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This section is designed to give you a quick overview of the events, reports, concerns and news items concerning this establishment – only The Prison Oracle gives you this; simple just as it should be!
- 5th October – updated visiting timm: see Visiting Information below
- 2nd September: this prison no longer accepts bank transfers, cash, postal orders. or cheques to send money to prisoners – see the section on Send money, gifts and parcels below
- 12th August 2021. This prison is now allowing physical contact at social visits following a negative rapid test. Find out more here.
- 24th June: IMB Annual Report published – Learn More
- 26th May: this Prison is now offering visits for family, friends and significant others, in line with stage 3 of the National Framework for Prisons. To book a visit see Visiting Information below or contact the prison.
- To visit someone in this establishment, either for social or official visits, you must have the right identification. The ID required for entry to all prisons, open and closed, for both social and official visits, changed on 8th April 2021 and you may be turned away if you do not arrive with the correct ID – you will find the correct ID you need here.
- 1st April 2021 – new email address: Correspondence.Lewes@justice.gov.uk
- 16th January: HM Prisons Inspectorate published a new Independent Review of Progress (IRP) Inspection Report of an IRP carried out in December 2019 – when they found a ‘renewed sense of purpose and promising improvement – Learn More
- HMPPS responded to the IRP – Learn More
Task of the establishment:
Category B male local/resettlement prison, which also holds category C and D prisoners.
Certified normal accommodation and operational capacity:
Prisoners held January 2021: 587
Baseline certified normal capacity: 617
In-use certified normal capacity: 617
Operational capacity: 692
Brief history, Role and Residential information
HMP Lewes is a category B local prison for male prisoners in the county town of Lewes. It serves the courts of both East and West Sussex and houses sentenced prisoners, unsentenced prisoners, those on remand as well as young offenders (men between the ages of 18 and 21) in categories B and C. It also takes some category D prisoners returned from open conditions. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the operational capacity (the maximum population that could be accommodated without the risk of disruption due to overcrowding) was reduced from 620 to 560 in order to accommodate as many men as possible in single cells. At the end of January 2021 the prison held 548 prisoners. There were 551 in January 2020. The main buildings are Victorian, completed in 1853 with a modern block housing two wings completed in 2008. There are nine residential wings in total.
The capacities of the wings, except B wing, are as of 31 January 2021:
- A wing: a general wing for drug recovery and, since Covid-19, also for some new arrivals, housing (Up to 128 pre/post Covid-19)
- B wing: care and separation unit (CSU). Has 16 cells including two high risk and two special accommodation
- C Wing: a general wing housing around 150.
- F Wing: mainly a vulnerable prisoner wing, housing around (Up to 147 pre/post Covid-19)
- G Wing: the first night centre (FNC) with a capacity of 23
- K Wing: a drug/alcohol dependency stabilisation wing housing 22
- L Wing: a wing for sentenced category C and D prisoners with single cells housing 80
- M Wing: a general wing with single cells housing 80
Health Care Centre (HCC): an acute inpatient facility with around nine cells available.
There is also a large, well-equipped gym and second sports hall for prisoner use. The main providers of services to the prison during this reporting year were:
GEO Amey (transport to and from the courts and local prisons)
Government Facility Services Limited (GFSL)
DHL (ordering and delivering prisoners’ purchases)
Bidfood kitchen supplies
East Sussex County Council Library Services
Weston College for Education
Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company (KSS CRC) Southdown Housing
Job Centre Plus
There are three providers of health and social care:
Practice Plus Group (PPG) is the main service provider contracted via NHSE Commissioners responsible for primary care clinics, including GPs and health screenings, a ten-bed inpatient unit, substance misuse services, mental healthcare, a pharmacy, and crisis response services. Also, via subcontractors: dental, optical, podiatry and physiotherapy services.
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust runs sexual health clinics.
Better Healthcare Services (contracted via social services) are responsible for social care.
Additionally, there are a number of voluntary and other organisations that provide significant services, including: the Samaritans, Alcoholics Anonymous, Age UK, SSAFA, National Association of Official Prison Visitors, Sussex Pathways, Prison Fellowship, SEAP. Not all of these organisations have been providing their services since the Covid-19 lockdown.
In the area of healthcare there are at least 8 different suppliers:
– Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust (SPFT) (in patients, outpatients, clinics, screenings, dental nurse, pharmacy, in-reach mental health) contracted via National Health Service England (NHSE)
– Optician sole trader subcontracted via SPFT
– Med-Co Secure Healthcare Services Ltd contracted via NHSE providing general practitioner clinics
– Dentist sub-contracted sole trader via NHSE
Visiting Information – currently no legal visits
5th October 2021 – updated visiting times below
12th August 2021. This prison is now allowing physical contact at social visits following a negative rapid test. Find out more here.
26th May: this Prison is now offering visits for family, friends and significant others, in line with stage 3 of the National Framework for Prisons. To book a visit see Visiting Information below or contact the prison. To visit someone in this establishment, either for social or official visits, you must have the right identification. The ID required for entry to all prisons, open and closed, for both social and official visits, changed on 8th April 2021 and you may be turned away if you do not arrive with the correct ID – you will find the correct ID you need here.
Lewes is running a limited visits schedule. Visits are also happening differently than normal, observing strict guidelines, which must be followed.
You can book your visit by telephone or you can also register to use the secure video calls service. There is no online booking service available.
You must arrive at least 30 minutes before your visit to allow for security and processing.
Booking line: 01273 785 277 or 01273 785 271 The booking line is open everyday, 8am to 5pm Find out about call charges
Lewes is running a limited visits schedule. Visits are also happening differently than normal, observing strict guidelines, which must be followed.
You can book your visit by telephone or you can also register to use the secure video calls service. There is no online booking service available.
You must arrive at least 30 minutes before your visit to allow for security and processing.
