HMIP Inspection of Manchester

The prison was given an inspection in autumn 2014, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

“HMP Manchester, once notorious as Strangeways prison, is now a core local prison serving the courts of Greater Manchester and with a national function of holding a small number of high risk prisoners. The prison held 1,118 adult men. Our last inspection in 2011 was very positive about the prison and the quality of its leadership, although we had some concerns. This inspection found that HMP Manchester had maintained many of its previous strengths and, while there were signs of the pressures the prison system as a whole is under, the prison had also made progress in addressing some of our concerns.

The prison itself was an ageing, overcrowded Victorian structure. It held a complex and challenging population. The normal pressures of a local prison – a high churn in the population, and a high incidence of mental health and substance abuse problems – had to be managed alongside the need to hold its small, high risk category A population safely and securely.

Staffing shortages affected the regime and some services, the prison was preparing for its new role as a resettlement prison, and health and substance misuse services were being re-commissioned. However, an experienced and resilient senior management team was coping with these pressures well. Good communication, an aspect of generally good relationships between staff and prisoners, helped to manage the impact of these changes on prisoners. There were high expectations of prisoners. Security arrangements remained very effective and facilitated rather than restricted the regime, as we too often see elsewhere.

The number of self-inflicted deaths remained high. There had been five since the last inspection. However, the prison was much better focused on preventing these and learning lessons from each incident. Levels of self-harm were comparatively low and care for those at risk was good. We did not find the fatalistic attitude that suicide was an inevitable part of prison life and little could be done about it that we detected at the last inspection. However, more prisoners told us they felt unsafe than at the last inspection and there were more violent incidents, although both of these were lower than at comparable prisons. Support for victims needed to be improved. Vulnerable prisoners generally felt safe but in some areas where they came into contact with other prisoners, such as the first night wing, this was not the case and these arrangements needed to be reviewed.

The use of force was low and subject to much better supervision that we often see. Strategic oversight of the segregation unit had slipped. The living conditions and relationships in the segregation unit were good but some prisoners stayed there for very long periods with a very limited regime. Security was effective, there were good links with the local police and despite some prisoner perceptions, we found that the availability of drugs was lower than we often find elsewhere. Existing substance abuse services were good, although this was less so for alcohol services. Substance misuse services were being re-commissioned; some of the effective current provision was due to cease and it was not yet clear that there would be adequate replacement services. The future strategic management of substance misuse services needed close attention by the prison.

Too many prisoners were doubled up in small cells designed for one with inadequately screened toilets. Some cells were damp and unfit for habitation. Poor conditions in cells were mitigated to some extent because most prisoners spent less time locked up than in many local prisons, and by good relationships with staff. Prisoners from black and minority ethnic groups and Muslim prisoners reported less positively about relationships than the population as a whole and monitoring suggested that outcomes for these groups were poor in some important areas. The prison had done too little to understand and address this. Faith provision was good and chaplains were well integrated into the life of the prison.

Health care was generally good and staff in the inpatient unit provided compassionate care for men with complex health needs. Health promotion was excellent. However, the prison held some men with profound disabilities and struggled to meet their basic needs. These men included a quadriplegic and others whose inability to move around the landings and steep, narrow stairs meant they were unable to access showers and a meaningful regime. Cells were small and cramped, with few adaptations. Some men were incontinent. Prisoners appreciated some very caring staff and paid prisoner carers provided substantial social care, including help with showering and personal hygiene needs. The implementation of the Social Care Act 2014 in April 2015 will give the relevant local authority the responsibility for ensuring social care needs are met, but planning for this was at a very early stage. Whatever future arrangements are made, the prison should not hold men whose basic social care needs cannot be met because of the constraints of its environment.

The quality of learning skills and work was good and prisoners achieved well. There were enough activity places available for most of those who were required to work. Since the previous inspection the prison had introduced new training in hospitality and catering and new facilities included a commercial bakery, a print shop and expanded textile workshops. English and maths provision was effective and the prison continued to encourage a good work ethic. However, the prison needed a more effective analysis of prisoner needs to inform future development. Quality assurance processes needed to be strengthened. Prisoners had regular access to a very good library. PE provision was good but participation needed to improve.

Resettlement arrangements were reasonable. Assessment and planning for managing risk and reducing reoffending were generally effective but there were some exceptions. The contact that offender supervisors had with prisoners was too limited. Practical resettlement services were generally good and the prison was making good progress in developing its future role as a resettlement prison. Basic custody planning for remand prisoners was due to begin shortly. Through the gate substance misuse services were very good. Existing services were due to end but the development of the Abstinence and Recovery Centre just outside the gate was very promising. Visits provision was good and there was a range of services to support families and children. There were insufficient programmes to directly address prisoners’ attitudes and behaviour.

HMP Manchester is one of the best large, inner city Victorian prisons and we have now found this to be so over two inspections. We still have some significant concerns and there is more the prison needs to do, but it has solid, longstanding strengths. It is better placed than most to continue to make progress and weather the pressures ahead. 

Nick Hardwick                                               May 2015

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Manchester

To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:

  • HMP Manchester, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Manchester (27 October – 7 November 2014)
  • HMP Manchester, Unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Manchester (1 – 9 September 2011)
  • HMP Manchester, Announced inspection of HMP Manchester (27-31 July 2009)
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