HM Prison Risley
Her Majesty’s Prison Risley is a Category C men’s prison located in Warrington, Cheshire in the northwest of England. With a current population exceeding 1,000 inmates, Risley has been at the center of controversy and criticism since it first opened its doors in the 1960s. This article takes an in-depth look at the history, conditions, programs, and notorious reputation of one of England’s most infamous prisons.
History and Background of HMP Risley
Risley first opened in 1964 as a remand center holding both men and women. In 1990, a Category C male prison was built on the grounds, alongside the existing remand center. Risley ceased holding female prisoners in 1999 and transitioned to an entirely Category C male prison in 2000.
As a Category C prison, Risley houses inmates convicted of less serious crimes who are considered unlikely to make an attempt to escape. Category C is focused on resettlement and rehabilitation to prepare prisoners for release.
Living Conditions and Damning Inspection Reports
Almost since its inception, HMP Risley gained notoriety for its poor living conditions and Treatment of prisoners. An inspection report from 1988 described the prison as “barbarous and squalid” with conditions that were “totally unacceptable.”
Further reports over the decades continued to highlight major issues at HMP Risley:
- Mixing vulnerable prisoners like sex offenders with other inmates, leading to attacks
- Lack of visible staff and supervision on wings
- High levels of drugs and gang activity
- Poor healthcare and dental provision
- Inadequate time out of cells for a resettlement prison
- High levels of violence compared to similar prisons
A scathing inspection report in April 2023 identified 14 “key concerns” including high levels of self-harm, deteriorating sanitation facilities, inadequate rehabilitation programs and more.
Safety and Security Issues Plague HMP Risley
In addition to poor living standards, HMP Risley has continually struggled with safety and security issues. There have been multiple riots and protests over the years, often triggered by the poor conditions.
Gangs have been rampant at the prison, with incentives like £50 “joining fees” for new members. At times, over 60% of drug tests on inmates have come back positive.
An explosive device was found on a wing in 2017, showing the dangers both prisoners and staff face on a regular basis. High turnover of staff and lack of follow through on inspection recommendations have exacerbated these systemic issues.
Prisoner Programs and Facilities at HMP Risley
Today, HMP Risley houses over 1,000 inmates in mostly single cells with in-cell toilets, phones, electricity and TVs. Communal facilities include showers, dining halls, and association areas.
Prison work opportunities include the kitchens, laundry, cleaning, gardens, waste management and a Braille workshop. Vocational programs such as construction, joinery, and industrial cleaning are also offered. Education includes IT, art, design, and Open University courses.
Recreational facilities include a gym and multi-faith chaplaincy. However, HM Inspectorate has criticized the inadequacy of these facilities and the lack of sufficient time out of cells for exercise and socializing.
Some notorious criminals have spent time at HMP Risley, including:
- Charles Bronson – One of the UK’s most violent prisoners, known for hostage taking and attacks on staff
- Paddy Lacey – Ex-footballer sentenced for drug trafficking
- Ted Hankey – Former world champion darts player convicted of sexual assault
Recent Developments and Current Status
The most recent inspection in 2023 paints a bleak picture of the current state of HMP Risley. Much work remains to be done to improve safety, security, living conditions, and rehabilitation programs.
However, while Risley has maintained its reputation as one of England’s toughest prisons, small improvements have been made over the years. The prison population is gradually decreasing, cells are more modernized, and there is increased access to education.
But HMP Risley remains notorious for its history of inmate violence, gangs, drugs, poor conditions and lack of oversight. It continues to be one of the most controversial and closely-watched prisons in the England.
For over half a century, HMP Risley has established a reputation as one of the toughest, most dangerous prisons in England. Persistent issues with security, living standards, rehabilitation and healthcare have plagued the institution despite some minor improvements.
While Risley houses some of Britain’s most notorious criminals, the issues extend far beyond just the inmates. Systemic failures, lack of resources and insufficient staffing create an environment that is unsafe and inhumane for prisoners and employees alike.
Extensive reforms and far greater oversight are still required for HMP Risley to achieve the standards expected of a modern Category C resettlement prison. But its long history of neglect, violence and scandal continue to cast a shadow over the future.
What type of prison is HMP Risley?
HMP Risley is a Category C men’s prison, housing inmates unlikely to make escape attempts and focused on resettlement.
When did HMP Risley open?
Risley opened in 1964 as a remand center, with a Category C male prison added in 1990. It became an entirely male prison in 1999.
What issues has HMP Risley faced over the years?
Recurring issues have included poor living conditions, lack of safety/security, presence of drugs/gangs, inadequate staffing, and lack of oversight or follow through on reforms.
Who are some notorious inmates held at Risley?
Some of Risley’s most infamous prisoners include Charles Bronson, Paddy Lacey, and Ted Hankey.
What is the current population at the prison?
Risley currently houses just over 1,000 inmates in mostly single cells. The population has gradually declined in recent years.