Parts of HMP Risley in Warrington 'beyond repair' inspectorate report finds

A report from the Prison's Inspectorate laid out "priority concerns" for HMP Risley. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Parts of a prison which houses sex offenders are "beyond repair" with a lack of rehabilitation programmes an "astonishing failure", a report has found.

An unannounced Prison's Inspectorate visit to HM Prison Risley in Warrington in April 2023 found high levels of violence and self-harm among inmates.

The low-security jail – which is meant to focus on training and resettlement so inmates can develop skills and find a job when released – was “still not fulfilling its function as a category C resettlement prison”, with many prisoners locked up for 22 hours a day.

Its also found too many prisoners convicted of sexual offences were being released without having completed offending behaviour work specific to their risks, and slammed the lack of rehabilitation programmes for those jailed for sexual offences as an "astonishing failure".

The report found the following "priority concerns":

  • Recorded levels of self-harm among prisoners were high and too often support ended without the underlying causes having been addressed.

  • Living conditions had deteriorated across many wings and showers were in a particularly poor state.

  • Health care provision was undermined by a lack of onsite dental services and weak management of long-term conditions.

  • The regime did not provide sufficient time out of cell for a category C resettlement prison.

  • Leaders did not provide a broad enough range of education, skills or work activities to meet prisoners’ needs.

  • Far too many prisoners convicted of sexual offences were released without having completed offending behaviour work specific to their risks.

When inspectors visited, 404 of the 1,032 prisoners being held at the jail were serving sentences for sexual offences.

The proportion had “increased significantly” and represented 40 per cent of inmates, but there were still no accredited programmes for sex offenders, despite the watchdog raising concerns seven years ago.

Chief Inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor said: “This represents an astonishing failure by the Prison Service, which has been far too slow in putting provision in place.

“Although the effectiveness of these programmes has at times been questioned, if the Prison Service believes they are effective and necessary they should make sure that the right prisoners get access to them.”

The report found that kiving conditions had deteriorated across many wings and showers were in a particularly poor state. Credit: HM Inspectorate of Prisons

The report stated: "The many prisoners who were unemployed were locked up for 22 hours a day, in a prison that had not created enough places in work or education for the size of the population.

"The jail operated a split regime which meant that most prisoners were only in poorly paid, part-time work or education.

"They did not have enough time out of their cells, with no evening association and an even worse situation at the weekend.

"Only those on the excellent, enhanced living unit had a regime that was commensurate with the category of the prison."

Some cells had broken sinks. Credit: HM Inspectorate of Prisons

Preparations for releasing prisoners were “often not good enough”, Mr Taylor said in his report.

Examples included some high-risk inmates being left homeless on release and phone calls not being properly monitored.

He also blamed “other Prison Service bureaucracy” for “hampering progress”.

Mr Taylor said leadership at the prison had been “unstable” for the last two years with a string of temporary governors and the current acting boss working “hard to maintain stability and set an agenda that sought to improve decency in the jail and support his staff team”.

A segregated exercise yard at HMP Risley in Warrington. Credit: HM Inspectorate of Prisons

The conclusion of the report said: “If Risley is to prepare prisoners adequately for their eventual release, it must provide far more purposeful activity that gives prisoners the skills and experience they need to settle successfully on release.

“The prison must also make sure that its critical public protection function is being met, particularly for the large population of prisoners convicted of sexual offences.”

In response, a Prison Service spokesperson said: “We accept improvements must be made and we are already taking decisive action to address the serious issues raised in this report.

“We are recruiting more probation officers at HMP Risley to improve the risk-assessment of serious offenders and rolling out a dedicated programme to better manage sex offenders.

"We are also now supporting prisoners at risk of homelessness when released with basic, temporary housing while they find a more permanent home.”

HMP Risley is managing self-harm across the prison and planning a new ‘safety summit’ at the prison which will focus on how to tackle the underlying causes of self-harm

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