Booking line: 01273 785 277 or 01273 785 271 The booking line is open everyday, 8am to 5pm Find out about call charges
- Monday to Wednesday: 2pm to 3:30pm
- Friday: 9am to 10.30am
- Saturday and Sunday: 2pm to 3:30pm
There are no legal visits at present
Contact Lewes if you have more questions about visiting.
Help with the cost of your visit
If you get certain benefits or have an NHS health certificate, you might be able to get help with the costs of your visit, including:
- travel to Lewes
- somewhere to stay overnight
Getting to Lewes
The closest railway station is Lewes. You can get a 5 minute taxi ride to the prison or it’s a 25 minute walk.
To plan your journey by public transport:
Only Blue Badge holders can park at the prison. There are 2 spaces next to the visitors centre. Tell the prison staff you are parking here, show them your Blue Badge and give them your vehicle registration number. Visitors centre staff can help you with this.
There is metered parking on the roads outside the prison.
To visit someone in this establishment, either for social or official visits, you must have the right identification. The ID required for entry to all prisons, open and closed, for both social and official visits, changed on 8th April 2021 and you may be turned away if you do not arrive with the correct ID – you will find the correct ID you need here.
All visitors will need to be given a pat-down search, including children. You may also be sniffed by security dogs.
Lewes has a dress code policy, which means visitors should wear family-friendly clothes (no vests, no low-cut tops, no shorts, no short dresses and no headwear, other than that worn for religious reasons).
There will be no refreshments available during your visit.
There are strict controls on what you can take into Lewes. You will have to leave most of the things you have with you in a locker or with security. This includes pushchairs and car seats.
You will be told the rules by an officer at the start of your visit. If you break the rules, your visit could be cancelled and you could be banned from visiting again.
Spurgeons runs the visitors centre with toys and art materials and a small play area for children. You can buy drinks and snacks.
There are also toys in the visiting hall.
If you have a disability, let the prison know and they will make sure your visit is on the lower level.
Spurgeons children’s charity hosts family days 6 times a year. They are an opportunity for dads to spend time with their children and families, taking part in crafts, music and games.
Keep in touch with someone at Lewes
There are several ways you can keep in touch with a resident during their time at Lewes.
Residents have phones in their rooms but they will always have to call you. They buy phone credits to do this and can call anytime between 6am and midnight.
They can phone anyone named on their list of friends and family. This list is checked by security when they first arrive so it may take a few days before they are able to call.
You can also exchange voicemails using the Prison Voicemail service.
Officers may listen to phone calls as a way of preventing crime and helping keep people safe.
You can send emails to someone in Lewes using the Email a Prisoner service.
You can write at any time.
Include the person’s name and prisoner number on the envelope. If you do not know their prisoner number, contact Lewes.
All post apart from legal letters will be opened and checked by officers.
Each week, residents can send 2 second class letters and one first class legal letter.
Send money and gifts
2nd September 2021: this prison no longer accepts bank transfers, cash, postal orders. or cheques to send money to prisoners.
You can use the free and fast online service to send money to someone in prison.
So you can no longer send money by bank transfer, cheque, postal order or send cash by post.
If you cannot use the online service, you may be able to apply for an exemption – for example if you:
- are unable to use a computer, a smart phone or the internet
- do not have a debit card
This will allow you to send money by post.
People in the Prison can buy permitted items from approved online retailers – we are an approved retailer..
View the prison’s Facility List on this page or contact the Prison for more information on what’s allowed.
We are an MOJ Approved Book Retailer, which means we can source and send books in to prisoners for you – see here for what information we need.
- Just email details we need to firstname.lastname@example.org we will source the books, send you a secure link for payment and then send the books you have ordered and paid for direct to the prisoner.
Life at Lewes
Lewes is committed to providing a safe and educational environment where residents can learn new skills to help them on release.
Security and safeguarding
Every person at Lewes has a right to feel safe. The staff are responsible for their safeguarding and welfare at all times.
All safeguarding processes are overseen by East Sussex Safeguarding Adults Board.
Arrival and first night
When a resident first arrives at Lewes, they will be able to contact a family member by phone. This could be quite late in the evening, depending on the time they arrive, and they are only allowed 2 minutes.
They will get to speak to someone who will check how they’re feeling and ask about any immediate health and wellbeing needs.
Each person who arrives at Lewes gets an induction that lasts about a week. They will meet professionals who will help them with:
- health and wellbeing, including mental and sexual health
- any substance misuse issues, including drugs and alcohol
- personal development in custody and on release, including skills, education and training
- other support (sometimes called ‘interventions’), such as managing difficult emotions
Everyone also finds out about the rules, fire safety, and how things like calls and visits work.
Lewes holds 692 residents in a mixture of single and double rooms.
Facilities include a gym, library, a healthcare unit, an onsite pharmacy and a multi-faith centre.
Education and work
Lewes provides a range of work, education and training facilities including IT, kitchen work, painting and decorating, barista work, food safety and preparation, waste management, horticulture, first aid and sports leadership.
A physical education programme is offered, as well as weekly library sessions and there are courses to reduce the risk of re-offending.
Applications for release on temporary licence (ROTL) can be submitted and are individually assessed.
Organisations Lewes works with
Lewes works with the Samaritans to train a team of ‘Listeners’ who are then available day and night for those who need additional support.
It also works with The Forward Trust, which offers help around substance misuse and delivers a number of ‘family ties workshops’. This is in partnership with Care UK and can offer detoxification, if necessary.
Lewes also works with Storybook Dads which helps dads create a bedtime story CD or DVD for their children.
Support for family and friends
Find out about advice and helplines for family and friends.
Support at Lewes
Problems and complaints
If you have a problem contact Lewes. If you cannot resolve the problem directly, you can make a complaint to HM Prison and Probation Service.
HM Prison and Probation Service publishes action plans for Lewes in response to independent inspections.
