HMIP Inspections of Risley

The prison was given an inspection in summer 2016, 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 Risley is a category C training and resettlement prison near Warrington in Cheshire. Equidistant between the cities of Liverpool and Manchester, it holds 1,115 adult men mainly from the north-west. A full range of ages and sentences are represented in the profile of the population with many serving short sentences and about 70 serving indeterminate sentences. Just fewer than 10% of those held were sex offenders housed separately on two vulnerable prisoner wings.

We last inspected in 2013 when we found mixed outcomes for prisoners. This inspection found a similar, variable picture with some deterioration, and a prison that seemed to be struggling to own and fulfil its core purpose. In three of our tests of a healthy prison, outcomes were not good enough. One of our four main recommendations refers to the insufficient time in which prisoners are unlocked and participating in work and learning. A second calls for significant improvements in the prison’s approach to resettlement. This is concerning in a prison that is meant to be prioritising and delivering training and reintegration.

The daily routine at Risley was not being delivered. We were told that industrial relations difficulties had led to significant regime curtailment in recent months. We found about a third of prisoners in their cells during the working day, which was particularly poor for a training prison. Our colleagues in Ofsted made ‘required improvement’ assessments across all of the areas of learning and skills provision they inspected. The quality of opportunities offered by the education providers, Novus and N-ergy, was generally better than that provided by the prison itself, and teaching, learning and assessment needed to improve in work and vocational settings. There were not enough opportunities to ensure full-time engagement by prisoners, with most employed only part-time. Regime restrictions had also led to poor attendance and poor punctuality being the norm, undermining attempts to create a positive culture of work or a meaningful work ethic in the prison.

The prison did not have a grasp of the resettlement needs of the population, which was a fundamental failing for a resettlement prison. Only 40% of prisoners indicated to us that they thought their time at Risley had made them less likely to offend and offender management and supervision was simply not working. Many prisoners did not have an assessment of risk and their contact with offender supervisors was poor. Public protection work was similarly poor. Resettlement outcomes concerning support for accommodation on release and visits were better. Reintegration work was undermined, however, by poor initial screening and very limited integration with offender management work.

Levels of violence were comparable with other category C establishments, as were levels of self-harm. Work to reduce violence and provide support to those in self-harm crisis was in place and seemed useful and effective, but about a fifth of prisoners felt unsafe at the time of the inspection, which was worse than comparable prisons. There was evidence to suggest the availability and threat of new psychoactive substances (NPS) in the prison was undermining prisoner well-being and nearly two-thirds of prisoners thought it was easy to obtain drugs in the prison. Some meaningful work was being done to confront this serious destabilising problem. Security in the prison was generally proportionate, but there had been a marked increase in the use of force. Supervision of and accountability for use of force were poor and we could not be assured that the increase was justified.

Risley was not a sufficiently respectful prison. The prison campus was well maintained but standards in accommodation varied greatly and many aspects were poor. One of our main recommendations highlights the need for more hygienic conditions and improved provision of basic amenities. The promotion of equality was also limited but health care was adequate and the prison benefited from the work of an excellent chaplaincy.

Overall this is a disappointing report. Risley has a clearly defined role in training and resettlement, but needs to improve governance in many areas and build a sense of purpose that is owned by staff as well as managers. The prison needs to go back to first principles in determining how best it can assess and resettle its prisoners. It needs sufficient work and education to fully employ all, but beyond this it should create an ethos that values work and learning and incentivises engagement by prisoners.


Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

September 2016

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Return to Risley

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

  • HMP Risley (832.17 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Risley (13-24 June 2016)
  • HMP Risley, Unannounced inspection of HMP Risley (8–19 July 2013)
  • HMP Risley, Announced inspection of HMP Risley (7 – 11 February 2011)
  • HMP Risley, Unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Risley (14-18 April 2008)