HMIP Inspection of Manchester

The prison was given an inspection in June and July 2018, 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 is a core local prison serving courts in one of the country’s major cities. With a capacity to hold up to 1,136 adult men, the prison held only 940 at the time of this inspection. In addition to its primary function, the prison held 32 category A or provisional category A prisoners, which was about 4% of the population. These men, concentrated in a small unit on one part of a wing, required the highest levels of security, both physical and procedural. Among the general population, about 15% of men were unconvicted or unsentenced and over 40% were being held for violent or sexual offences. We were told that in the very near future the prison would become a training prison for category B prisoners. It was envisaged that the prison would retain its high-security responsibilities.

We last inspected HMP Manchester in 2014, when we found a prison that was ensuring reasonably good outcomes against all our healthy prison tests. This inspection, however, was disappointing in that our assessments indicated deterioration in all these tests, except for rehabilitation and release planning. Fewer new prisoners were now arriving at Manchester as the prison prepared for its transition to a training function but, despite this, reception arrangements took too long and lacked rigour in the assessment of risk. Induction arrangements were better and helped by the deployment and support of a peer mentor.

Levels of violence were significant, had increased since the last inspection and were now comparable to similar prisons. For example, in the preceding six months there had been 177 assaults, 45 of them on staff, a threefold increase since our previous visit. Two-thirds of prisoners indicated to us that they had felt unsafe during their time at Manchester, and a third stated they felt unsafe at the time we inspected. Nearly two-thirds indicated to us that they had been victimised by other prisoners and over half felt victimised by staff. Work to address these challenges was developing and we saw evidence of good analysis of data and a case work approach to tackling a range of poor behaviours, although some of this work was relatively new.

An impressive multi-disciplinary complex case meeting reviewed the management of both perpetrators and victims of violence, but the prison ’s approach was weaker in its consideration of the influence on violence of poor living conditions, the attitude of staff and illicit drug use. There was also little done to incentivise good behaviour. A new unit had been set up on H wing aimed at the reintegration of difficult and challenging individuals. We observed considerable staff enthusiasm on the wing but an effective interventionist regime was still to be established.

Use of force was increasing in the prison and was now also comparable to levels in similar prisons. The quality of scrutiny had not, however, kept pace with the increase. Monitoring of segregation usage was, in contrast, better, with plans to improve the case management of some prolonged-stay prisoners. The regime for those segregated, however, was very limited and environmental conditions required improvement.

The management of security was challenging and complex and ultimately driven by the need to make the escape of a small number of category A prisoners impossible. The category A prisoners were treated reasonably, although the purposefulness of their regime was restricted. The management and analysis of intelligence appeared strong, with the essential elements of reasonably good dynamic security in place. Links with local police were excellent. Mandatory drug testing indicated a positive rate of 18%, including new psychoactive substances (NPS), and there was considerable evidence that pointed to the ready accessibility of illegal drugs.

Since November 2014, there had been eight self-inflicted deaths, three of which had occurred in the six months leading up to our inspection. Self-harm had increased since our last inspection and, in keeping with other indicators, was now comparable to similar prisons. Work to address recommendations following investigations was reasonable and despite some quite mixed case management for those in crisis, those we spoke to reported good levels of care.

Environmental standards around the prison were deficient. Some communal areas were well maintained and prisoners could keep their cells in a reasonable condition, but poor housekeeping, litter and a failure to remove rubbish had encouraged a vermin problem. Servery areas were often found to be dirty and standards set by staff for the cleaners were lacklustre. We found fewer broken windows than at the last inspection and there were good arrangements in place to replace those that were. In-cell telephones were being installed and prisoners had reasonable access to amenities. The food on offer was not particularly popular but our assessment was that it was of reasonable quality.

In our survey some 71% of prisoners indicated that staff treated them with respect and a similar number told us that they knew a member of staff they could turn to if they had a problem. We saw many positive interactions between staff and prisoners but the lack of a personal officer or key worker arrangement was an impediment to constructive engagement. Work towards the creation of a rehabilitative culture, an aim of the prison, was slow. There was evidence, including prisoners’ perceptions of victimisation by staff, that pointed to a small but influential number of operational staff who were disengaged and impeding the positive aims of the prison. The need to encourage and support the positive contribution that staff should be able to make was of sufficient importance, in our view, to make it the subject of one of our main recommendations.

Too little was done to promote equality, although care for those with disabilities was mostly good, and the role of prisoner carers supported by a dedicated social care nurse was a very positive initiative. Consultation with many minority groups had, however, lapsed and there was minimal support for foreign national prisoners. Support for others with protected characteristics was equally mixed. The chaplaincy, however, was well integrated and offered a broad range of support services, and there had been improvements to the provision of health care.

During the inspection we found too many prisoners, some 40%, locked up during the working day, despite there being sufficient activity for all. About one in five had yet even to be allocated to activity and irregular attendance and poor punctuality compounded this problem. Improvements were, in our view, required in the quality of education and teaching practice, including the quality of some resources used in teaching. Too few learners made satisfactory progress and our colleagues in Ofsted judged all aspects of the provision as ‘requires improvement’. Work to prepare men for release was better. Outcomes were undermined by gaps in strategy but offender management practice, while inconsistent, was good in many cases. Public protection work was generally good and release planning was reasonable in addressing most needs.

HMP Manchester is a complex prison with a very important role in protecting the public. The prison seemed to be adequately resourced and we were told that the prison had been improving of late. Local managers had a stated commitment to ensuring the basics were right, although if we had an overarching criticism it would be that, in fact, the basics were not always well attended to. The prison had to guard against complacency and in many respects ‘up its game’. We have made a number of recommendations which we hope will assist that process.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM
August 2018
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 (658.29 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Manchester (27, 28 June, 9–12 July 2018)
  • 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)