1. ITV Report

Self-harming, legal highs and violence: Inside HMP Ranby

Self-harming, high levels of violence and legal highs being readily available were among just some of the serious safety issues found at a Nottinghamshire training prison.

An unannounced inspection at HMP Ranby in Retford has been labelled a "prison in crisis" after inspectors found a series of failings - with even prisoners complaining about feeling unsafe, saying they deliberately misbehaved in an effort to get transferred elsewhere.

HMP Ranby currently holds more than 1,000 prisoners.

Inspectors found serious safety concerns at HMP Ranby in Retford Credit: John Walton/PA

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick called the report "troubling" - but said the new governor at the prison recognised the challenges and was working hard to tackle the problems.

This report is troubling and we identified many problems within the prison.

However, we were encouraged that the governor, who had been appointed relatively recently, recognised the extent of the challenge faced at Ranby.

There was candour and honesty among managers about their situation and staff seemed to want to do a better job, but there was no doubt Ranby felt like a prison in crisis.

Ranby's role is to provide prisoners with work, and access to learning and skills, to equip them for the future and to manage their resettlement.

In this respect the prison was not yet delivering a good enough outcome. In order for the prison to work, the starting point must be to make it safer.

– Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons
The report found some prisoners misbehaved to try to get a transfer to another prison Credit: Google Maps

The concerns listed in the report include:

  • Conditions in the first night centre were "dirty and unprepared", and too many prisoners there were seeking sanctuary from the rest of the prison
  • Nearly half the population of prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some time and reported levels of victimisation and intimidation were concerning
  • Levels of violence were higher than expected and evidence suggested they were getting worse
  • There appeared to be a significant number of incidents where prisoners climbed on netting, some of which involved prisoners who felt unsafe and whose motivation was to attempt to force a transfer from the prison
  • Use of segregation was high and increasing, with most of those held seeking sanctuary or an exit from the prison
  • Case management procedures to support those at risk of self-harm were of a poor quality, and there was evidence that the number of self-harm incidents was increasing
  • Two inmates killed themselves in 2013, the first for five years, and another two occurred after this inspection
  • There was evidence to indicate the increased availability of currently undetectable psychoactive substances ('legal highs') as well as prescription medications being distributed
  • Around 28 per cent of prisoners were locked in their cells during the working part of the day and 200 prisoners were not working, which inspectors said was "unacceptable"
  • Work to reduce reoffending lacked effectiveness, with no clear strategy and vision for the prison, and the range of resettlement services had deteriorated in quality
Self-harming and use of so-called 'legal highs' was said to be common Credit: Google Maps

Chief executive at the National Offender Management Service, Michael Spurr, said he was aware Ranby had been through a "difficult period", but said the new governor - appointed shortly before the inspection - had made "significant progress".

Ensuring a safe and decent environment is the priority and reviewed procedures to tackle violence, prosecute perpetrators and support vulnerable prisoners are now in place.

Work and regime activity is being increased and the prison is working closely with local police and with health providers to tackle the issues around drugs and misuse of medication.

Ranby has a challenging population to manage but the governor has taken decisive action to address the concerns raised by the report.

– Michael Spurr, National Offender Management Service

Inspectors highlighted a number of good points at the prison, including:

  • Security was well managed, although the direct supervision of prisoners on residential units and the prison grounds was not good enough
  • The prison grounds were well maintained
  • Health care, which had been criticised at the last inspection, had improved markedly
  • Prisoners who worked could receive more than 10 hours a day out of cell, and the range and quality of education and vocational training was deemed 'good'