A report released today branded the regime at HMP Hindley as “one of the worst, possibly, the very worst, that inspectors have ever seen in this type of prison”.
Prisoners were rarely let out of their cells for more than six hours a day, with the frequency of shutdowns meanign they often spent longer than 24 hours confined to their rooms.
The report found that: “The levels of violence in Hindley, often fuelled by the destructive effects of drugs – particularly new psychoactive substances (NPS) – were not likely to be controlled or minimised by the regime that was currently in place.
“If anything, it would exacerbate these problems. Locking prisoners up for wholly unreasonable lengths of time had not altered the fact that 49% of prisoners told us it was easy to get hold of illegal drugs, while 16% had developed a drug problem since entering the prison.
“According to our survey it was far easier to get hold of drugs in Hindley than it was to get clean clothes, sheets or books from the library.”
The inspectors criticised the prison for the lack of support given to inmates at high risk of selm harm, while wings and cells were found to be dirty and neglected.
The resettlement provision was said to be limited and in some cases ineffective while new inmates were often not given a shower or allowed to make a telephone call on arrival.
The report states that if it were not for a few positives, mainly in the non-residential parts of the prison, and the “energetic leadership of the new governor” the prison would have scored the lowest possible grade in all four areas of the healthy prison test.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: “To make progress, there needs to be a very clear recognition of what is good at Hindley, and also where there needs to be fundamental change.
“Many examples of good practice could be found in the chaplaincy, education and health care. The same could not be said for residential areas.
“There needs to be an honest appraisal of the culture that predominates among some staff in these areas.
“The governor needs to be supported by his senior team in the delivery of clear, proactive and intrusive leadership. Those who choose to stand in the way of change should have their ability to do so diminished.
“There is no good reason why Hindley should not become a safe, decent and respectful prison. There is also no good reason why standards should be lower than at similar prisons.”
The Ministry of Justice was approached for comment but did not reposnd in time.
An MP has labelled the report as a “major setback” for the prison.
But Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue has said the governor has recognised a robust reponse is needed.
She said: “The report makes clear that there are serious issues the Governor must confront and address. There can be no doubt that this is a major setback for the prison.
“I was pleased that when I spoke to the new Governor last week he recognised the need for a robust and comprehensive response to the report’s recommendations and as the Chief Inspector makes clear, if it were not for his endeavours the report’s conclusions would have been even more damning. At his invitation, I will be visiting HMP Hindley in the early new year.” The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has said that steps have been taken to address the weakness identified by inspectors at Hindley Prison.
The department said that since the inspection, Hindley has set up an extensive action plan to monitor the issues raised by HMIP and they review their progress weekly.
A more detailed cleaning programme has been set up and is being prioritised by prison staff who conduct regular inspections and all prisoners now have daily access to showers and clean bedding.
The MoJ added that at the time of the inspection the prison was also operating with a number of staff vacancies, which was impacting on the regime. A violence reduction strategy is in place and the prison is working closely with Greater Manchester Police to secure prosecutions for serious acts of violence.
Steps have also been taken to ensure Hindley can run a more full and decent regime, helping to get prisoners into education and workshops to prepare them for release.
A reducing re-offending delivery plan has also been developed, with changes to the education provision to ensure offenders gain the skills they need to turn their back on crime for good when they are released and the reception of new prisoners has also been improved and all new offenders now have access to basic entitlements when they arrive.
An MoJ spokesman said: “Since the inspection a detailed improvement plan was developed to address the weaknesses identified by inspectors and this is being closely monitored. Progress has been made to improve safety and purposeful activity with more prisoners engaged in high quality work and training opportunities.
“Additional staff have been transferred into the prison to support the improvements required and the governor is working closely with GMP to tackle gang behaviour and violence in the prison.”