HMP FOREST BANK – Remains well-led, but violence has increased

HMP Forest Bank – a large male prison in Salford, Greater Manchester – was found generally to have remained a well-led, competent and confident prison since its previous inspection in 2016.

However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said it was evident in May 2019 that safety in the prison, holding more than 1,400 prisoners from the age of 18, had deteriorated.

Inspectors found that violence, mostly prisoner on prisoner and much of it serious, had doubled in three years. Use of force by staff had also risen, though inspectors found evidence of effective de-escalation of incidents by staff.

A third of prisoners said they felt unsafe, Mr Clarke said, “a situation that was even worse among vulnerable prisoners where the finding was 52%. 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.”

Security generally was applied proportionately at Forest Bank and inspectors identified the management and use of intelligence as a strength, with close working relationships with local police and robust staff anti-corruption arrangements. Many prisoners suggested that access to drugs was comparatively easy but the positive mandatory drug test rate was lower than at most similar prisons.

Self-harm had increased significantly since 2016. 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, although inspectors were concerned that staff, many very inexperienced, did not assert sufficient authority when supervising prisoners.

Most prisoners were positive about most aspects of daily life at Forest Bank – including 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.

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.

Time out of cell was better than inspectors 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. Ofsted inspectors judged the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work as ‘good’ – a “not insignificant achievement in a local prison”, Mr Clarke said.

Rehabilitation and release planning continued to be a real strength of the prison. Assessments of prisoners and sentence management were reasonably good, and public protection arrangements were robust, with the prison’s whole approach to resettlement supported by strong community links. Support for family ties and engagement was similarly very positive.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“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.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons, said:

“I am pleased that the inspectors have found that HMP Forest Bank remains well-led by Sodexo with some good work educating and rehabilitating prisoners.

“More needs to be done to ensure there is a reduction in violence and self-harm, but I know that the prison director has already made progress including boosting support for vulnerable prisoners and appointing additional senior managers to improve safety and aid staff development.

“We will continue to monitor Sodexo’s performance to ensure they act on inspectors’ recommendations.”

Read the Report

HMP Forest Bank – A well-led local prison

forestbankHMP Forest Bank continues to manage the challenges it faces well and had improved further, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. However, the needs of some marginalised groups of prisoners merited further attention, he added. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local prison in Greater Manchester.

Forest Bank holds just under 1,500 prisoners, a small number of whom are young adults aged between 18 and 21. It experienced a significant throughput of prisoners with over 100 new arrivals each week, many with complex personal needs. At its last inspection in 2012, inspectors reported positively on a well-run prison. This more recent inspection found that Forest Bank had continued to maintain some very good outcomes for prisoners and had introduced improvements, despite the challenges that it faced in common with other establishments.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • reception and induction arrangements were fit for purpose and reasonable;
  • initiatives were in place to address violence, although the prison’s own analysis indicated that over 40% of such incidents were linked to the growing problem of new psychoactive substances (NPS);
  • use of segregation had reduced and force was not used excessively;
  • the environment was bright and clean and relationships between staff and prisoners were respectful;
  • most prisoners received a good amount of time out of cell and there were sufficient activity places for most of the population to be employed at least part-time;
  • there was good leadership of learning and skills and some excellent partnerships had led to some very good work opportunities;
  • the quality of offender supervision was effective and public protection arrangements were sound; and
  • the resettlement strategy was good across a range of pathways, although more needed to be done to strengthen links with the new community rehabilitation company (CRC).

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • despite the prison’s proactive approach to improving safety, some prisoners were too frightened to come out of their cells and levels of self-harm were high;
  • prisoners in crisis held on normal location said they received good support but too many were isolated, held in segregation or subject to other restrictions;
  • there had been two self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, although the prison was seeking to learn from those tragedies;
  • mental health services were poor; and
  • the incentives and earned privileges scheme was punitive and ineffective.

Peter Clarke said:

“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.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:
“As the inspectorate notes, Forest Bank continues to be a well-run prison which has a strong focus on resettlement. I am particularly pleased that the hard work of the Director and staff has been recognised as their efforts have impacted on the prisoners’ motivation to learn and find employment.

“The prison holds a number of vulnerable prisoners and will use the recommendations in this report to improve the support they receive.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Prisoner plotted £637K smash-and-grab raid from prison cell on smuggled phones

Market Cross Jewellers CCTV
Market Cross Jewellers CCTV

A prisoner has been convicted of joint enterprise in plotting two armed robberies from his jail cell by using illicit mobile phones.

Designer watches worth £637,000 were snatched in raids on Teesside branches of the Market Cross Jewellers in Yarm and Middlesbrough, and the shocking robberies were caught on CCTV.

Eight men from Manchester and Teesside admitted conspiracy to rob after the gang made crucial errors in executing their carefully-laid plans.

But Ian Ogden, 27, an inmate of Forest Bank Prison in Salford, denied being involved. He was convicted on Wednesday of two counts of conspiracy to rob following a trial at Teesside Crown Court.

The jury was shown dramatic images of both raids in which display cabinets were smashed, and a handgun was wielded in one robbery.

Ogden was almost 150 miles (240km) away in a cell in Liverpool when the smash-and-grab robberies were carried out.

But Richard Bennett, prosecuting, told the jury: “Ian Ogden may not have worn a mask or brandished a weapon but he was part of a criminal agreement to rob the two shops.”

The prosecution said he used illicit smuggled phones to link the Manchester and Teesside criminals during the planning and execution of the crimes.

Only one watch has been recovered out of the haul of stolen items.

Ogden and the other eight men, who admitted the charges, will be sentenced at a two-day hearing on a date to be arranged.

Forest Bank prison officers fired for mocking inmate’s death on Facebook

Ashley Gill
Ashley Gill

Two prison officers have been sacked for posting cruel remarks on Facebook after a young prisoner died in custody.
The pair, from Forest Bank prison in Salford, made inappropriate comments about the death of Ashley Gill, 25, who died in jail in Liverpool after suffering an asthma attack.
It is understood another prison officer at Forest Bank was demoted over the same issue and several others disciplined.
An investigation was launched after Mr Gill was found dead in his cell at Walton prison.
Paramedics were called to HMP Liverpool after Mr Gill from Llandudno Junction was found “unresponsive” on April 29.
He had been due to be released just days later and a probe will be carried out by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, as well as the Coroner.
It is believed Mr Gill had previously been in the Salford jail.
A Forest Bank source said: “The two officers made comments online after Ashley died.
“They were effectively saying good riddance to bad rubbish. But a number of others clicked ‘like’ after the message had been posted.
“The two officers were escorted off the premises and later dismissed. I understand another was demoted and others had written warnings.
“I believe Ashley had spent some time in Forest Bank which is why the officers knew him.”
This week, it was reported how bosses at Forest Bank were having to work on the wings because of a staffing crisis.
A shortage of trained officers has also led to two out of six workshops being closed at the Agecroft jail.
Sodexo, the company which run the prison insist the staffing levels are ‘safe’ to deal with almost 1,460 prisoners.
Prison staff have contacted the local media to say the situation is ‘dangerous’ which prison bosses have denied.
In 2013, Gill was jailed for 20 months for burglary and theft.
His grandmother Annette Hill said she feared he may have had his inhaler taken off him.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News she said: “Ashley suffered very badly with his asthma to the point where he would be using his inhaler every couple of minutes.
“Every time he rang home, he would tell me that the guards had taken it off him.
“Ashley was in and out of hospital with his condition and was told he needed an operation to try and clear his airways.”
A Sodexo Justice Services spokesman said: “Two employees were dismissed after an investigation.”