, since it is one of only twelve women’s prisons in the UK. It holds a maximum of 187 convicted prisoners, 80 prisoners on remand, and 16 juvenile prisoners.
HMP FOSTON HALL FACTS
- In February, 36% of prisoners were involved in psychological services.
- HMP Foston Hall is the first women’s prison in the UK to introduce digital visits.
- Almost 20%, an unusually high proportion compared to other prisons in the UK, were serving indeterminate sentences
- Foston Hall has an animal sanctuary on site! It is often used for family visit days.
HISTORY OF HMP / YOI FOSTON HALL
Originally the Manor of Foston and Scropton, the estate was held by the Agard family from the 14th to 17th century.
In 1679, it was purchased by the Bate family, and then to John Broadhurst in 1784.
In 1836, there was a fire which burnt down most of the manor, and a new Jacobethan house was built in its place in 1863 by T.C. Hine. This house became a grade II listed building due to its unique three storey tower and Jacobethan style.
In 1953, HMPPS acquired the hall and grounds, using the hall as a detention centre, an immigration centre, and a satellite of Sudbury prison just before its closure in 1996.
The prison was under major refurbishment before its reopening in 1997 as a closed-category female prison.
VISITATION, THE FOSTON WAY
They offer visitation on 6 days of the week at HMP Foston Hall, and there is a visitors’ centre separate to the prison, with a small play area for children, to make it as comfortable as possible for families.
They also host family days regularly to allow residents to spend time with their families in a much more relaxed setting. These often involve organised activities and sometimes a trip to the prison’s animal sanctuary.
In Lord Farmer’s June 2019 review, he praised HMP Foston Hall for their innovative embrace of modern technology, with the introduction of virtual visits. The prison is currently taking part in a pilot to allow supervised family contact through video calling. Virtual visits should be available for prisoners who have families that cannot visit as frequently, due to disability, distance or other factors. This is much more of an issue in women’s prisons as, due to the small number of women’s estates in the UK, female prisoners are much more likely to be held further away from their families. Lord Farmer recommended that the virtual visits should be routinely available to supplement, but not replace, face-to-face visitation, and should be offered not only to mothers of young children, but to all women who may not receive weekly visitors, as there is sufficient evidence that visual contact allows people to stay in touch more effectively, and hence is much more beneficial to an individual’s mental health than other forms of long distance communication.
Lord Farmer noted that virtual visiting acts as a “motivator and a reminder of ‘normality’”. It is predicted that this scheme will be implemented in many more UK prisons in the near future, particularly across the women’s estate.
SCHEMES/PROGRAMMES AT FOSTON HALL PRISON
HMP Foston Hall also runs a number of offending behaviour programmes which work on key skills such as problem solving, perspective taking, relationship management, and self-management. They are designed to change the thinking, attitude and behaviours that cause people to re-offend. These can come in the form of group sessions as well as one-to-one in particular circumstances. The courses often use cognitive behaviour therapy techniques, which have been proven effective in reducing reoffending rates. The programmes range from handling substance misuse, or general patterns of offending to specific offences committed, such as sexual assault or domestic violence. There are also behaviour programmes for those on probation in the community, to help them adapt to the real world and deal with their issues and behaviours after prison too.
The prison also offers a gym, kitchen, and textile and craft workshops for inmates to take part in, all of which can lead to qualifications with some hard work. They also offer NVQs in hairdressing, beauty therapy and cleaning, which help prepare prisoners for life after prison.
Earlier this year, the prison created a mini shopping village for its inmates to allow them to experience a glimpse of ‘normal life’ before their release. The project allowed women to build and run pop up shops, which also helped them develop employable skills.
As mentioned previously, the prison also runs an animal sanctuary, in which prisoners can take care of various farm animals such as chickens, ducks, donkeys, and goats. Not only do the furry friends provide comfort, but the responsibility of caring for the animals develops self-esteem and gives prisoners a day-to-day purpose.
FOSTON HALL INSPECTION RESULTS
After a February 2019 inspection, Foston Hall received overall very positive results. The inspection found that most women in the prison felt safe, and violence was rare. Accommodation was considered good, and most prisoners felt positive about their relationships with staff members. There was also promising work promoting equality and diversity between inmates, and the inspection recognised some good improvements in healthcare since the previous inspection two years ago.
However, there were a few issues that needed to be looked at, for example the lack of support in places for those with special needs, and the high rate of self-harm which needs to be addressed. The prison has received recommendations and is now working on improving these elements of care.
The inspection recognised some impressive initiatives, including the Family Bonding Unit encouraging stronger family ties. The prison was also praised for their use of technology and embracing the virtual world to improve family ties too. the benefits of the new video-calling system are countless – it is economical, productive, and allows easier family bonding, which in turn improves the quality of life of prisoners as well as their family members on the outside.
We look forward to seeing this digital growth in the future of HMPPS, well done Foston Hall, Well done!.