Hindley Prison sports day provokes protests

Hindley Prison
Hindley Prison

Plans for a sports day and barbecue at Hindley Prison - featuring inmates and staff - have divided borough residents and penal reformers.

Several pursuits, including football, touch rugby, basketball and badminton, are set to take place at the Bickershaw jail, according to a leaked memo from governor Mark Livingston.

Other news: Travellers evicted from field next to borough school

And prisoners will be given a one-off £10 voucher, to spend on a burger, hot dog or pizza, to go alongside the games, which also include rowing, spinning and team-building exercises.

One nearby resident, who asked not to be named, said: “As a taxpayer I do not believe it’s right that prisoners should be able to participate in a sports day and buy a burger or hot dog from a barbecue.”

She also highlighted concerns, which had been previously expressed by prison inspectors, over drug problems at Hindley.

Staff and inmates have been told that the sports field, gym, artificial pitch and chapel there would host the planned activities.

But prisoners who may present a security risk or have been involved in violence recently, behind bars, will be excluded from the sports day, or from attending as spectators.

Mr Livingston says in the memo that the event forms part of their "decency and respect strategy" and that the food stalls would also raise money for local charities, as well as helping to fund similar future gatherings.

He added: “As governor please can I ask that you enter into the true spirit of this event and take every opportunity to promote the advantages of good behaviour and taking part to those in our custody.

“There is strong evidence that by staff interacting with prisoners during this type of event that this greatly contributes to enhanced levels of dynamic security as well as playing a significant part in the rehabilitative culture web that forms the backbone of all the work that we do within the prison.”

One team captain is expected to be drawn from staff and the other from within the prison population.

Andrew Neilson, campaigns director at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Our view is that this is very much in-keeping with the focus of this prison.

“It is important for prisons, but especially those dealing with young men, to offer positive outlets, including offering courses to provide them with skills which will help them to gain employment later.”

Mr Neilson said that the development of the prison - with a gym, sports fields and artificial pitches - and its history as a young offenders institution, meant it was geared towards promoting more active lifestyles.

An inspection report on Hindley, earlier this year, noted prisoners had requested more activities, with parkrun being added to the roster.

Prison staff had also reapplied to join a local football league, after they withdrew amid closure fears.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Prison is a punishment but it should also turn prisoners’ lives around so they don’t commit more crimes.

“That’s why we arrange activities that improve skills like teamwork and communication which are so important in the workplace.”

The spokesman said that the voucher, which will be handed out to inmates, will be funded by their own earnings, inside Hindley, or from their own private funds.