The Prison Service has been accused by a watchdog of “astonishing failure” at a jail which holds hundreds of sex offenders.
The low-security jail – which is meant to focus on training and resettlement so inmates can develop skills and find a job when released – was “still not fulfilling its function as a category C resettlement prison”, with many prisoners locked up for 22 hours a day.
This represents an astonishing failure by the Prison Service, which has been far too slow in putting provision in place— Charlie Taylor
When inspectors visited, 404 of the 1,032 prisoners being held at the jail near Warrington were serving sentences for sexual offences.
The proportion had “increased significantly” and represented 40% of inmates, but there were still no accredited programmes for sex offenders, despite the watchdog raising concerns seven years ago.
Mr Taylor said: “This represents an astonishing failure by the Prison Service, which has been far too slow in putting provision in place.
“Although the effectiveness of these programmes has at times been questioned, if the Prison Service believes they are effective and necessary they should make sure that the right prisoners get access to them.”
Inspectors were “particularly concerned” about public protection arrangements at Risley, branding some “inadequate” in light of an “understaffed” offender management unit and “insufficient” support from probation services.
Preparations for releasing prisoners were “often not good enough”, Mr Taylor said in his report.
Examples included some high-risk inmates being left homeless on release and phone calls not being properly monitored.
It must provide far more purposeful activity that gives prisoners the skills and experience they need to settle successfully on release— Charlie Taylor
He also blamed “other Prison Service bureaucracy” for “hampering progress”.
Mr Taylor said leadership at the prison had been “unstable” for the last two years with a string of temporary governors and the current acting boss working “hard to maintain stability and set an agenda that sought to improve decency in the jail and support his staff team”.
The living conditions in the jail had deteriorated since the last inspection, with parts of the building “now beyond repair”, Mr Taylor also warned.
He added: “If Risley is to prepare prisoners adequately for their eventual release, it must provide far more purposeful activity that gives prisoners the skills and experience they need to settle successfully on release.
“The prison must also make sure that its critical public protection function is being met, particularly for the large population of prisoners convicted of sexual offences.”
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “We accept improvements must be made and we are already taking decisive action to address the serious issues raised in this report.
“We are recruiting more probation officers at HMP Risley to improve the risk assessment of serious offenders and rolling out a dedicated programme to better manage sex offenders. We are also now supporting prisoners at risk of homelessness when released with basic, temporary housing while they find a more permanent home.”