Governor: Hannah Lane
Telephone: 01273 785 100
Monday to Friday, 7am to 8pm and weekends, 7am to 5pm
There is a 24 hour redirect service outside these hours
Fax: 01273 785 101
1 Brighton Road
Safer custody hotline
Residents or their families can use the safer custody hotline to report bullying or concerns about self harm or suicide.
It is staffed during office hours. At other times, there is an answerphone which is checked and followed up every day. Leave your name, the resident’s name, a return contact number and brief details about your concern and a member of staff will call you back.
Safer custody hotline: 01273 785 392
You can also email: email@example.com
If it’s urgent, call the main switchboard number (staffed 24 hours a day) and ask for the orderly officer.
A prison’s Facilities List is an important document.
What personal items a prisoner may be allowed to have with them in their cell in a particular prison, the amount they can have of each item, and the mechanism by which they must obtain those items is governed by the prison’s ‘Facilities List’ – each prison’s Facilities List is unique to each prison.
Whether a prisoner can have a particular item on a prison’s Facilities List depends on their status as a remand or convicted prisoner, their level on the Incentive Earned Privileges Scheme, and Volumetric Control limits. Full details of the Incentive Earned Privileges Scheme and Volumetric Control Limits are in the ‘Reception to Release’ Advice Portal, available to Standard Members and above.
HMIP Latest Inspection Report
Date of last inspection: 14, 21–25 January 2019
Date of publication: 14 May 2019
Notable features from this inspection:
- 26% of prisoners were unsentenced.
- 201 prisoners presented a high or very high risk of harm.
- The prison held 85 prisoners who were on the sex offenders register.
- 54% of prisoners were category C.
HMCIP Executive Summary
HMP Lewes is a medium-sized category B local prison. At the time of this inspection it held around 580 male prisoners, both sentenced and on remand. The prison was last inspected in January 2016. On that occasion we found it to be reasonably good in the areas of respect and resettlement, and not sufficiently good in the areas of safety and purposeful activity. Unfortunately, the findings of this inspection were deeply troubling and indicative of systemic failure within the prison service. HM Inspectorate of Prisons found that in three areas – respect, purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning – there had been a decline in performance to such an extent that they all attracted a lower assessment than at the last inspection. In the fourth area, the key one of safety, although performance was not so poor as to drag the assessment to the lowest possible level, it was undoubtedly heading in that direction, unless in the near future there was to be decisive intervention to halt the decline in standards. A good start would be if the findings of this inspection were to be taken more seriously than has been the case in the past. We found that in the three years since the last inspection, a mere 10 out of the 54 recommendations we made on that occasion had been fully achieved. Our experience as an inspectorate is that prisons which pay so little attention to inspection findings will inevitably fail to improve.
What makes the decline at Lewes even more difficult to understand is the fact that two years ago HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) put the prison into what it described as ‘special measures’. I have examined the ‘Improving Lewes (Special Measures) Action Plan’ agreed with senior HMPPS management in August 2018. However, of the 45 action points in the plan, 39 had not been completed and the majority were described as requiring ‘major development’. There were over 50 references to reviewing activity in the plan, but a noticeable dearth of hard targets. The results of this inspection clearly showed that, far from delivering better outcomes, two years of ‘special measures’ had coincided with a serious decline in performance. In short, unless in the future HMP Lewes benefits from strong leadership and a realistic action plan focused on delivering clear, measurable outcomes, it is highly likely that the use of the Urgent Notification procedure will have to be considered at some point.
In terms of safety, there was a great deal of urgent work to be done. Since the last inspection there had been five self-inflicted deaths, and incidents of self-harm had tripled. Meanwhile, there had been an inadequate response to recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) in response to those deaths. While levels of violence were broadly similar to those we saw at the last inspection, assaults against staff had risen and a quarter of prisoners felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. There was a backlog of investigations into acts of violence, a situation that clearly inhibited the ability of the prison to take a more informed and proactive approach to violence reduction.
The availability of illicit drugs undoubtedly sat behind much of the violence. Fifty-nine per cent of prisoners told us it was easy to get hold of drugs in the prison, and 14% had acquired a drug habit after entering the jail. Despite this, the devices to detect contraband and drugs had not been working since April 2018, and I was told this was because of ‘procurement’ difficulties. If ‘special measures’ was intended to help the prison overcome this type of bureaucratic obstacle, it had failed.
Despite the many weaknesses we found in the performance of the prison, it is notable that 78% of prisoners told us that staff treated them with respect. This was an unusually high figure for this type of prison, and added weight to the notion that the problems at Lewes were not insoluble, but did require significant management intervention. For instance, this report sets out very real weaknesses in the leadership and management of health care in the prison, and also in the provision of sufficient activity for the prisoners. Our colleagues from Ofsted were clear in their view that there was no clear strategy for the delivery of learning and skills, and indeed allocation to activities appeared to be a matter of luck. During the inspection I saw workshops and classrooms where attendance was very poor, and it was clear that there was insufficient attention being paid to getting prisoners into activities. As a result, while time out of cell was good for those attending activities, it was not so good for those not attending, and we found 40% of prisoners locked in their cells during the working day.
A similar picture emerged in the area of rehabilitation and release planning, where a lack of leadership meant that there was weak strategic management, and the reducing reoffending strategy was out of date. Notably, only one of nine recommendations made in this area at the last inspection had been fully achieved.
Overall, this was a very disappointing inspection. I would recommend readers to look carefully at the detail contained in this report, as it brings into question the utility of ‘special measures’ if a prison can decline so badly when supposedly benefitting from them for a full two years. It also validates the Inspectorate’s new Independent Reviews of Progress, which are specifically designed to give ministers a report of progress against previous inspection reports at struggling prisons such as Lewes. A new governor had taken up post shortly before this inspection, and she will need support from her own management team and from more senior levels in HMPPS if the decline at HMP Lewes is to be arrested and reversed.
Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
Summary – HMIP
Arrival and first night procedures were generally good, but induction was weak. The prison was relatively calm and levels of violence were similar to those at the previous inspection. However, many incidents were serious and the management of violence reduction work was not sufficiently rigorous or strategic. Use of force was high; management scrutiny of incidents had improved, and documents and recordings showed that force was generally proportionate. The segregation unit was managed reasonably well but cells were in a poor state. There had been some improvements to security, but aspects of procedural security were not sufficiently robust. Efforts to reduce the supply of drugs were undermined by lack of use of technology. Self-harm was high and there had been five self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection. Management processes for at-risk prisoners remained weak, and not enough Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) recommendations had been achieved. Outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test.
At the last inspection in 2015-16 we found that outcomes for prisoners in Lewes were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. We made 17 recommendations in the area of safety. (This included recommendations about substance use treatment, which in our updated Expectations (Version 5, 2017) now appear under the healthy prison area of respect.) At this inspection we found that four of the recommendations had been achieved, four had been partially achieved and 9 had not been achieved.
Prisoners were positive about treatment by escort staff, and escort vehicles were clean and well maintained. Reception processes were generally efficient, although some new arrivals spent too much time waiting there before going to the first night unit. First night interviews were now conducted in a confidential setting and the assessment of risk was reasonable. Many first night cells were in poor condition. Induction was superficial and not sufficiently informative, and not provided for all prisoners.
Levels of violence were similar to those at our previous inspection, but nearly a fifth of assaults were serious and the number of assaults against staff had nearly doubled. The prison did not yet have an effective strategic response to violence. The safer custody team was under-resourced. The management of perpetrators of violence and bullying was usually limited to placing prisoners on the basic level of the incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme. There was no ongoing support for victims of violence. Over a quarter of violent incident investigations were outstanding. Investigations had improved recently and were now of reasonable quality. The few self-isolating prisoners were known to the prison, and they reported some good support from wing staff. The IEP scheme was applied fairly, but there were not enough differentials between the levels of the scheme and they offered few incentives for good behaviour. Managerial oversight of adjudication hearings was insufficient. Adjudication documentation was reasonable overall but a few cases lacked enquiry and explanation. About a quarter of adjudications were dismissed or not proceeded with, often because of avoidable delays, and the number of outstanding police referrals was high.
Use of force had more than doubled since our previous inspection and was higher than similar prisons. The quality of use of force reports was adequate but the documentation, including injury to prisoner forms, was often incomplete. Use of force incidents, including video footage were now scrutinised at a useful weekly meeting, which identified lessons and provided actions. There was extensive staff use of body-worn cameras, although not all planned interventions had been routinely recorded. Video footage generally demonstrated effective briefings, good attempts at de-escalation and appropriate use of control and restraint. Baton draws were now regularly reviewed. In one case, the drawing of batons was not justified. Use of special accommodation was high and for lengthy periods, but it was generally justified.
Use of segregation was higher than at similar prisons. Segregation documentation was reasonable but behavioural targets were too generic. Segregation unit staff relationships with prisoners were professional, and prisoners were generally positive about their treatment in the unit. Communal areas were clean, but cells were grubby, with soiled toilets and no lids, and some contained gang graffiti. The two exercise yards were austere and claustrophobic. A high number of prisoners on assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management for risk of suicide or self-harm continued to be held in the segregation unit. The exceptional reasons given to justify this were adequate, but not always regularly reviewed to reflect the prisoner’s changing circumstances.
Security arrangements were generally proportionate and did not unnecessarily restrict prisoners’ access to the regime. Active measures were taken to combat key threats, including installing overhead netting. The security committee was well attended, but agreed security objectives were not communicated widely. Over 3,000 intelligence reports had been submitted in the previous six months. The processing and management of reports had been improving but too many were still outstanding and resulting actions were not tracked. The mandatory drug testing (MDT) rate, including tests for new psychoactive substances (NPS), (NPS generally refers to synthetic cannabinoids, a growing number of man-made mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material or paper so they can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices.) was relatively high at 22%. In our survey, half of prisoners said it was easy to get illegal drugs in the prison. Very few suspicion MDT tests were completed. X-ray machines had been out of action since April 2018, and the equipment to detect drugs on incoming post was not yet in use. There was some evidence of effective local corruption prevention processes, but they were not sufficiently promoted to staff.
There had been five self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection. The death in custody action plan arising from the recommendations of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman was comprehensive, but most actions had not been implemented. Levels of self-harm were high, with over 300 incidents in the previous six months. There had been small improvements to ACCT processes, but they remained poor overall and lacked sufficient health care input. There was no clear strategy to reduce self-harm based on a robust analysis of data. Although self-harm data were presented at safer custody meetings, there was little documented discussion or actions arising. Serious safeguarding risks to prisoners had not always been recognised and acted on promptly. The Listeners, prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to fellow prisoners, were well supported and prisoners had reasonably good access to them.
Staff-prisoner relationships were reasonably good, but staff were too passive in their management of prisoners. The newer parts of the prison were generally clean, but the older units were not, and some cells were in a poor state, including graffiti and ingrained dirt. Prisoner consultation was reasonable. The applications system was not effective. Responses to complaints addressed the issues raised but were often late. Equality and diversity work had been improving but was still weak. Faith provision was very good. There were substantial weaknesses in health provision, especially mental health and nurse- led primary care. Substance misuse services were good. Outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test.
At the last inspection in 2015-16 we found that outcomes for prisoners in Lewes were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 20 recommendations in the area of respect. At this inspection we found that four of the recommendations had been achieved, five had been partially achieved and 11 had not been achieved.
