HMP Manchester: Some improvements but progress is slow and weak in key areas

HMP Manchester, an important local prison in a major English city, was assessed by inspectors as having made slow and weak progress in many key areas where improvement was urged after a full inspection in 2018.

An Independent Review of Progress (IRP) at Manchester took place in June 2019, 11 months after the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, said the prison needed to “up its game.”

Mr Clarke said: “The response to the 2018 inspection can only be described as too late and too weak. It is true that there were some encouraging outcomes, and most functional heads demonstrated enthusiasm and a commitment to improving their areas. However, we found there had been little or no meaningful progress against two-thirds of our recommendations.”

The prison had recently revised its safety strategy. “Assaults on prisoners had reduced significantly since the full inspection, and we judged there to have been reasonable progress in this area.” Mr Clarke added, though: “If the establishment is to reduce violence further, particularly against staff, the lengthy list of actions aimed at reducing violence should be prioritised.”

Click to Enlarge

The use of force by staff remained high. “Despite this, there had been no meaningful progress against this recommendation; governance had not improved, staff rarely used their body-worn cameras, with no adequate explanation for this, and too few recorded incidents were scrutinised to provide assurance and institutional learning.”

The prison had made reasonable progress – the second-highest assessment, below good – in efforts to reduce the supply of drugs. Mandatory testing results showed that drug use was relatively low compared with other local prisons.

However, promising work to support prisoners in crisis had started so recently that progress at the time of the IRP visit had to be judged as insufficient. “This was very concerning given that there had been three further self-inflicted deaths since the full inspection in July 2018. It was bewildering to find that actions to prevent deaths in custody simply had not been reviewed until shortly before our visit. Similarly, the introduction of key work and wing peer support had been so slow that we could not yet see sufficient progress in this area.”

The prison had made concerted efforts to tackle the ongoing vermin problem, and some improvements had been made to living conditions.

There was also evidence of reasonable progress in the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, though Ofsted inspectors found that attendance at work and education was not prioritised and too much activity was curtailed. Too few prisoners completed their courses and achievements were not sufficiently good.

Mr Clarke said there had been no meaningful progress in the important areas of equality and diversity or time out of cell. A spot check on one wing found 49% of prisoners locked up during the day.

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. Such progress as there had been had only started in the weeks and months immediately leading up to this review visit.

“Without a fundamental shift in attitude towards the findings of HM Inspectorate of Prisons, we had no confidence that there could be significant improvements in the future. At the full inspection we had been told that reconfiguration to a category B training prison was imminent. On this visit… we were told that the target date had been moved to October 2019. It is my considered view that unless the culture of the prison changes, and the need for improvement is taken seriously, it will not be ready for this change.”

Read the Report

HMP Manchester: Deteriorating Safety, Respect and Purposeful Activity

HMP Manchester, a large local jail with a small number of high-security prisoners, was found by inspectors to have become less safe and respectful, and to have deteriorated in its provision of training and education, over four years.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that in 2014 the prison had been assessed as reasonably good across all four of HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ ‘healthy prison tests.’

In June and July 2018, only its rehabilitation and release work had remained reasonably good. It was now assessed as ‘not sufficiently good’ for safety, respect and purposeful activity, in what Mr Clarke described as a “disappointing inspection”. He warned the prison against complacency in its view of its own performance.

SAFETY: Prisoners spent too long locked up in reception and there were gaps in first night care. Induction processes were reasonably good. Levels of violence had increased and were high and one in three prisoners felt unsafe. It was too soon to judge the effectiveness of promising work to reduce violence. The use of force was high and lacked sufficient scrutiny. The regime on the segregation unit was poor. Some aspects of security work were excellent. The drug strategy was inadequate. There had been three self-inflicted deaths in the last six months. Levels of self-harm had increased and the care provided to prisoners in crisis was too variable. Outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in HMP Manchester were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 22 recommendations in the area of safety. At this inspection we found that 11 of the recommendations had been achieved, one had been partially achieved and 10 had not been achieved.

RESPECT: Relationships between staff and prisoners required improvement. Many parts of the prison were in disrepair. Areas in residential units were dirty and infested with vermin. Consultation and peer support were reasonable. There was a lack of confidence in application and complaints processes. Work on equality and diversity remained underdeveloped. There had been improvements in the provision of health, social care and substance misuse support services. Outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in HMP Manchester were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 29 recommendations in the area of respect. At this inspection we found that 10 of the recommendations had been achieved, two had been partially achieved and 17 had not been achieved.

