HMIP Inspections of Forest Bank

The prison was given an inspection in May 2019, 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:

“Forest Bank is a category B local prison in Salford, Greater Manchester, with an operational capacity of 1,460. Soon to be designated a reception prison, Forest Bank’s main function is to serve the local courts and receive newly remanded or newly convicted prisoners from the community. As such the prison holds the full range and type of prisoner with all the risks and challenges that implies. Opening in 2000, the prison is relatively modern and has for the last 19 years been managed by the private operator, Sodexo.

Forest Bank was last inspected in 2016 when we found a well-led, competent and confident prison that was ensuring reasonably good or better outcomes against all four of our healthy prison tests. At this inspection we reported broadly similar outcomes, although a deterioration of outcomes in safety was evident.

Reception and induction arrangements were adequate and functional, although undermined by some tardy processes. Technology that had been acquired to improve security on reception was underused and the whole early days experience was something of a missed opportunity, which would have benefited from more management attention and grip.

A third of prisoners told us they felt unsafe, a situation that was even worse among vulnerable prisoners where the finding was 52%. Violence had more than doubled since our last inspection in 2016, and much of it was serious. Structures were in place to analyse and combat the problem and there were interventions to confront perpetrators, but actions were not always followed to a conclusion and low level antisocial behaviour was not addressed sufficiently. There needed to be greater focus and coordination to address violence, by, for example, incentivising good behaviour and consistently holding to account those who behaved poorly.

Use of force was more prevalent and at a level now comparable with similar prisons. Incidents were properly recorded in documentation, although oversight was lacklustre and limited use was made of body-worn camera footage. Use of segregation had also risen and it too was now comparable to similar prisons. Cellular accommodation in the segregation unit required improvement, as did the very basic regime and reintegration arrangements.

Security generally was applied proportionately, and we identified the management and use of intelligence as a strength of the establishment. Close working relationships with local police and robust staff anti-corruption arrangements were also in place. Many prisoners suggested to us that access to drugs was comparatively easy, although, while still too high, positive mandatory drug test data of about 15% was lower than at most similar prisons.

Self-harm had increased significantly since we last inspected and was much higher than we expected to see. There had also sadly been one self-inflicted death. The prison had access to good data concerning the problem of self-harm, and recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, who investigated the death, were being implemented. Some improvements had been made to case management support (ACCT) processes, although a good scheme to invite families to case management reviews was only used intermittently.

Relationships between staff and prisoners were respectful and polite. However, we were concerned that staff, many of whom were very inexperienced, did not assert sufficient authority when supervising prisoners, with the danger that some prisoner groups were able to take advantage. Most prisoners were positive about most aspects of daily life at Forest Bank – for example, the food and good access to the shop – and accommodation was generally clean and bright. However, some 60% of single cells were doubled up and therefore overcrowded, and much furniture and cell equipment was damaged or missing. We also saw some cells with broken windows and there was some evidence of delays in responding to cell call bells.

Diversity and equality was promoted reasonably well through a comprehensive action plan and helpful consultation, including innovative one-to-one surgeries for prisoners with protected characteristics. Follow-up action on identified inequalities or disproportionalities was, however, often lacking. Health services had improved since the last inspection, although more improvements were still needed to make the inpatient facility a fully therapeutic environment.

Time out of cell was better than we often see and the daily routine, including access to evening association, was reliable, although nearly half the population was locked up during the working day. There were sufficient places in work and education for all and attendance, if not punctuality, were good. We were not confident, however, that allocation to some wing roles was always equitable or fair. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work as ‘good’; a not insignificant achievement in a local prison. In keeping with how we have reported previously, rehabilitation and release planning continued to be a real strength of the prison. Assessment (OASys) and sentence management were reasonably good, and public protection arrangements robust, with the prison’s whole approach to resettlement supported by strong community links. Support for family ties and engagement was similarly very positive.

Forest Bank continued to be a reasonably well ordered and settled prison delivering generally good outcomes. Prisoners could, for example, access a better regime than we normally see for this type of prison. Rehabilitation and resettlement work was consistently a strength. Overall this is an encouraging report, although we do identify more work to do in safety and in providing support to staff. We left the prison with a number of recommendations, which we hope will assist the process of improvement.

 

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                             July 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Forest Bank

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