Over three-quarters of prisoners in our survey said that most staff treated them with respect. We did not observe poor conduct by staff, but they were often too passive in managing prisoners. Poor behaviour went unchallenged, including drug use on the wings, and not enough staff encouraged attendance at work or education. The keyworker scheme (allocating named staff to individual prisoners for regular contact) was being rolled out. The scheme had a quality assurance system but feedback on quality was not shared with keyworkers themselves.
Many cells contained graffiti, often abusive, and recent efforts to paint cells were long overdue. Most cells had basic furniture but no lockable cabinets. No cells had curtains. Toilets were reasonably well screened but none had suitable lids, and most showers were in a poor state. Cleanliness was generally poor on the older wings but reasonable on the three newer wings. Outside areas were reasonably clean but we saw rats and a large amount of bird droppings on outside buildings. While most prisoners had their own cells, 67 cells designed for single occupancy were shared by two. Laundry arrangements were adequate but access to basic toiletries was sporadic.
Food was of reasonable quality but meals were served too early. Prison shop arrangements were reasonable and met the need of prisoners. Prisoners employed in the kitchen had not received basic food handling training. Large amounts of waste food were left on serveries. Prisoner consultative meetings took place monthly and were generally well attended.
Points discussed were meaningful and tangible actions were taken. Most prisoners we spoke to were complimentary about prisoner information desks. However, the applications system was not working effectively and lacked monitoring. Staff responses to prisoner complaints generally answered the concerns raised, but too many were late and some were not legible. The library held a reasonable range of legal texts and Prison Service instructions. Legal visits provision was good. Despite some improvements in the management of equality work, it remained weak. There were quarterly management meetings, but action planning was poor. There was some analysis of equality monitoring data, but not enough was done to understand and act on concerns raised by the data. There had been some celebrations of cultural events. There were few discrimination incident reports. The quality of completed responses was reasonable but not all had had a response. There were no regular forums for prisoners in protected groups. There was very limited support for foreign nationals, and staff did not use professional interpreters when they should have. Older prisoners and those with physical disabilities were reasonably well cared for on F wing, but there was unmet need on other wings. Transgender prisoners were reasonably content with their treatment. There were substantial gaps in identifying needs for other groups, including Travellers, gay/bisexual prisoners and younger prisoners. Faith and pastoral care provision by the chaplaincy was very good. Prisoners could access corporate worship and education for all the main religions. The chaplaincy provided good opportunities for prisoners to become involved in victim awareness work.
Many prisoners were very negative about the health services, with two-thirds of prisoners in our survey responding that the overall quality was quite or very bad. Services had deteriorated since our previous inspection, most notably mental health services and the provision of nurse-led primary care. In our survey, over half of prisoners said they had mental health problems. Waiting lists were lengthy and the under-resourced integrated mental health team could not meet the level of need. The range of primary care services was limited and the oversight of prisoners with long-term conditions was poor. The application process for health appointments was very poorly managed. We found 143 outstanding applications, presenting significant risks to prisoner care. Managers did not have accurate data on waiting times.
The inpatient unit continued to provide good quality care for some of the most seriously ill patients. However, it still lacked a therapeutic regime and some of the cells were in poor condition. There were five prisoners receiving funded social care packages, and they received good quality care. The Forward Trust provided good clinical and psychosocial services for prisoners requiring substance use treatment. Prison officers did not always manage medication queues effectively, which continued to compromise confidentiality and increased the opportunity for medication diversion. Dental care was good but some aspects of governance needed immediate attention, particularly the maintenance of fixed equipment.
Time out of cell had improved but over 40% of prisoners were still locked up during the working day. The library and gym provision were good. Leadership and management of learning, skills and work were inadequate, with little substantive progress since the previous inspection. There were insufficient activity places and attendance at them was poor. Prisoners who did attend behaved and engaged well. The quality of teaching and learning was not consistently good. Achievements in most vocational training were high, but poor in English and maths. Outcomes for prisoners were poor against this healthy prison test.
At the last inspection in 2015-16 we found that outcomes for prisoners in Lewes were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. We made seven recommendations in the area of purposeful activity. At this inspection we found that none of the recommendations had been achieved, three had been partially achieved and four had not been achieved.
Time out of cell for prisoners who were working or engaged in activities was reasonably good, but those who were not working could be locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day. Weekend time out of cell was reasonable. In each of our working day roll checks we found over 40% of prisoners locked behind their doors. There was a well- equipped gym and access was good for prisoners from all units. Some remedial sessions were run, and a few prisoners had benefited from a good sports leadership and management course. The library was accessible to all for two hours a week on rotation, although some prisoners were not unlocked to attend. It was well stocked, and ran an impressive range of events, which included visiting speakers, well-being sessions and a debating club.
Prison and Novus managers’ assessment of learning and skills provision was broadly accurate, but they had been too slow in making improvements. The prison only had enough activity places for about two-thirds of the population. Too many prisoners were unemployed and had little to do. Much of the work was low level and repetitive. Allocation to work and training did not take sufficient account of prisoners’ needs or predicted stay, and did not ensure the full and efficient use of the places available. Prison managers understood the challenges facing them but did not have a clear strategy for learning and skills.
The education and training provided by Novus required improvement. Observations of teaching and learning had not been extended to all provision in the prison. The curriculum was narrow, but reasonable for the majority who did not stay for very long.
Teaching, learning and assessment in education and vocational training were not good enough. Teachers’ planning did not take sufficient account of individual needs, in particular for the more able. The majority of marking and assessment did not help prisoners to understand what they did well and what they needed to do to improve. Learning peer mentors were well trained and provided effective support and guidance. Attendance rates were persistently low and over a third of those allocated to education failed to attend. In lessons, training and work, prisoners were well behaved and respectful to their teachers, supervisors and peers. In production workshops, prisoners were productive and disciplined. However, not enough attention was given to developing skills and behaviours for future progression or work. Too few prisoners addressed their lack of qualifications in English and maths, and success rates in these qualifications were low. The majority of prisoners who completed their courses achieved their qualifications. The prison had not ensured that prisoners had access to impartial, high- quality careers information and guidance following the end of the National Careers Service contract.
