A jail in Doncaster, England is known for having a violent population has come out with the uncommon, if not controversial, the measure of placing alleged or convicted sex offenders to help manage the high levels of violence in the prison.
A watchdog report reveals that the “deliberate policy” is supposedly intended to produce a “stabilizing” effect. It was discovered when an assessment inspection of the concerned jail, HMP Doncaster took place in July.
HMP Doncaster is a young offender institution and a category B prison near the center of the South Yorkshire town. It has over a thousand adult and young adult males at the time of the inspection.
The HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) described how they saw a change in the profile of the jail’s population. The number of men alleged or convicted of sex offenses has increased to over 300 during the inspection.
Chief of Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said the measure was meant to help “stabilize” the prison to manage the serious problems with violence that had been identified at the last inspection.
Such set-up and population profile will not be without inviting its own problems. Clarke said: “In effect, the large cohort of men was being denied the opportunity to make progress.” He also added that: “While it is perhaps understandable that, as a matter of policy, it might be decided that a prison should have a particular population profile, this should not be done in such a way that offender management of those prisoners is neglected.”
The report’s recommendation is for HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to support and resource the jail in the development of a comprehensive strategy which “clearly identifies how men convicted of a sexual offense will be offender managed; how their risk of harm will be reduced; how they will progress through their sentence; and how the public will be protected during custody and on release.”
The Ministry of Justice for its part confirmed that Doncaster was selected as a suitable prison to hold an increased number of sex offenders.
It is not by any means a matter of national policy yet, but more as part of a local strategy to improve stability.
With the measure, the inspectorate found levels of violence had decreased dramatically at the establishments, however, the rates remained high. The report said poor behavior from inmates too often went unchallenged, like defiant ways of gathering in cells, smoking at the landings, walking around partially clothed and ignoring staff instruction without fear of reprimand.
There has been some positive development from the measure of putting sex offenders in such a violent jail as inspectors found the jail as more stable overall compared to that of the previous year in 2015. Living conditions had also improved “substantially.”