Thirty men share just one shower. Drugs are 'easy to get'

-Credit: (Image: HMP Inspectorate of Prisons)
-Credit: (Image: HMP Inspectorate of Prisons)

More than a quarter of inmates at HMP Buckley Hall are 'active drug takers' while levels of violence and self-harm are on the increase, an inspection has found. HM Inspectorate of Prisons said it found evidence of a 'slow but perceptible decline' at the Rochdale jail.

The watchdog said despite being just 30 years old, many of the prison buildings were 'not aging well'. Too many inmates live in cramped conditions and many cells were 'shabby' and 'grubby'.

But Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said many of the problems were 'clearly identifiable and easily arrestable' adding: "Despite the challenges of recent years our assessments at this inspection remained encouraging."

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The Prison Service said staff were 'working hard' to clamp down on drugs entering the prison, while the heads of safety, drug strategy and security were holding regular meetings to establish which measures have been the most effective in reducing self-harm and violence.

Buckley Hall, a category C training prison, has a normal capacity of 409 inmates, but at the time of the inspection from February 12-23 it held 465 prisoners. Almost all were serving terms of between four years and life, with around a third serving indeterminate sentences.

Almost half of prisoners questioned said drugs were 'easy to access' and random testing suggested that 'well over' a quarter of prisoners were 'active drug takers'.

Violence was found to have increased since the last inspection in 2019, although it was still lower than most other category C prisons and rarely serious.

Despite the problems, the watchdog said the findings of the inspection 'remain encouraging' -Credit:Manchester Evening News
Despite the problems, the watchdog said the findings of the inspection 'remain encouraging' -Credit:Manchester Evening News

The level of self-harm had also increased, with 194 incidents recorded in the 12 months before the inspection, including one death. Inspectors wrote: "Rates of self-harm were lower than similar category C training prisons but were much higher than at the last inspection and were still rising.

"There had been insufficient analysis of existing data to give leaders a clear understanding of what was leading to the rise in self-harm, and a plan to reduce it had been introduced only very recently."

Inspectors said that while staff and prisoners did their best to keep the prison clean it had a 'creaking, prefabricated feel which will soon need significant investment'. In one part of the prison six showers had been out of service for more than a month, leaving just two showers for 60 prisoners.

A typical cell at HMP Buckley Hall
A typical cell at HMP Buckley Hall -Credit:HMP Inspectorate of Prisons

There had also been a 'recurring problem' with the boiler on one wing, resulting in cold showers and cells without heating. Prisoners typically had between five and eight hours a day out of their cells, but almost a third of inmates were locked up during the working day.

Ofsted assessed the overall effectiveness of education, skills and work provision at the prison as 'requires improvement', which meant Buckley Hall 'was not fulfilling its core function as a training establishment'.

The report laid out five 'priority concerns' which 'require immediate attention'. They included tackling rates of self-harm; investing in the 'fabric' of the prison and addressing the 'insufficient' number of places on education, skills and work activities.

The watchdog said the prison had an 'aging prefabicated feel' -Credit:HMP Inspectorate of Prisons
The watchdog said the prison had an 'aging prefabicated feel' -Credit:HMP Inspectorate of Prisons

But there were also several areas where inspectors praised Buckley Hall. They included having four full-time support workers for young inmates, care leavers, prisoners with 'additional complex needs' and those serving indeterminate sentences; its wide range of creative activities, including guitar lessons and chess games and having 14 officers who had completed enhanced training in substance misuse.

Mr Taylor wrote: "A new governor had arrived recently, and he and other leaders were clear about their priorities and expressed an ambition to re-energise the establishment and restore its high level of performance. The effective partnership culture and excellent relationships we found will greatly assist this endeavour, along with a more systematic and sophisticated use of data."

In a statement the Prison Service said: "HMP Buckley Hall and its staff are working hard to clamp down on drugs entering the prison through its X-ray scanner and other tough security measures thanks to the £100m invested in security across the prison estate. The prison has also opened a brand-new workshop and increased capacity in classrooms to get more prisoners into work and education and give them skills for the future."