The children’s charity Spurgeons provided good and developing support to prisoners’ families. The visits environment had improved. The strategic management of rehabilitation work was weak. Although there was some good work, especially by probation officers, the offender management unit (OMU) was under-resourced and too reactive. Too many offender assessment system (OASys) assessments were incomplete or late. Public protection procedures were generally robust. Categorisation and home detention curfew (HDC) processes were reasonably effective. Release plans were not always done where needed. Too many prisoners were released without stable accommodation, despite good efforts by the community rehabilitation company (CRC). (Since May 2015 rehabilitation services, both in custody and after release, have been organised through CRCs which are responsible for work with medium- and low- risk offenders. The National Probation Service has maintained responsibility for high- and very high-risk offenders.) Outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test.
At the last inspection in 2015-16 we found that outcomes for prisoners in Lewes were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 10 recommendations in the area of resettlement. (This included recommendations about reintegration planning for drugs and alcohol and reintegration issues for education, skills and work, which in our updated Expectations (Version 5, 2017) now appear under the healthy prison areas of respect and purposeful activity respectively.) At this inspection we found that two of the recommendations had been achieved, four had been partially achieved and four had not been achieved.
Visits provision was generally good, although there were no sessions in the morning at weekends when we were told that demand was greatest. Spurgeons ran a welcoming visitors’ centre and provided a range of helpful family support, which was being further developed. There were regular family days and a playworker in the visits hall, and a parenting programme was being piloted. The governor ran a bimonthly meeting with visitors, which had resulted in some improvements for families. The visits hall was now a cleaner and brighter environment, with a children’s play area for younger children. There was no provision for older children and no toilets for prisoners or their visitors. Prisoners had experienced unacceptable delays of several days, and sometimes weeks, in sending and receiving their mail.
The prison continued to hold a complex mixture of remand and sentenced prisoners, including a sizeable number of sex offenders. The reducing reoffending committee had met only four times in 2018, and OMU managers had attended only two of these meetings. The reducing reoffending strategy was out of date. The criminogenic factors of the population had not been analysed recently. Offender supervisors were now rarely cross-deployed but the OMU was under- resourced. Caseloads were large, with some probation officers managing over 90 cases. Too many OASys assessments were incomplete or late, and the quality was variable. OMU staff contact with prisoners was insufficient and reactive. Offender supervisors and probation officers did not record contact with prisoners on the P-NOMIS Prison Service IT system, which undermined coordinated offender management. The quality of probation officers’ initial work was often good but there was a lack of effective follow up.
About 200 prisoners presented a high or very high risk of harm. Work to protect the public was sound. Restrictions on contact between prisoners and the public were robustly identified and monitoring arrangements were good. The quality of multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) assessment reports was exceptionally good, but not all relevant prisoners were assigned a MAPPA level before their release. The inter-departmental risk management committee was largely effective. Recategorisation arrangements were adequate, with about 30% of boards leading to a lower categorisation. HDC assessments and releases were timely. Many prisoners were transferred without excessive delay, but the lack of a programme needs assessor slowed the transfer of sex offenders to access suitable programmes. The prison offered two offending behaviour programmes, the Resolve intervention for violent offenders and the Thinking Skills Programme. Staffing shortfalls had meant that only four instead of the scheduled six programmes had run since April 2018. The CRC helped prisoners with basic finance and debt problems, and 40 prisoners had made bank account applications in the previous year. Experienced advisers from the Southdown charity attended the prison every weekday to support prisoners with their housing needs, including support to keep tenancies and address homelessness. Despite their good efforts, 18% of prisoners had been discharged homeless in the previous six months. The Sussex Pathways charity provided a helpful through-the-gate mentoring service and a course on life skills and mindfulness. In theory, the CRC should have completed a resettlement plan with all prisoners 12 weeks before their release. In practice, this did not always happen and we had found cases of unmet need. Prisoners had poor awareness of the CRC’s work and too many did not attend their appointments. There was a lack of coordinated working between the CRC and the OMU. Where plans were completed, there was some useful work to plan for prisoners’ release.
Concerns and recommendations
Concern: Nearly a fifth of all assaults were serious and the number of assaults against staff had nearly doubled. The prison did not yet have an effective strategic response to violence. The safer custody team was under-resourced and there was insufficient follow up of concerns identified at safer custody meetings. The management of perpetrators of violence and support for victims were weak. Too many violent incident investigations were incomplete, and there was no violence reduction action plan.
Recommendation: The prison should develop a comprehensive violence reduction action plan, which is driven forward by a sufficiently resourced safer custody team and regularly monitored to establish its effectiveness.
Concern: Levels of self-harm were high and there had been five self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection. Despite this, there was no clear strategy, based on a robust analysis of data, to reduce self-harm. The quality of case management documentation remained poor and lacked sufficient health care input.
Recommendation: The prison should implement a strategy to reduce self-harm, which is based on a robust analysis of self-harm data and delivers consistently good care for prisoners at risk of self- harm through multidisciplinary assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management.
Concern: Health governance structures did not effectively address risks and concerns such as the under-resourced mental health services, long waiting lists and the very poorly managed health care applications process; we found large numbers of applications that had received no action, entailing significant risks to prisoner well-being.
Recommendation: Health governance structures should be robust enough to identify and effectively address key risks and concerns, and should ensure that prisoners have prompt access to all health services.
Concern: The prison had insufficient activity places to meet the needs of the population and attendance at allocated activities was poor. Around 40% of prisoners were locked up during the working day.
Recommendation: The prison should provide opportunities for all prisoners to engage with education, skills and work-related activities, and ensure that they do so.
