Forest Bank Blog
January 19, 2021
Our first blog of 2021 from the Director Matt Spencer
2020 was a tough year for everyone living and working at HMP Forest Bank and as I reflect on a year dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, I am optimistic that 2021 will bring positive developments along with the roll out of the new vaccine.
The latest national lock down reminds us that Covid-19 remains a very serious threat to each and every one of us and as we welcome the New Year at Forest Bank our priority remains the same - to protect the safety and wellbeing of everyone living and working at the prison.
An anniversary we won’t forget
The year that saw HMP Forest Bank reach its 20th anniversary, coincided with one of the most difficult periods in the prison’s history to date and one we will not easily forget. The introduction of a severely restricted regime in March 2020 changed prison life considerably and with immediate effect.
Suspending visits, resident employment, classroom-based education and offending behaviour programmes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was not an easy decision considering the repercussions for both residents and their families.
Taking positive steps to maintain family ties, we have embraced new technology during lockdown with the introduction of Purple visits, a private video call to keep families in touch. More information regarding purple visits is available on the website: https://www.hmpforestbank.co.uk/home/latest-news.html
I want to reassure resident’s families and loved ones, that re-introducing social visits will be high on the agenda in 2021 and I look forward to welcoming you back to HMP Forest Bank as soon as it is safe to do so.
Never could I have imagined that the extensive protective measures introduced last year including, the implementation of ‘cohorting’ – isolating residents with Covid-19 symptoms, shielding the vulnerable and testing and quarantining new arrivals, would still be applicable now.
Guidelines regarding hand hygiene, social distancing and PPE for staff and residents are as important as ever and will remain in place for the foreseeable future as we continue to navigate through the pandemic into 2021.
Business as usual
Despite the pandemic dictating much of the working day at Forest Bank, changes to general operations at HMP Forest Bank continue in the background, primarily the prison becoming the reception prison serving all Greater Manchester Courts.
We are now a 60% Reception prison (remands, trials, very short sentences of less than ten days, fixed term licence recalls etc) and 40% Resettlement prison with the majority of residents serving up to two years only.
The process of transferring long sentence convicted Category B residents began last year with HMP Manchester now holding longer sentenced Category B convicted residents.
Forest Bank continues to play an important part in Greater Manchester’s Integrated Rehabilitation strategy and Sodexo remains committed to employing ex-residents and resettling residents back into the community.
Bringing positive change is vital to ensure that residents leaving prison have the support they need to turn their backs on crime for good, so skills training and increasing the employability of residents will also be prioritised this year.
What lies ahead?
I know that complex decisions still lie ahead of us and the prison remains a high-risk environment, however I am confident that the current operating procedures we have in place are helping us to identify any risks and reduce transmission of Covid-19 as quickly as possible.
Following government and NHS guidance, staff and residents will have access to the Covid-19 vaccine locally in line with community prioritisation, which I hope will eventually lead to the easing of restrictions.
As always, we continue to monitor and review the virus threat with our partners at HMPPS, PHE and Salford City Council and will only move to engage in the easing of restrictions, when there is evidence that the infection in our prison is minimal and reflects those levels in the wider community.
As I end this blog, I want to stress how proud I am of the staff and residents at HMP Forest Bank and take the opportunity to thank them for their hard work, commitment, understanding and determination throughout this pandemic.
I am confident that working together, we will get through this period of uncertainty and emerge stronger and more resilient than before.
Matt Spencer is the Director of HMP Forest Bank