HMP Manchester: ‘Dickensian’ jail ‘too slow’ to improve, report says

Image caption In 2018 a report found HMP Manchester saw 45 attacks on staff in six months

A prison described as “reminiscent of Dickensian England” has made only “slow and weak progress” in improving standards, a new report has found.

HMP Manchester was criticised for being “squalid and vermin-infested” in a damning 2017 review and told to “up its game”.

However, a fresh report has found there has been “little or no meaningful progress”.

The Ministry of Justice said improving conditions in the jail was a priority.

Chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said improvements at the jail, known locally as Strangeways, “can only be described as too late and too weak”.

A separate inspection in 2018 found levels of violence to be “significant”, with two-thirds of prisoners feeling unsafe during their time at the prison.

Mr Clarke acknowledged some improvements had been made during the last 11 months, including a reduction in the number of violent assaults on inmates and a decrease in the number of vermin.

He also noted the prison had made “reasonable progress” in reducing the supply of drugs.

But he said there had been little progress “against two-thirds of [improvement] recommendations”.

Image caption HMP Manchester was formerly known as Strangeways

The 2019 Independent Review of Progress also found employees were still using “high levels of force” against prisoners and rarely using body-worn cameras, with “no adequate explanation”.

There were also concerns about “insufficient” progress in supporting prisoners in crisis.

Mr Clarke described this as “concerning given there had been three self-inflicted deaths in custody since July last year”.

Mr Clarke said: “HMP Manchester was relatively well resourced and had fewer inexperienced staff than we have found at similar prisons.

“It was therefore hard to understand why progress had been so slow in many critical areas.”

Phil Copple, director general of prisons, said “significant decreases” in assaults and drug use at the jail was “encouraging”.

“Hard work to improve safety is clearly beginning to pay off, with work to improve conditions in the prison has also a priority,” he said.

However, Mr Copple admitted further improvements could be made and there was “more to be done”.

He added: “Some of this work is relatively new within the establishment, and will need time to deliver positive outcomes, but the prison will continue their efforts to make further progress.”

HMP Manchester has an overall capacity for 1,072 adult men, with 912 held there at the time of the 2019 review.