Liverpool prison with falling levels of violence ‘bucks the trend’, say Inspectors

A men’s jail where inmates can wear their own clothes and have phones in their cells has been praised by the prisons watchdog.

Inspectors found HMP Altcourse had “bucked the trend” of rising violence and self-harm seen in many comparable establishments.

The category B prison in Liverpool reported a total of 157 assaults in the six months prior to the inspection in November.

Even accounting for a large spike in incidents shortly after a smoking ban was introduced in September, HM Inspectorate of Prisons said the number was lower than it often sees in local prisons.

It was also down compared to the tally of 210 assaults recorded at the last inspection in June 2014.

The inspectorate found evidence that use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) had declined considerably at HMP Altcourse.

NPS, drugs previously known as “legal highs”, have been linked to rising levels of violence across the prison estate in England and Wales.

The report on HMP Altcourse, which is run by G4S and held 1,148 men at the time of the inspection, said most cells had TVs, kettles and phones “which prisoners appreciated”, although some of the facilities were not always working.

Prisoners could wear their own clothes and survey results on most aspects of everyday life were positive, the inspectorate found.

There were no obvious weaknesses in the prison’s physical security, with staff conducting routine searches of perimeter fences and walls.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: “Overall, Altcourse was in some key areas bucking the trend when compared to other local prisons.

“While it still faced significant challenges around safety, the downward trend in violence and anti-social behaviour was highly creditable.”

HMP Altcourse director Steve Williams said: “Despite facing some significant challenges in recent months, including going smoke free in September 2017, I am heartened to see inspectors reflect the determination and commitment to safety at Altcourse, which is demonstrated by the whole team.”

Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said: “I am pleased the Chief Inspector recognises the progress made at Altcourse, with prisoners benefiting from a range of education and training opportunities delivered by committed staff.”

An action plan will be agreed with G4S to address the inspectorate’s recommendations to achieve further improvement, Mr Spurr added.

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