HMIP Inspection of Liverpool

The prison was given an inspection in Summer 2015, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

“HMP Liverpool is an old, traditional, local prison, holding nearly 1,400 adult male prisoners. We last inspected Liverpool in late 2013 when we described a well-led prison that was doing a reasonable job despite the very great challenges of working in a 19th century infrastructure and managing in an inner-city context, where the prison population presented considerable complexities and risk. Liverpool was, and remains, a tough prison to run successfully. We returned early to follow up that inspection because of emerging concerns regarding the very poor state of health provision – concerns that were confirmed and are addressed in this report.

Overall this is a disappointing report with outcomes not sufficiently good across all four of our healthy prison tests. This, in particular, reflects a deterioration in outcomes that determine the quality of respect in the prison and in the prison’s approach to resettlement. The very poor quality of the environment at Liverpool remained a fundamental challenge. Outside areas were dirty with litter strewn on the ground and the accommodation was dirty, overcrowded and poorly equipped. Access to amenities such as showers, bedding and laundries was better, but staff were not attentive in answering cell call bells when needed, and prisoners had limited confidence in the application system that was meant to deal with simple requests. We describe relationships between staff and prisoners as benign – staff and prisoners rubbed along fine, but not with much purpose.

Work to support equality was reasonable, well planned, and supported by useful community partnerships, but effectiveness was undermined by staff shortages. Peer supporters were a useful help but consultation with minority groups was limited and outcomes overall could be mixed. The chaplaincy provided a reasonable service despite currently having no full time staff.

The quality of health provision had deteriorated dramatically during 2014 and was now the subject of remedial interventions by the commissioners, the prison and a new primary care provider. Provision was inspected jointly with the Care Quality Commission and our overall assessment was that while decline had been arrested and though there were now discernable improvements, there was still a long way to go before outcomes were acceptable. We were assured that the prison and providers were clear about the main problems and were now working effectively to address them.

Liverpool also remained a prison that was not safe enough. Newly arrived prisoners were received well but overcrowding meant that some did not make it to the first night centre and could therefore miss out on vital assessments. Vulnerable prisoners (often sex offenders) who were located on the first night centre felt unsafe because of their proximity to mainstream prisoners. Induction arrangements were poor. Levels of violence were lower than at comparable prisons and had remained fairly static apart from a worrying three-fold increase in the number of assaults on staff. In our survey of prisoners, more than at comparable establishments suggested they felt unsafe. The prison was working on some good initiatives to improve this situation, including some useful join work with police to tackle gang culture.

Security measures were proportionate, although nearly half of the prisoners thought it was easy to get drugs in the prison and random testing suggested that illicit drug usage was comparatively high. There was also emergent evidence of the increased use of new psychoactive substances. Disciplinary procedures were applied proportionately but, of concern, use of force was nearly double that seen at similar prisons. Oversight and accountability for the use of force was weak and managers were unaware of some questionable practice. We were not assured that individual instances where force was used were always justified. Staff working in the segregation unit had managed some very challenging behaviour well, but the environment and regime were very poor.

A particular concern was the number of deaths over the previous 14 months – 10 in total, followed by another shortly after our departure. Three of these deaths had been confirmed as self-inflicted. We were assured that the prison was addressing the recommendations of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman who had investigated the deaths; and the number of self-harmers and those at risk subject to case management was slightly reduced. The quality of case management was inconsistent and often weak, however, which was not good enough bearing in mind the evident risks faced.

The prison’s daily routine was chaotic and unpredictable and too many prisoners spent too long locked in cell – 44% during the working day. There was sufficient work or education to provide all prisoners with a part-time or full-time place but not all places were fully utilised and activity was often interrupted. The range and quality of education was good but there was insufficient vocational training. The quality of teaching was good and although too few prisoners completed their courses, success rates were high among those who did. Success rates among those in vocational training was also high. Both the library and physical education required improvement.

As well as being a local prison, Liverpool had also been designated a resettlement prison and yet the management of resettlement and reducing reoffending work had deteriorated and was weak. Coordination between offender management work and the new community rehabilitation company was very new and half of eligible prisoners did not have an offender supervisor. Those that did had limited contact. We were not assured that all public protection measures were applied with sufficient rigour. Demand for resettlement services was high and good use was made of peer supporters to aid others in their resettlement. Outcomes across the various resettlement pathways – notably accommodation and support for children and families – were reasonable.

Throughout this report we have noted a series of backward steps. The prison has many longstanding problems to deal with and we acknowledge that urgent issues concerning health and, to an extent, the numbers of deaths in custody, were being addressed. We did not think that HMP Liverpool was a fundamentally poor prison and we saw pockets of really good work. Managers and staff needed, however, to get a better grip on issues – such as providing enough space on the first night centre; sorting out the chaos that was the daily routine so that prisoners could properly access what was otherwise a reasonable provision of activity; and a determined effort to clean the place up – and focus on outcomes and delivery. We have made a number of recommendations that we hope will aid this process.

Nick Hardwick   September 2015

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Liverpool

To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:

  • HMP Liverpool (PDF, 1.11 MB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool (11 – 22 May 2015)
  • HMP Liverpool, Unannounced inspection of HMP Liverpool (14–25 October 2013)
  • HMP Liverpool, Unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Liverpool (8 – 16 December 2011)
  • HMP Liverpool, Announced inspection of HMP Liverpool (7-11 September 2009)