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HM Prison Forest Bank

Category: Prisons

"Every new prison start-up is difficult and ours was not without its problems, but they were minor and soon overcome. We are now number 5 in the performance tables and I believe it is to the credit of both the public and private sector to have the courage and belief that the partnership will work."

Ivor Woods, Director of Forest Bank

August, 2003

HMP Forest Bank is a project to design, construct, finance and manage contract for a new 800 bed, category B local prison in Salford. The capital was around £50 million and UKDS will manage and maintain the prison for a period of 25 years. Due to the national increase in prison population levels Forest bank now accommodates 1040 prisoners. The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, reported in November 2002 that, "Forest Bank was a very good local prison...that had avoided many of the pitfalls of newly-opened private sector prisons...and was succeeding in spite of the pressures of significant population increase."

The PPP Forum interviewed Ivor Woods, Director of Forest Bank.

HMP Forest Bank has been extremely well received by the Chief Inspector. She commented particularly on the staff being courteous and respectful and offering good role models for all prisoners. Has this been important in the success of the prison?

"To have achieved so much in the comparatively short time since opening is impressive. I have inherited a well-trained, enthusiastic staff who are as keen as I am to build on what has already been accomplished. There is more to be done but the very positive results of this inspection are gratifying and the product of professional and dedicated work by the whole staff team."

The facilities at the prison are excellent - it could be argued that the prisoners are being treated too well.

"We want to do everything we can to make sure that the people who come through Forest Bank never come back. The best way of doing this is to try to give them the means to earn an honest living on the outside. It's true we have a great gym and workshop and kitchen etc but these are all put to good use. The people playing badminton in the gym today are actually training for a coaching qualification they can use on the outside. We have a number of excellent catering students studying for their NVQs and in the workshops we're teaching people the skills they'll need to get a job. You tasted the food prepared by our catering students today and will agree that it's a very high standard. We also have an education block which is accredited by Pendleton College so the more academically inclined can work towards qualifications which come from the college rather than the prison.

It's possible for inmates of Forest Bank to be out of their cells for eight hours a day and as the majority are young men, that's very important
."

HMP Forest Bank is a PFI project. The central tenet of PFI is that it enables projects to be delivered on time and on budget. Was this the case at HMP Forest Bank?

"The building was delivered on time and in budget."

How has the facility been received in the wider public?

"Every new prison start-up is difficult and ours was not without its problems, but they were minor and soon overcome. We are now number 5 in the performance tables and I believe it is to the credit of both the public and private sector to have the courage and belief that the partnership will work. That doesn't mean there haven't been problems but everybody mucks in to ensure that things work.

We've done our best to make Forest Bank an asset to the community. As well as offering local employment, we also landscaped the grounds we didn't need for the building to provide a country park where lots of people come to walk their dogs or just enjoy the scenery
."

The design of the prison is quite unique. How did this come about?

"The design is very much operation led. Prison staff need to be able to effectively observe landings and prisoners and therefore our design has clear lines of view. We started off with a blank sheet of paper and chose designers who had not worked on a prison previously as we did not want their past experience of working with the Prison Service to colour their ideas.

The result is that we have a design that uses half the space that the Prison Service would have used for the same number of prisoners leaving us room for the country park. The Prison Service is looking into how it can make more use of our design innovations.

In addition to the building itself, there was innovation in the furniture used in the cells.

Instead of using prescribed materials, as would have happened in a traditionally procured project, the furniture is designed to prevent self harm and has proved to be quite effective. It's strong, it's built to last and there are no parts of the cell which can't be seen by the staff checking on prisoners
."

You have worked for both the public and private sector. Where do you see the difference in approach?

"There is greater focus in the commercial world and therefore they view things differently and provide the opportunity to do things differently. Their revenues are performance related and that is a great incentive to make sure that performance targets are achieved."