After an overnight stay with friends in Bolton, day two of my three-day mini-tour of the North West began with a visit to Manchester and, surprise-surprise, given it’s the wettest city in England, it was raining! Formerly known as Strangeways, Manchester is one of only a handful of core locals which can accommodate Cat A prisoners, and was substantially rebuilt after a major riot in 1990.
Managers praised the commitment and resilience of the workforce. They said staff-prisoner relationships were ‘excellent’ and keywork had helped with this. They felt local recruitment, pre-application visits, and a dedicated POELT mentor contributed to high retention, and operational-led detailing ensured a good mix of experience on the wings. Education up to degree level, the range of vocational workshops, and support for families including Partners of Prisoners-run family days, visits centre and regular family forums, were highlighted, along with strong links with local probation, and support for HDC by a full-time SO. They felt the local police’s ‘prisons team’ provided strong intelligence & support, and the Rapiscan & new X-ray machine had had a significant impact on drug supply. Support for staff after incidents and at inquests etc were considered ‘excellent’, while providing bins in cells had led to large reductions in litter around the jail.
The Officers said relations with prisoners were good and safety had improved noticeably. They highlighted ‘excellent’ relationships among staff, felt staff were flexible and resilient, and reported high morale and good retention. The care team was ‘excellent’, including in supporting staff after incidents, at inquests etc; likewise, the safer custody team, including in helping staff prepare for coroners’ inquests. They valued access to shower packs and clean clothes after ‘potting’ incidents, and praised links with the local police, and the fact that all assaults are followed up with them. The staff mess was a positive too and widely used.
The prisoners valued the introduction of phones in cells, which had helped improve morale and family links, as well as electronic kiosks, which gave them some control over their lives and reduced pressure on relationships with staff. They also rated the Prison Council, and the fact that meetings were minuted and action plans recorded. Family days and the role of the Partners of Prisoners charity were also positives.