At Stockport in September Eddie Tarry, Community Engagement Manager at HMP and YOI Styal talked to us about the history of Styal Prison, the daily life in the prison and the activities delivered to benefit women on release. He called his talk Living in Styal “Building Hope, Changing Lives”.
Eddie spent five years in the Royal Navy before joining the prison service and was also a football referee for 25 years.
The prison has 16 houses each now holding 16-20 women (formerly 36) set in 32 acres of land of which 2/3 is grass. About 70 women, some of whom have never had a job, work on the grounds.
The place was originally built in 1890 as an orphanage which was closed in 1956 to be used for holding Hungarian refugees.
The first female prison opened in 1962 with prisoners being transferred from the then women’s wing at Strangeways. In 1985 a Young Offenders Unit was added and in 1999 a new remand wing was added because of the closure of HMP Risley remand centre. The remand wing is called the Waite Wing named after Terry Waite who used to live in Styal Village. It was designed to hold 180 but this has now been reduced to 140. The wing is painted in bright colours.
In 2013 Styal became a Complex Prison costing £16 million per year to run of which £8.2 million is spent on health care. Healthcare is provided by Spectrum Community Health CIC. In 2014 it became a resettlement prison, in line with all female prisons in the country, where prisoners are held for the last three months of their sentence as near to their homes as possible. In 2015 an Open House Unit was added for 25 prisoners in Open Prison conditions.
He went on to discuss a profile of the offenders. 46% have suffered domestic violence and 53% have suffered emotional physical or sexual abuse as a child compared with 27% of male prisoners. 23% self-harm compared with 5% in the total population, and 48% will be reconvicted within a year of being discharged.
On arrival from the courts prisoners are processed in the reception area. They receive an initial induction, a medical assessment, and risk assessments including cell-sharing risk assessment, following the death of a male Asian sharing a cell with a violent racist.
Attempts are made to reduce reoffending. The main focus is on addressing the offending behaviour. Programmes available include Thinking Skills Programme, Drugs and Alcohol Recovery Service, and Victim Awareness. Restorative Justice done on a voluntary basis can work.
Education is also important and concentrates on functional skills. Foreign nationals with little or no English, such as Colombian Drugs mules, are offered English as a Second Language courses.
Vocational courses include: hairdressing, beauty therapy, Industrial cleaning, IT, Horticulture and Radio presenting. Pay for work in the prison is about £9 per week.
Work in the community includes the Clink Restaurant which employs 14 women per session and the chance to get an NVQ level 3. Recycling Lives is a recycling charity that takes women on strict criteria and supports them on release. Silk ties made in the prison are sold in John Lewis. Fruit and vegetables grown in polytunnels are sold to staff and prisoners. Styal prison has had an entry in the RHS Tatton Flower Show for six years and has received 5 silver medals and one silver gilt.
Eddie showed a DVD of the work done by Recycling Lives but unfortunately the sound did not work very well.