PURPOSEFUL ACTIVITY:  Too many prisoners were locked up during the core day instead of being engaged in purposeful activity and despite the availability of sufficient activity spaces for every prisoner. Prisoners in the general population could attend an appropriate range of activities but vulnerable prisoners and category A prisoners were disadvantaged. Prisoner allocation to activities was poor and not enough was done to improve attendance or punctuality. Prisoners who did attend activities behaved well. Too few prisoners completed their courses but achievements for those who did were good. Outcomes for prisoners were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in HMP Manchester were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations in the area of purposeful activity. At this inspection we found that four of the recommendations had been achieved, two had been partially achieved and six had not been achieved.

REHABILITATION & RELEASE PLANNING:  Children and families work was reasonably good but the visits experience for some families was difficult. There were gaps in the reducing reoffending strategy which resulted in a shortfall in services for some prisoners. Some good casework demonstrated a proper focus on risk and sentence plans. Contact between offender supervisors and prisoners was good in many cases but was still inconsistent. MAPPA (multi-agency public protection arrangements) processes were managed well. More prisoners were being released on home detention curfew (HDC), although some were delayed beyond their earliest release date. Available interventions were appropriately targeted. All prisoners had a resettlement plan but too many prisoners were released without settled accommodation. Outcomes for prisoners were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. At the last inspection in 2014, we found that outcomes for prisoners in HMP Manchester were reasonably good against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations in the area of resettlement.7 At this inspection we found that three of the recommendations had been achieved and nine had not been achieved.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“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’.”

Read the Report

Strangeways roof top protest ends

Stuart Horner
Stuart Horner

A prisoner who scaled the roof of a jail in Manchester has ended his one-man protest after three days.

Murderer Stuart Horner, 35, who was locked up in 2012 for killing his uncle, came down from the roof of HMP Manchester during the early hours of Wednesday morning.

On Sunday he clambered up an 18ft wall of the prison’s secure exercise yard before stripping to his underpants.

During his protest on the rooftop of the prison known as Strangeways, he caused thousands of pounds of damage by pulling up metal roof trusses and using them to smash a series of large skylight windows and attack CCTV security cameras.

Prison officials tried to use a fire brigade cherrypicker crane to reach him to try talking him down after the protest began at around 3.30pm on Sunday.

Horner was given a life sentence, with a minimum of 27 years before parole, for blasting his uncle Ian Taylor, 44, with a shotgun in June 2011 after a family feud.

The Manchester Evening News reported that at around 3am as he made his way down from the roof in a crane, he said: “I’ve proved my point. I’ve got a 12in pizza and a can of coke. I’ve done what I wanted. I’ve had a mad one.”

He is set to face punishment for breaking prison rules and probable prosecution for criminal damage.

Over the three days, members of the public congregated outside the prison and held “party protests” in the middle of the street.

People danced to music and others left messages to prisoners on a sheet.

Strangeways roof top protest continues

Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit
Manchester Prison







A convicted murderer is staging a rooftop protest at HMP Manchester in his underpants over prison conditions.

Stuart Horner, 27, from Wythenshawe, Manchester, first clambered up a wall and onto the roof of the prison on Sunday afternoon.

He stripped to his Manchester United underpants at one stage, smashed windows, climbed up various structures and spent the night outside on the roof despite prison officers climbing ladders and trying to talk him down.

Inmates inside the jail have shouted encouragement with chants of: “There’s only one Stuart Horner!”

Prisoners have now each been given a letter warning of “regime curtailments” due to the disruption caused by Horner to the Category A, top security jail.

Horner, who is visible and audible from the rooftop above the walls of the jail, known locally asStrangeways, has complained about prison conditions and shouted he wants to change prison history.

He was jailed in 2012 for life, with a minimum of 27 years before parole, for the murder of his uncle, Ian Taylor, 44, with a shotgun after a family feud.

Police have warned of some traffic disruption around the area near to HMP Manchester due to temporary road closures while the protest continues.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said they were called shortly after 3.30pm on Sunday to reports a prisoner was on the roof.

A spokesman for the force said: “The man is conducting a lone protest and has managed to get onto the top of the main building and cause damage to the roof.

“Staff at the prison are working to engage with the prisoner and resolve this situation, but he has remained on the roof overnight.”

Chief Inspector Gareth Parkin of GMP added: “We are supporting our colleagues at HMP Manchester Prison to manage this incident safely, and as such we have had to temporarily close a number of roads.

“There may be some traffic disruption in the area, so those travelling past the prison are advised to allow some extra time for their journeys this morning if possible.”

Naked protester at Manchester Prison

Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit
Manchester Prison

A semi-naked protester has scaled an 18ft fence at a high security prison.

