HMIP Inspections of Forest Bank

The prison was given an inspection in February 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:

“Forest Bank is a category B local prison in Salford. It holds just under 1,500 adult convicted and unconvicted prisoners, a comparatively small number of whom are young adults aged between 18 and 21. It also holds a significant minority of vulnerable prisoners, kept apart from the main population primarily because of the nature of their offence. A relatively modern institution that opened in 2000, it is managed by the private operator, Sodexo.

The prison was last inspected in 2012 when we report ed positively on what was a well run ‘frontline’ institution. At this inspection we found that Forest Bank had continued to maintain some very good outcomes for prisoners and had introduced improvements, despite the challenges that, in common with other establishments, it was facing.

As a local prison Forest Bank’s main purpose is to serve the courts and resettle prisoners in the Greater Manchester area. It experienced a significant throughput of prisoners with over 100 new arrivals each week, many with complex personal needs. Reception and induction arrangements were fit for purpose and reasonable. In our survey more prisoners said they felt unsafe than when we last inspected, but indicators such as levels of recorded violence were broadly comparable to similar establishments. Initiatives were in place that sought to address violence and the prison’s own analysis indicated that over 40% of such incidents were linked to the growing problem of new psychoactive substances (NPS). Mandatory drug testing suggested the use of traditional substances was quite low, but testing for NPS had only begun two weeks before our arrival.

Despite the prison’s generally proactive approach to improving safety we found prisoners who were effectively self-isolating, too frightened to come out of their cells. Levels of self-harm were high and formal case management often weak. Prisoners in crisis held on normal location told us that they received good support, but too many were isolated, held in segregation or subject to other restrictions. Since our last inspection there had been two self-inflicted deaths, although there was evidence that the prison was seeking to learn from those tragedies.

Use of segregation had reduced and force was not used excessively. When it was used the evidence suggested it was used accountably. The prison’s incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme, however, was punitive, insufficiently focused on the individual and ineffective as a motivational tool.

Forest Bank remained a respectful prison. The environment was bright and clean, relationships between staff and prisoners were respectful and support for prisoners with protected characteristics was mostly reasonable. Although health care was also generally reasonable, the provision of primary mental health services was poor and the inpatient unit, again used principally for those with mental health issues was very poor.

Most prisoners, with the notable exception of prisoners on the basic level of the IEP scheme, received good time out of cell and there were sufficient activity places for most of the population to be employed at least part-time. Punctuality and attendance, however, required improvement, as did teaching and learning. Vocational training opportunities were too limited. There was good leadership of learning and skills with a clear focus on improving English and mathematics. Some excellent partnerships had also led to some very good work opportunities.

A strength of Forest Bank was its function as a resettlement prison. Despite a backlog of offender assessments (OASys), the quality of offender supervision was effective and home detention curfew and public protection arrangements were sound. More needed to be done to strengthen links with the new community rehabilitation company (CRC) and demand for services was high, often following a comparatively short sentence. The resettlement strategy was, however, predicated on a proper assessment of need and provision was good across the range of resettlement pathways. Our survey suggested that prisoners had a reasonable understanding of where to get help with their resettlement needs.

Forest Bank manages big challenges and risks. It has a large population and turnover of prisoners, an inner city profile with high levels of need among its prisoners, and the destabilising influence of NPS.The experience most prisoners had of Forest Bank was reasonable. However, those who were more marginalised due to poor behaviour, self-harm or mental health issues had a much less positive experience and this required attention. This inspection found that the prison was well led, competent and confident in its approach and it coped well. A focus on continuing improvement suggests our concerns will be addressed and the effectiveness of the prison will be sustained.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM

April 2016

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: