HMP Manchester - calmer but needs more focus on sentence progression for prisoners

Read the report: HMP Manchester

Inspectors who visited HMP Manchester found a greater sense of order and calm than in the past and a governor who was trying to transform the culture of the prison to support the rehabilitation of long-term prisoners.

However, during the inspection in September 2021, inspectors also found that due to COVID-19 regime restrictions too many men were still locked in their cells for most of the day, with few jobs and limited access to education and training.

Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said Manchester, which held 624 men, had changed in 2020 from a local prison to a category B training prison. It retained a small category A function and a third of prisoners were serving indeterminate sentences.

“The governor had taken on the challenge of transforming the culture of the prison and the mindset of the staff to focus on the rehabilitation of long-sentenced prisoners rather than the needs of a more transient local prison population, though much of this work had been delayed or derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Taylor said.

This work had been supported by some improvements in living conditions. All but a few prisoners were held in single cells, heating and showers had been improved and new kitchens on wings would soon mean prisoners could cook their own food.

Mr Taylor added:

“With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, many prisoners were still spending over 22 hours a day locked in their cells with few jobs available, very limited offending behaviour programmes and face-to-face education practically non-existent.”

For a training prison these gaps had a huge impact on the progression opportunities for the population.

Inspectors found that prisoners lacked trust in prison staff, did not believe that complaints would be dealt with robustly and could not access of their stored property when they needed to. The telephone booking line for visits rang unanswered and there was often no response to applications made by prisoners.

The governor, Mr Taylor said, had taken active steps to address some issues, moving his office and those of senior managers onto the wings to increase their visibility to prisoners and staff. This was noted by inspectors as an example of notable positive practice, as was consulting prisoners in a ‘drug summit’ to find ways of combatting the availability of illicit drugs.

“The governor had also prioritised improving the staff culture in the prison and the often good and caring interactions we saw with prisoners were evidence that progress was being made. Inspectors who had also been on the previous inspection (in 2018) noticed an improvement in the atmosphere on the residential units.

“There was, however, much to be done – on some wings, inspectors were struck by the lack of engagement and poor attitudes of some officers. This, along with a reluctance to turn on body-worn cameras, the unnecessary use of an aggressive, barking dog to accompany prisoners who were being relocated to the segregation unit, the unwillingness of some staff to challenge disruptive behaviour, the extraordinary strip-searching of prisoners who were being released and the often poor treatment of those at risk of suicide or self-harm, pointed to the scale of the challenge.”

A board in the prison’s administrative block listed the ten 10 governors who had led the prison since the turn of the century, “a turnover rate that explains why so many deep-set problems remain,” Mr Taylor commented.

“If HMP Manchester is to make the transformation from a security-focused local prison to a category B training prison that rehabilitates the often challenging and complex men in its care, the prison service will need to make sure that this strong and effective governor has the time and money to complete the job.”

– End –

Notes to editors

  1. Read the HMP Manchester report, published on 21 December 2021.
  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. Manchester Prison opened in June 1868. Following a large-scale disturbance in 1990, the prison required major refurbishment. It was moved into the directorate of the high security estate in April 2003. In 2020, its function changed from a local to a category B training prison.
  4. Inspectors identified five examples of notable positive practice.
  5. This inspection took place on 6–7 and 13–17 September 2021.
  6. Please contact John Steele at or on 07880 787452 if you would like more information.