Prisoners walking out of Strangeways prison have said there are mice everywhere and the place is filthy.
One of the UK’s largest high-security prisons, housing more than 1,200 men on nine wings, the jail saw the death of an inmate just days ago, shortly after his 29th birthday.
In order to get a picture of what conditions and morale are like in the jail, reporters from the Manchester Evening News spent a morning speaking to inmates who had just been released.
They came from across the Greater Manchester area, had been housed on different wings, and describe a range of experiences.
Here’s what they had to say:
‘Rick’, a 34-year-old, from Longsight, did three months on H wing for theft
He said: “It’s filthy. There are mice everywhere.
“It’s not a jail you want to get locked up in, I’m telling you.
“Conditions are terrible. You get a cheese sandwich in the morning and some days you’re lucky to get a hot meal at night.
“A kid hanged himself while I was in and he wasn’t found until the morning. He was a good lad as well.
“There’s no drugs though, I didn’t see any anyway.”
‘John’, 34, from Eccles, spent four weeks on D wing after being convicted of burglary .
“That’s my first time in Strangeways, but I’ve done five times in Forest Bank.
“Even though I was only in for a short time I got to know a few of the officers and they were brilliant.
“When you asked for something they got it for you. 99 per cent of them were wonderful.
“The problem is the condition of the jail.
“You have scruffy b******s throwing rubbish out of their window into the yard and that’s attracting mice and rats. They’re everywhere.
“There are drugs and Spice in there, but it’s nowhere near as bad as what people think compared to other jails.
“The food was alright as well. We had lasagne, chicken burgers, veg pie.
“On D wing it was mix. We had Asians, a Chinese lad, whites, blacks, but everyone got on like a house on fire.
“As long as you don’t walk in there thinking you’re Billy Big B******s , you’ll be fine.”
‘Matt’, 31, from Salford, served 28 days on B wing following a probation breach
“There’s always fighting, it’s always kicking off. Every day this week, apart from Tuesday, the alarm went off.
“Everyone keeps saying the building should be closed down because of the conditions.
“It’s just nasty. It doesn’t matter how many times you clean your cell it’s just dirty.
“Manchester is chock full of different cultures, but inside they [the other prisoners] treat people like they do in prisons like Middlesbrough where there’s not as much diversity.
“There are lots of black prisoners, it’s not racism but we get treated differently.
“There’s always Spice going round constantly. It’s rife.
“I was on B wing and there was all kinds of people there: Spiceheads, people doing hits, beating people up.
“I’m a cool guy, but I couldn’t stay in there a day longer.
“There are lots of new guards inside and they’re sticklers for the rules, but the older ones are a bit more chilled out and more helpful.
“One thing I will say though is the food is not bad at all.
“Whoever’s doing the cooking, they should keep them on.”
All the claims were put to the Prison Service, and a spokesperson said: “We are clear that prisons should be places of safety and reform.
“HMP Manchester has introduced measures to combat drugs and violence including body worn cameras for officers, photocopying of all incoming post to stop drugs getting through, and extra security staff at visits.
“The prison has increased rubbish collections and continues to work with a pest control provider to provide a clean and decent environment.”
The spokesperson also confirmed the inmate’s death, saying: “HMP Manchester prisoner Kieron Simpson (DOB: 26/04/1989) died on Wednesday May 2.
“As with all deaths in custody, there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.”