Risley opened in 1964 as a male and female remand centre. In 1989 the male part of the prison became a training prison. The training prison was expanded further and refurbished in 2003 with the addition of a new wing (Glazebury). The sex offender population was relocated to separate residential areas in 2009 – Farnworth (now renamed the Fran Atkinson Wing) and Glazebury. In 2009, Risley became a hub for up to 200 foreign national prisoners. There is a drug recovery unit on Culcheth Wing and a therapeutic community on Elton Wing.
- Appleton – a 185-bed unit
- Birchwood – a 92-bed unit
- Ravensmoor – a 28-bed independent living unit, where prisoners are assessed
- to determine if they can be trusted to live on the wing without direct supervision.
- Culcheth – a 197-bed drug recovery unit; the north wing accommodates prisoners on maintenance doses, while the south wing is mainly for support and recovery.
- Daresbury – a 196-bed unit, with a focus on induction coordination
- Elton – a 178-bed unit plus 16 beds in the segregation unit with gated cells on the wing and care and separation unit
- Glazebury – a 196-bed unit accommodating sex offenders only
- Fran Atkinson – a 28-bed unit accommodating sex offenders only
Appleton, Culcheth, Daresbury, Elton and Glazebury are newer wings with open landings of two spurs each (North and South). Birchwood and Fran Atkinson, the oldest wings, are smaller and, together with Ravensmoor, consist of single cells only