THE therapeutic community based at a prison near Uttoxeter is ‘doing some good work with prisoners to reduce the risk they posed’, the chief inspector of prisons has said.
Nick Hardwick praised the Dovegate Therapeutic Community (TC) in his published report of an unannounced inspection of the facility at HMP Dovegate, in Marchington.
The TC is a distinct institution holding up to 200 men contained within the larger HMP Dovegate. The main prison, a category B training prison, is inspected separately.
The community is based on the concept that democratic therapeutic communities, run by both staff and prisoners, should be central to the way the prison operates.
The prison said the convicts are given a ‘real say’ in the day-to-day running of the jail and have ‘far more influence over their experience of prison life than at normal prisons’.
Men arrive at Dovegate TC needing to be more open about their offending and related institutional behaviour and to being challenged within therapy and community groups.
Often they have a history of serious violent offending, poor institutional behaviour and prolific self-harm.
The report said the inspector was pleased to find the TC remained a safe prison, support for men vulnerable to self-harm and with substance misuse issues was good, staff-prisoner relationships were very good and time out of cells was good.
The inspector found leadership of learning and skills was developing but some elements of quality improvement needed to be fully embedded, resettlement support was good and some very good work was being done during therapy but problems in delivering some key aspects of therapy risked undermining effectiveness.
However, inspectors did raise some concerns after finding the men spent their first few months on the assessment unit, the lack of experienced TC members was affecting the transfer of some key elements of the TC’s ethos, prisoners needed to feel confident to raise concerns in therapy about other prisoners’ behaviour and this was not fully embedded, the focus of learning skills as complementing therapy needed to be better understood and the promise of the national integrated personality disorder pathways strategy had not been realised.
Mr Hardwick said: “Overall, Dovegate provided a safe, respectful but testing environment for the prisoners it held and the public as a whole benefited from its effective work to reduce the risk that they would reoffend after release.
“We identified some weaknesses, but we were reassured that management had already identified and begun to address most of them. This provided grounds for optimism that the good work of the prison would not just be continued but be enhanced.”
Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said: “I am pleased that the chief inspector has highlighted the good work at Dovegate Therapeutic Community. It is a safe prison that is working well to rehabilitate a complex population and reduce their risk of reoffending.”