‘Lessons still not learnt’ from Strangeways riot
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