An uncertain future for Hindley Prison is said to have undermined efforts to improve the treatment and condition of prisoners there, according to inspectors.
But drug misuse still remains a “serious problem” at the Bickershaw jail, says Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), and levels of violence remain “too high”.
Security failings have left Hindley vulnerable to people throwing drugs into the prison compound, a new report states, and mandatory drug tests and targeted searches are deemed to be inadequate.
However some of the efforts to combat the use of illegal substances and violence within the category C jail, since it was confirmed the establishment was not being closed to make way for a ‘super prison’ last July, have been commended by HMIP.
Inspectors blasted a lack of investment in accommodation though, which has led to some cells being cramped, with poor ventilation.
Staff were also said to be conducting a “constant battle with vermin” in some sections of the prison.
The last full inspection at Hindley, in 2016, made a total of 61 recommendations for improvements - of these 15 had been achieved, another 15 had been partially achieved but 31 were not met when an unannounced visit was conducted last December.
One key area recognised as having made the least improvement was providing “purposeful activities” for inmates, with the effectiveness of education services believed to have deteriorated and now judged to be “inadequate” by the education watchdog Ofsted. Inspectors were unhappy attendance on courses was still low and that the library had only just reopened after a five-month closure.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “It was clear uncertainty about the future of the prison had undermined efforts to improve outcomes at the jail. That said, they had made some significant strides forward.”
Michael Spurr, HM Prisons chief executive, said the governor had “robust plans” to improve conditions.
The long-term future of Hindley Prison is still to be determined, according to a top civil servant.
Mr Spurr has confirmed any possible capital investment at the jail will have to be considered as part of their ongoing estates modernisation strategy.
Mr Spurr said: “We postponed the closure of HMP Hindley last year in response to an unanticipated rise in the prison population because we will always provide enough places to hold those sent to prison by the courts.
“I’m pleased the Chief Inspector has recognised the tremendous efforts made by the governor and his staff in response to the decision and have acknowledged the real progress made to improve conditions and outcomes for prisoners of Hindley.”
Some staff from the former HMP Kennet on Merseyside, which closed in December 2016, were later transferred to Hindley.