A deep dive into HMP Styal the female prison in Cheshire

Where it began.

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The prison buildings have a rather rich history, in 1898 the site became an orphanage for destitute children in the Manchester area.  The orphanage closed in 1956, and then 6 years later, the site reopened as a woman’s prison, woman were then transferred from HMP Strangeways.

HMP Styal began taking in young offenders in 1983 as up to this point the prison had only taken adult prisoners.  In 1999 the prison grew by 60% as, due to the closure of Risley’s remand centre, the prison had to build an extra wing to accommodate unsentenced  female prisoners.

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Styal prison The Facts

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HMP Styal currently has around 480 woman living on site, a combination of mixed dormitories and individual rooms make up the accommodation. There is also a mother and baby unit run by Action for Children, for mothers with babies under 18 months of age.

HMP Styal, has, in the past, been described as one of the UK’s toughest female prisons,  but reports have seemed to improve over the years.

June 2003 – The prison was singled out as having one of the highest numbers of suicides in England and Wales. The Howard League for Penal Reform called for an independent enquiry into the jail,  it was stated that bullying, drugs and overcrowding were possible causes for the high number of deaths.

June 2004 – an inspection report stated that inmates at Styal were experiencing a lack of support when it came to drug withdrawal, and lack of knowledge from the staff when dealing with mental illness.  lack of concern was also shown towards the ‘special cells’ to hold disruptive prisoners, including self harmers.

On a positive note, this report by the chief inspector also described the race relations between the inmates as among the best she had seen.  The education provisions and resettlement services also got good praise throughout the report.

June 2018 – a report found that self harm rates were high, however, it was noted they were only occurring in a small amount of women.

This report was more positive for the most part as it praised the strategies of the prison when it came to integrating women back into society.

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Life at HMP Styal

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HMP Styal have a peer mentoring scheme.  Within this scheme, trained residents are assigned the task of assisting other women, giving them advice and pointing them in the right direction of agencies and services that may help them.  The trained residents also set up book clubs in order to aid reading skills.

Mentors work towards a level 2 qualification in mentoring.

HMP Styal have a ‘First Night Centre’, and new residents can stay in this centre for upto 48 hours after their arrival.  Here they will be offered a shower, a hot meal and a phone call.  They will be interviewed by a member of staff, given information about life in custody and have the prison rules explained to them.  It is also at this point that they will see a healthcare professional so that any of their medical needs can be taken care of.

Once they have moved into their accommodation, residents will then start an induction process.  During this time residents will meet with professionals who will help them with their mental health, wellbeing, sexual health, substance misuse, personal development and any other additional needs that need to be met.

The educational programmes on offer at HMP Styal are provided by ‘Novus’ and includes a huge range of subjects including English, Maths, IT and business, plus more vocational subjects like hairdressing, beauty, painting and decorating, and horticulture.

The residents in the mother and baby unit have additional activities which are there to support the developmental needs of their child, there is also a crèche so that the mothers are not limiting their own educational choices.

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In conclusion

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HMP Styal is a large prison, with a diverse group of women in residence.  They are careful about their process of induction, and believe that every prisoner has the right to feel safe.

They clearly take the education of prisoners very seriously and believe that the right education can really help the women as they integrate beck into society after release.

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2019-10-23T20:42:37+01:00
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