‘Lessons still not learnt’ from Strange­ways riot

Salford Advertiser - - NEWS - Paul Brit­ton

STRANGE­WAYS is still dan­ger­ously over­crowded 25 years on from the riot, pri­son re­form cam­paign­ers have said.

A scathing new re­port from the Pri­son Re­form Trust re­veals al­most half of the jail’s pris­on­ers are held two-to-a-cell in cells de­signed only for one per­son.

And the char­ity claims lessons still haven’t been learned from the 25-day siege in April 1990 and the sub­se­quent in­quiry into its causes.

The riot, which broke out dur­ing a Sun­day ser­vice in the pri­son chapel, was the most se­ri­ous in Bri­tish pe­nal his­tory. It left two men dead and 194 in­jured, but also led to sweep­ing na­tional re­forms.

Lord Woolf, now the char­ity’s chair­man but pre­vi­ously Eng­land’s most se­nior judge, led the ini­tial in­quiry which called for prisons to be no larger than 400 places.

But the Pri­son Re­form Trust re­port re­veals more than four in 10 pris­on­ers are now held in es­tab­lish­ments of 1,000 places or more.

Anal­y­sis by our sis­ter pa­per the M.E.N. of of­fi­cial Min­istry of Jus­tice fig­ures also re­veals that HMP Manch­ester is op­er­at­ing above its cer­ti­fied nor­mal ac­com­mo­da­tion level, or CNA.

The Pri­son Re­form Trust go on to say that ‘chronic over­crowd­ing driven by a near dou­bling of the pri­son pop­u­la­tion’ is un­der­min­ing stan­dards of de­cency and im­pact­ing on op­por­tu­ni­ties for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion na­tion­ally.

A ‘danger­ous re­duc­tion in staff num­bers’ is re­vealed along­side ‘plum­met­ing work­force morale’.

Juliet Lyon, direc­tor of the Pri­son Re­form Trust, said: “HMP Manch­ester has come a long way since the dark days of the Strange­ways riot.

“The most re­cent HM in­spec­torate of prisons re­port on the estab­lish­ment, pub­lished in 2012, de­scribed it as ‘a model to which other lo­cal prisons should aspire’.

“Since then it will have had to have found ways to deal with se­vere cuts in the prisons bud­get.

“But the pri­son has not been im­mune from the prob­lems of over­crowd­ing which are par­tic­u­larly prom­i­nent in large lo­cal es­tab­lish­ments such as HMP Manch­ester. Half of all men (49.7 per cent) at the pri­son are held twoto-a-cell de­signed for one, com­pared to a quar­ter of peo­ple held across the pri­son es­tate in Eng­land and Wales.

“The past two years have seen a wor­ry­ing de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in safety in prisons. This has set back painstak­ing progress made by the pri­son ser­vice since Lord’s Woolf re­port to im­prove treat­ment and con­di­tions. An in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion in May 2015 must not ac­cept this decline in pri­son stan­dards as the new nor­mal.”

●●Strange­ways Pri­son in Manch­ester and (left) pris­on­ers dur­ing the ri­ots 25 years ago

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