HMIP Inspection of Altcourse

The prison was given an inspection in winter 2021, 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:

Located in Liverpool, HMP Altcourse is a category B local prison serving courts in the Merseyside and Cheshire regions. A modern institution, Altcourse is a privately run facility that has been managed by G4S since it first opened in 1997. At the time of our inspection 1,158 men were being held, just short of the prison’s capacity. The establishment experienced a significant turnover of new receptions, with just under 400 new prisoners arriving each month and about half the population either unsentenced and on remand or serving very short sentences.

We last inspected Altcourse in 2017 when, in keeping with earlier visits to the prison, we reported very positive outcomes. In the context of the restrictions created by the prison’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this report, although critical of some aspects of the prison’s performance, continues to highlight some very encouraging findings.

Overall, we assessed safety outcomes as not sufficiently good, a deterioration since the last inspection. To a great extent this reflected the fact that since 2017, eight prisoners had taken their own lives, with four of the deaths in the last 12 months. We were critical of some aspects of the prison’s approach to safeguarding, but staff seemed to be responding to learning from reviews that followed these deaths. The prisoners in crisis we spoke to told us they felt well cared for, and although recorded instances of self-harm remained too high, the number had reduced over the last year.

In general, the prison was calm and well-ordered with staff working hard to ensure prisoners’ experience of custody was respectful. The quality of staff[1]prisoner relationships remained a great strength and in our survey 83% of prisoners told us they felt respected by staff. Key worker arrangements were working reasonably well, consultation was effective and complaints and applications procedures were better than we normally see. Leaders had retained focus on the promotion of equality and were responsive to the advice provided by inspectors. Time out of cell had improved recently and most prisoners were unlocked for at least five hours a day and participating in some form of activity. Again, this was much better than most prisons we have visited this year. However, Ofsted found weaknesses in the curriculum and identified the need to maximise attendance in education, both of which required greater leadership attention. We also concluded that there was scope for more radical thinking about how the prison could improve outcomes in work to support rehabilitation and release planning.

The Director and most other leaders we met during the inspection were proactive and committed. There was evidence to suggest they could have improved planning and decision-making through more sophisticated use of data. That said, leaders had managed some significant COVID-19 outbreaks well, and there was a confidence about their approach to the management of recovery. There was a greater sense of pre-pandemic normality in the prison than we have seen elsewhere.

Altcourse is already one of the better local prisons in the country in terms of outcomes for prisoners, the capability of leadership and staff culture. Leaders responded well to our scrutiny and we were confident that they would tackle the deficits we identified and commit to further improvement.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
January 2021


Return to Altcourse

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

  • Inspection report (805 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Altcourse by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (1-2 and 8-12 November 2021)
  • HMP Altcourse (613.21 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Altcourse (13–23 November 2017)
  • HMP Altcourse, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Altcourse (9 – 20 June 2014)
  • HMP Altcourse, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Altcourse (15-17 October 2012)
  • HMP Altcourse, Full unannounced inspection of HMP Altcourse (15 – 22 January 2010)
  • HMP Altcourse, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Altcourse (17-19 September 2007)

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