The man, wearing just his pants climbed the wall at Strangeways prison in Manchester in order to stage a demonstration.

Greater Manchester Police confirmed they received a call from prison staff asking for assistance to the “one person protest” for fear he may be seen by members of the public.

But upon local police attending, it was clear he was within an 18ft secure exercise yard and not visible to passers-by.

It is unknown why he is protesting.

A spokesman for GMP said they received a call at 3.35pm to reports of the man “being in his pants with no top”.

There was no further involvement by police after it was confirmed he could only be seen within the Bury New Road prison.

Prisons Inspectorate’s Thematic Review on Close Supervision Centres published

Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit
Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit

Although clear progress had been made in clarifying the aims and processes of the system for managing the most dangerous prisoners in the country said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, in a Thematic Review report published today (25/8/2015) on Close Supervision Centres in English high security prisons, prison commentators also made clear there were a number of serious concerns.

The Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system holds about 60 of the most dangerous men in the prison system. Many of these are men who have been imprisoned for very serious offences which have done great harm, have usually committed subsequent very serious further offences in prison and whose dangerous and disruptive behaviour is too difficult to manage in ordinary prison location. They are held in small units or individual designated cells throughout the high security prison estate. These men are likely to be held for many years in the most restrictive conditions with limited stimuli and human contact.

The system is run by a central team as part of the Prison Service’s high security directorate, although day to day management is the responsibility of the individual prisons in which the units or cells are located. A further 14 men who do not quite meet the threshold for the CSC system are held under the ‘Managing Challenging Behaviour Strategy (MCBS) in similar but slightly less restrictive conditions. This is extreme custody and its management raises complex operational challenges and profound ethical issues. The aim of the system was to remove the most dangerous prisoners from ordinary location, manage them in small units and use individual or group work to reduce their risks so they could return to normal or other suitable location.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • leadership of the system as whole was clear, principled and courageous;
  • decisions to select prisoners the CSC system were based on a clear set of published criteria and a robust risk assessment;
  • some good support was provided to staff;
  • staff understood the men in their care well, enabling them to manage problematic behaviour effectively and promote change;
  • despite the significant risks the men posed, the majority of prisoners and staff felt safe;
  • most security restrictions and behavioural management work appeared measured and proportionate; and
  • staff-prisoner relationships were reassuring good, and psychological and psychiatric services were strong.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • there was no independent scrutiny or external involvement in decision-making, which was particularly important given the highly restrictive nature of the units, restrictions on access to legal aid and the difficulties prisoners had in being deselected;
  • delivery of some important processes varied and a minority of managers and staff did not understand the ethos of the system or embrace their role within it;
  • the use of designated cells in segregation units had often led to prisoners being held there for many months or even years, with poor regimes and little emphasis on progression, which was contrary to the prison rule 46 under which they were held;
  • the centrally managed MCBS units also needed improved governance;
  • more needed to be done to offset the real potential for psychological deterioration by the more imaginative provision of in and out of cell activities;
  • daily living conditions in the small units were cramped;
  • there was a very high proportion of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim men held, although management had commissioned research to look at the reasons for this; and
  • more work needed to be done on progression and reintegration, which was critical to ensuring the system was not used as a long-term containment option for dangerous men.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Leadership of the system as a whole was clear, principled and courageous. We do not underestimate the risk the men held in the CSC system pose or the complexity of working with them. The overall humanity and care provided to men whom it would have been easy to consign to the margins of the prison system was impressive. The system had a clear set of aims, was basically well run and founded on sound security and psychological principles and sought to contain men safely and decently. There were, however, a number of important issues that needed to be addressed.

“Management arrangements needed attention to ensure consistency and external involvement in decision-making was needed to provide transparency and rigor. The use of designated cells needed far greater control and there needed to be more clarity concerning the MCBS prisoners. Aspects of the environment needed to be improved, and men required greater opportunities to occupy their time purposefully. The reasons why a disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic and Muslim men were held needed to be better understood.

“Nevertheless, the CSC system provided a means of managing the most challenging men in the prison system in a way that minimised the risks to others and offered men the basic conditions to lead a decent and safe life. We support the continued commitment to resource and support it and commend many of the people who worked positively within the system, despite some of the obvious risks and challenges.”

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, and Converse the national newspaper for prisoners, welcomed the report but said there were still serious concerns that must be urgently addressed.

Mr Leech said: “There are five CSC Units located in Wakefield, Woodhill, Full Sutton, Manchester and Whitemoor prisons, with further designated CSC cells in Belmarsh, Frankland and Long Lartin prisons.

“While the CSC, and also the MCBS, systems are not ideal they are a vital way of managing a small number of very dangerous prisoners, often those who have killed other prisoners while in custody.

