HMP Manchester - Highly effective, though concerns remain

HMP Manchester provided a great deal of work, training and education for its prisoners, and helped them to resettle back into communities after their sentences, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an announced inspection of the local jail. He warned, however, that the prison needed to focus on the high level of suicides.

HMP Manchester is one of three ‘core local’ prisons that are managed within the high security estate and can hold category A prisoners as well as lower risk prisoners. It held both remand and short-term prisoners with a range of social, mental health and substance abuse problems typical of any local prison population, and men convicted of the most serious offences who posed a current threat. The prison managed the whole range of the population very well indeed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the prison had strong, visible leadership;
  • the security department managed risk, rather than avoiding it, and so the prison managed to hold a small, very high-risk population without impinging too much on the majority population;
  • there was a generally safe environment, backed up by a sound violence reduction strategy and good management of gang issues;
  • more prisoners told us they were treated with respect than usual in local prisons;
  • the prison had taken action to reduce the supply of drugs and most prisoners told inspectors drugs were difficult to obtain;
  • health care was generally very good;
  • the provision of purposeful activity was excellent, with a good range of work, vocational training and education;
  • most prisoners could spend 10 hours a day out of their cells; and
  • resettlement was highly effective, including good work with partners in the community to provide the support and supervision necessary to reduce the risk of reoffending after release, and some excellent work with prisoners and their families.

However, inspectors had some concerns:

  • there was a high level of self-inflicted deaths and, while arrangements for caring for prisoners at risk of self-harm were not poor, there was room for improvement;
  • the prison needed to ensure lessons were learned from previous cases of deaths in custody (both at Manchester and elsewhere);
  • for the small number of prisoners held in the segregation unit for long periods, the regime was poor and there was little opportunity for education or other activities; and
  • some diversity work was underdeveloped and under promoted.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Just over 20 years ago, ‘Strangeways’, as HMP Manchester was generally known, had a notorious reputation and was almost completely destroyed by one of the worst riots in modern prison history. It is now completely transformed and in many ways provides a model
to which other local prisons should aspire. The amount and quality of its purposeful activity and its effective resettlement work in particular are exceptional. However, the prison still has important areas to address. The level of self-inflicted deaths has been too high for too long. The leadership of the prison should now bear down on this issue with the same determination and skill with which they have successfully addressed so many other issues.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

“I am pleased that Manchester is assessed as performing well or reasonably well against all four healthy prison tests (Safety; Respect; Purposeful Activity and Resettlement). This reflects good progress and confirms Manchester is delivering positive outcomes for the public.

“Every self-inflicted death is a tragedy which impacts not only on families but also on prisoners and prison staff. We have successfully reduced the number of suicides in prison and we will continue to prioritise this work.

“The number of self-inflicted deaths at Manchester in recent years is not disproportionate to comparable establishments but there is no complacency and the Governor and his team will continue to work to further reduce the rate of self-harm and to prevent suicides.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 22 February 2012 at
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. This unannounced full follow-up inspection was carried out from 1-9 September 2011.
  4. HMP Manchester is a category A core local male prison accommodating adult male prisoners sent to custody by courts in Greater Manchester. In 2003, the prison moved into the high security estate, taking on increased category A work.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Prisons Press Office on 0207 035 2123 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview with Nick Hardwick.

Download the press release (81 kB)