TV series dives behind-the-scenes of notorious prisons – from riots to violence

A new ITV documentary will give viewers a glimpse behind the scenes at the notorious Strangeways Prison.

The two-part show will shine a light on the Manchester-based jail, famous for containing some of the most well-known convicts in England, including moors killer Ian Brady, and murderous doctor Harold Shipman.

Britain's Notorious Prisons will feature exclusive interviews with former inmates and staff from the famed north Manchester-based institution.

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The documentary will delve behind the scenes with a look at what really goes on inside the gates of the prison, highlighting issues that effect both HMP Manchester and HMP Wormwood Scrubs – with issues such as racism, prisoner violence, and Covid-19 set to take the limelight.

The first instalment of the programme takes a look at how Strangeways became such a well-known venue, with the high-security facility housing many of the region's most despicable murderers, rapists and paedophiles.

The investigation will go right back to its Dickensian roots when overcrowding was rife and slopping out, where a bucket in each cell was shared as a toilet, and then emptied out, was still common practice.

There will be a close look at the 1990 riots where prisoners took over the prison for 2 days, as well as a prison officer's real-life take on the racism that took place in the 70s and 80s.

Ex-inmate Paul Downs also shares his experience of the violence prisoners were subjected to in the 80s. He said: "The screws were brutal, hair triggered. They would literally jump all over you.

"You’d curl up in a ball on the floor and they’d kick you, then they’d stretch you out and kick you again. Cos they all wore Doc Martens. You know it was the screws’ favourite footwear for caving your face in. It was just a violent, filthy, anything goes regime."

Former prison officer Peter Hancox, who worked at Strangeways in the 90s said: "When I saw the devastation that had gone on, it’s something that I will never ever forget. I know I shouldn’t be saying it, but I was stood there in tears. It was as if part of me had been destroyed.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "We have worked hard to improve HMP Manchester, and inspections show this is working. (its) most recent independent report found a reduction in violence and assaults at the prison."

Britain's Notorious Prisons airs Thursday 12 Jan, 2023 at 9pm on ITV.

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