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HMP Grendon re-building its democratic therapeutic community despite failing infrastructure

HMP Grendon is a specialist prison providing therapy for prisoners with a confirmed personality disorder diagnosis. It is the only prison in the UK whose sole raison-d’être is therapy. In its latest annual report, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for HMP Grendon highlights a range of problems centred around the prison’s inadequate infrastructure. However, it also reports that the prison has largely returned to its pre-Covid regime, with peer-reviews confirming that it continues to provide high quality therapeutic services.

The IMB notes that:

  • Most men at Grendon talk very positively about their therapy. 35% of men successfully completed their therapeutic programme compared to 25% in 2022.
  • It observed good relationships between staff and prisoners. This is supported by a survey conducted by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, in which 90% of men reported that they felt respected by staff.
  • HMP Grendon continued its artist in residence programme, and an exhibition was held for external guests and the press showcasing prisoners’ artwork.

However, the Board reports that:

  • Too many men remained at Grendon who had completed therapy due to the lack of available space at other prisons. This prevented other prisoners from accessing much-needed therapeutic support.
  • There were issues with the building infrastructure throughout the reporting year, with two occasions of cell-bell failures, which could have serious safety consequences for prisoners. In one instance it took almost three hours for a bell to be heard and answered.
  • There was a major rat infestation from the middle of the year raising serious health and hygiene issues; by year-end the problems had still not been fully resolved.
  • The prison’s night sanitation facilities continued to fail to meet minimum decency and hygiene standards, suffering further operational problems; during an outbreak of norovirus, the men affected were issued with emergency in-cell kits and buckets and had to clean up their own mess.

HMP Grendon IMB member, Roger Riddell, said:

“Over the reporting year, between 14 and 20 men remained at HMP Grendon after completing their therapy programme, most for more than three months, one for over a year. The knock-on effect is that the high number of prisoners who have successfully applied to join the community are having to wait longer than necessary for places to fall vacant, delaying their therapeutic journey.

The lack of funds for upgrading dilapidated buildings and out-of-date technology, and the consequences this has on the safety and dignity of the prisoners, is a concern for the Board. Despite these challenges, when asked by IMB members about their experiences, it is rare for a man who has completed his therapy not to speak positively of his time at Grendon.”