Concern: The strategic management of rehabilitation work was weak. Prison departments did not work closely to reduce the risk of reoffending. Offender management unit staff did not record all contact they had with prisoners on P-NOMIS case notes, which undermined coordinated working. The criminogenic factors in the population had not been addressed. A large number of sex offenders were held yet there was no detailed strategy to reduce their risks.
Recommendation: There should be a prison- wide approach to offender management, based on a robust needs analysis. It should include effective joint working and information exchange, a common approach to record- keeping, and a detailed strategy for managing the large number of sex offenders.
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Independent Review of Progress Report
Date of last inspection: 2–4 December 2019
Date of publication: 16 January 2020
- At this IRP visit, we followed up 12 of the 53 recommendations made at our most recent inspection and made judgements about the degree of progress achieved to date. Ofsted followed up three themes.
- We judged that there was good progress in three recommendations, reasonable progress in six recommendations, and insufficient progress in three recommendations. There was no meaningful progress in any of the recommendations. A summary of the judgements is as follows.
4 This pie chart excludes any recommendations that were followed up as part of a theme within Ofsted’s concurrent prison monitoring visit.
Figure 2: Judgements against HMI Prisons recommendations from 2019 inspection
|The prison should develop a comprehensive violence reduction action plan, which is driven forward by a sufficiently resourced safer custody team and regularly monitored to establish its effectiveness. (S39)||Reasonable progress|
|The prison should implement a strategy to reduce self-harm, which is based on a robust analysis of self-harm data and delivers consistently good care for prisoners at risk of self-harm through multidisciplinary assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management. (S40)||Reasonable progress|
|Health governance structures should be robust enough to identify and effectively address key risks and concerns and should ensure that prisoners have prompt access to all health services. (S41)||Reasonable progress|
|There should be a prison-wide approach to offender management, based on a robust needs analysis. It should include effective joint working and information exchange, a common approach to record-keeping, and a detailed strategy for managing the large number of sex offenders. (S43)||Reasonable progress|
|Rigorous governance of use of force should ensure that documentation is completed promptly and thoroughly, and that all planned incidents are recorded. (1.27)||Good progress|
|Measures to identify and control drug supply, including suspicion testing and use of technology, should be implemented systematically. (1.43)||Reasonable progress|
|Managers should ensure that staff actively support prisoners and challenge poor behaviour. (2.3)||Insufficient progress|
|Cells, wings and outside areas should be kept clean. (2.10)||Reasonable progress|
|All health care staff should receive regular clinical and managerial supervision and be up to date with mandatory training. (2.52)||Good progress|
|Prisoners with long-term health conditions should receive regular reviews by trained staff, informed by an evidence-based care plan. (2.70)||Insufficient progress|
|Prisoners referred to the service should be reviewed and assessed promptly and offered a suitable range of mental health interventions within agreed timescales. (2.86)||Good progress|
|All eligible prisoners should have an up-to-date OASys assessment. Offender management should proactively engage prisoners and focus on progression and the reduction of risk of harm. (4.15)||Insufficient progress|
- Ofsted judged that there was reasonable progress in one theme and insufficient progress in two themes. The was significant progress in none of the themes.
Figure 4: Judgements against Ofsted themes5 from 2019 inspection
|What progress have leaders and managers made with their strategies to improve the provision of education, skills and work, ensuring that all prisoners are adequately allocated to activities, enabling them to participate in training and qualifications that increase their chances of employability on release?||Insufficient|
|What progress have leaders and managers made in improving the quality of teaching, learning and assessment for all groups of learners, ensuring that teachers plan learning to enable prisoners to make good progress, using good learning resources and developing prisoners’ English and mathematics skills?||Reasonable|
|What progress have leaders and managers made in securing good quality work provision that enables prisoners to develop a work ethic and in ensuring that a high number of prisoners complete their qualifications and achieve well?||Insufficient|
5 Ofsted’s themes incorporate the key concerns at the previous inspection in respect of education, skills and work.
Section 1. Chief Inspector's Summary
1.1 At our inspection of HMP Lewes in 2019 we made the following judgements about outcomes for prisoners.
1.2 HMP Lewes in East Sussex is a medium-sized category B local prison. Its main function is to serve the local courts by holding unsentenced and newly sentenced prisoners. The average length of stay is short at about nine weeks. In addition to this core function, the prison holds recalled prisoners and those with a variety of sentence lengths, including lifers and those convicted of sexual offences. Like many other local prisons, it dates from the Victorian era and much of its infrastructure is old and cramped.
1.3 When we inspected the prison in January 2019, it had been in ‘special measures’ for two years, but outcomes for prisoners were declining rather than improving. A great deal of urgent work was needed to improve safety. The number of assaults against staff was high, a fifth of all assaults were serious and a quarter of prisoners said they felt unsafe. Despite this, the prison lacked an effective strategy for reducing violence. Force was used frequently, but its oversight was poor, and far too much paperwork justifying its use was missing. Illicit drugs were a big security problem, yet the prison had not done enough to identify or control their supply. Self-harm was common and five prisoners had taken their own lives between our 2016 and 2019 inspections. Again, the prison lacked an adequate strategic response to this problem. Many prisoners reported that staff treated them with respect, but a number of officers lacked authority and were too passive in their interactions with prisoners. Cleanliness on wings was generally poor and there were rats and large amounts of bird droppings in outside areas. We found very real weaknesses in the leadership and management of health services. These deficiencies meant our colleagues in the Care Quality Commission issued requirement notices relating to three breaches of the commission’s regulations. Mental health services, nurse-led primary care and care for prisoners with long- term conditions were poor. Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work provision as inadequate, its lowest score. Teaching and prisoners’ learning were not good enough. Too many prisoners were unemployed, with only enough activity places for two-thirds of the population. Prison managers were aware of these problems but did not have a clear strategy for improving learning and skills. Not enough was done to reduce the risks of prisoners reoffending after release. More than 100 assessments of prisoners’ risks were out of date or had not been completed. Prison departments did not work closely to reduce prisoners’ risks and had not adequately analysed the population’s needs. As in many other areas of the prison, there was no overarching strategy for driving improvement in this area.
1.4 During this independent review of progress, we found a prison with a renewed sense of purpose and direction. The prison had been taken out of special measures and had discarded the associated bureaucracy and ineffective action plan. The governor and her senior managers understood our concerns and recommendations, and had formulated a more realistic and focused plan for improvement. We were pleased to find that the prison had made good or reasonably good progress in two-thirds of the areas that we reviewed during this visit.
1.5 The prison had consulted staff and prisoners about what was causing violence in the prison. This consultation had informed a revised safety strategy and action plan. The safer custody team was now better resourced. However, these positive developments had yet to translate into reduced levels of violence. There were in fact now more assaults against staff than at the time of the inspection.
1.6 Managers now had much better oversight of the use of force than at the inspection. Nearly all planned incidents were video-recorded and the amount of outstanding paperwork justifying the use of force had been greatly reduced.
1.7 The number of prisoners testing positive in random drug tests had fallen. Prison staff were making much better use of technology and search dogs to disrupt the supply of drugs. However, staff were still not carrying out enough targeted drug tests following the receipt of intelligence.
1.8 The number of self-harm incidents in the previous six months had declined by over a third compared to a similar period before the inspection. One prisoner had taken their own life following our inspection. Managers had used an analysis of self-harm data to inform a new comprehensive strategy but had yet to publish it. Despite regular quality assurance, assessment, care in custody and team work documentation for those at risk of suicide or self-harm required improvement.
1.9 Managers assertively challenged prisoners’ antisocial behaviour, but officers’ approaches were not always consistent. Despite this, officers were generally supportive of prisoners in their care.
1.10 Managers now paid more attention to cleanliness and hygiene, and overall standards had improved. The problem with rats had been tackled. Offensive displays were no longer visible and graffiti had been reduced. Despite these improvements, some showers were run down and dirty, while many communal areas remained untidy.
1.11 Health governance structures had improved, and health care staff now received clinical and managerial supervision. Care for prisoners with long-term health conditions had also improved but was undermined by the large number of prisoners who did not attend their appointments. The mental health service was better than at the inspection, and more interventions were available.
1.12 There were still insufficient activity places for the population and some prisoners remained unemployed for more than two months. Officers did not routinely challenge prisoners who chose not to attend an activity. The overall quality of teaching, learning and assessment had improved. Prisoners could now study short modules in English and mathematics, which were better suited to the prison with its high turnover of prisoners. However, not enough prisoners benefited from work-related qualifications.
1.13 The prison had published an offender management strategy and established a committee to improve joint working and information sharing between departments involved in prisoners’ rehabilitation. The prison held fewer registered sex offenders than before and had implemented a sensible strategy for managing the population and ensuring prisoners progressed to a more suitable prison.
1.14 The number of prisoners without an offender assessment system (OASys) report had been reduced, but the prison could not tell us how many OASys assessments needed to be reviewed. While some offender management unit staff had frequent, good quality contact with prisoners on their caseload, others did not. Proactive interactions with prisoners were hampered by staff shortages and a lack of suitable interview rooms.
1.15 Overall, this was a promising review. The governor and her senior managers were taking the prison in the right direction. They were realistic about the scale of the challenges they faced and understood that further progress would require sustained effort and vigour. Their challenge now is to build on the progress they have made since the inspection and to translate this work into positive outcomes for prisoners. Nevertheless, they should be congratulated on what they have achieved so far.
Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
Independent Monitoring Board
The law requires every prison to be monitored by an independent Board appointed by the Justice Secretary; these are known as Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs). The IMB must satisfy itself as to the humane and just treatment of those held in custody within its prison and the range and adequacy of the programmes preparing them for release; it must report annually to the Justice Secretary on how well the prison has met the standards and requirements placed on it.
Latest IMB Annual Report
February 2020 to January 2021
Published 24th June 2021
The prisoners at HMP Lewes were largely kept safe from the Covid-19 pandemic due to early planning and fair and consistent actions by the Governor and her senior leadership team.
However, the regime restrictions, with the men being locked in a cell for up to 23 hours a day and a lack of opportunities for time in the open air, is not humane. These are two of the key findings from the 2020-21 annual report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Lewes, published today.
In its annual report, the Lewes IMB notes that:
- It is to the credit of the Governor, her team and prison officers that prisoners were kept safe. And, there was no spread of Covid-19 to the general prison population from those arriving, having already tested positive, until towards the end of January.
- Although the regime restrictions during the pandemic were justifiable, being locked up in a cell for 23 hours a day is not humane.
- The prisoners’ reaction to the restrictions was largely one of tolerance and understanding although the psychological impact on prisoners of being locked up every day for such long periods cannot be overstated.
- The prison’s own statistics appear to show a disproportionate use of force in respect of BAME prisoners. Over a seven-month period from April to October 2020 the average BAME population of the prison was over 17 percent who contributed to 33 percent of the use of force, a considerable disproportion.
- It is of continuing concern that, despite the best efforts of the prison to treat all prisoners with decency and respect, it is not humane for those subject to Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPPs) to have no set date for release. During the reporting period there was an average of 13 IPP prisoners living in HMP Lewes.
Selena Bevis, Chair of the IMB at Lewes commented, “this has been an extraordinary year and we commend all the prison staff for keeping the prisoners safe as well as fully informed during the pandemic.”
“The long term impact of the restrictions cannot be overstated. We are looking forward to seeing a relaxation of the current regime, and the return of education and work, enabling the prisoners to use their time productively in preparation for release.”
To read the full report click the tab below…
Fatal Incident Reports
Details of people who have died in this prison, with copies of the Investigation Report into their deaths, and the Action Plan designed to prevent further similar deaths – all listed by the name of the deceased that is not available anywhere else.