“The aim always must be the safe, humane and secure custody for CSC prisoners and staff, and it is vital those who manage the CSC system do not lose sight of the longer term aim of returning CSC inmates to normal location when sustained good behaviour and proven lowered risk warrants it.

“However there are real concerns over the high proportion of black, minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim men held in CSCs, the real lack of independent oversight in the decision-making process also needs addressing urgently because of the lack of legal aid to raise challenges, and the legality of holding such inmates in segregation units contrary to Rule 46 for extended period of time must be confronted without delay.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 25 August 2015 at:

Our powder-keg prisons: Strangeways – the lesson we failed to heed


Conditions in prisons are as bad now as they were at the time of one of Britain’s worst jail riots, a former lord chief justice has warned – and with one former prison rioter saying our ‘powder-keg prisons’ now risks Strangeways becoming the lesson we have “foolishly failed to heed”

The system is in crisis again 25 years on from the Strangeways disturbance in Manchester, according to Lord Woolf, who led the inquiry into the trouble.

He is calling for a new investigation into the state of the country’s prisons.

Lord Woolf – previously England’s most senior judge, said: “There are things that are better now than then but I fear we’ve allowed ourselves to go backwards and we’re back where we were at the time of Strangeways.

“For a time after the riot things were much better and numbers were going down. Unfortunately prisoners are again being kept in conditions that we should not tolerate, they’re a long way from home and their families can’t keep in touch with them – a whole gamut of things that need to be done and that’s why I would welcome a thorough re-look at the situation and above all trying to take prisons out of politics.”

Two people died, hundreds more were injured and much of the prison was destroyed during the Strangeways disturbance, which lasted for 25 days in April 1990.

Lord Woolf‘s report into the disturbance was seen as a watershed moment in the history of Britain’s prisons.

It set out 12 major recommendations and identified dilapidated, overcrowded and insanitary conditions as the main underlying causes of trouble.

Lord Woolf made his latest intervention on BBC Inside Out North West, which will be broadcast tonight.

He said more needs to be done to stop prisoners from turning to crime again once they are released.

“People’s re-offending behaviour has not been tackled,” he said.

“There is all sorts of talk of doing so but in practice it doesn’t happen. Apart from a very small minority, everyone who is in prison is going to come out one day and we should make sure that when they come out they can be properly turned away from crime and can be properly habilitated.

“What is needed is someone who’s younger and more energetic to do another review of the prisons and take the prison situation out of politics.

“You have to look at the problem holistically and that’s what I don’t think we’re doing and not making the matter a political football. The main political parties want to show the public they’re tough on crime because they believe that’s what the public wants.

“I believe that the public want to feel safer and I don’t think they would want to take steps to be tough on crime if it made them even more vulnerable to crime and that is the difficulty and that’s where unfortunately I’m afraid I didn’t win the argument.”

Last week a parliamentary report warned that Government cuts and reforms to the prisons system in England and Wales have made a “significant contribution” to a deterioration in safety over the last two years.

Following a year-long inquiry, the cross-party House of Commons Justice Committee voiced “grave concern” over increases in assaults on staff and inmates, suicides, self-harm and indiscipline in prisons between 2012 and 2014.

In November 2014, the prison population in England and Wales stood at 85,925 – close to the record – and the system had one of the highest incarceration levels in Europe, at 149 per 100,000 people, said the report.

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said: “This Government has considerably increased the adult male prison capacity from the level inherited at the end of the last parliament.

“All prisons have safe population levels and published statistics show that crowding is at its lowest levels since 2007/08.

“Staffing levels were agreed with both prison governors and the unions at the outset, and prison officers have done an excellent job during a period when the prison population has unpredictably risen.

“Furthermore, we are absolutely clear that all offenders are expected to engage in purposeful activity to help them find a job on release and turn their backs on crime for good.

“The total number of hours worked in prisons has increased from 10.6 million to 14.2 million in the past four years.”

Mark Leech, editor of the acclaimed Prisons Handbook, and Converse the national prisons newspaper, and himself a former prison rioter, welcomed the comments of Lord Woolf.

Mr Leech said: “Next week marks the 25th anniversary of the Strangeways riot, when dozens of angry young men took to the roofs of prisons around this country and raised anguished voices in guttural cries of despair at the conditions in which they were forced to live.

“No-one likes to be seen to be talking up unrest inside our jails, and certainly not me, but the vast numbers of respected voices of concern raised about powder-keg conditions inside our prisons can no longer be ignored; we cannot afford to allow Strangeways to become the lesson we have tragically failed to heed.”