HMP Liverpool - steady but slow progress

HMP Liverpool was well led and was making steady but slow progress, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons as he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local jail.

HMP Liverpool has had a difficult history with some seemingly intractable problems. However, inspectors were encouraged to find the prison retained a clear leadership focus on providing more decent and progressive treatment for those held. The progress, albeit slow, identified at the inspection in 2011 had continued. Many men arrived at the prison with substance misuse issues, mental health-related problems and disability. The mainly 19th century infrastructure presented real impediments to providing a decent living environment and recent staffing changes had presented risks in maintaining stability. Nevertheless, the prison had done a reasonable job of addressing those challenges although gaps remained.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • security was well managed and there was some excellent work to develop violence reduction processes;
  • support for prisoners with substance misuse had improved significantly;
  • prisoners at risk of self-harm were receiving some reasonable support;
  • relationships between staff and prisoners were generally good;
  • time out of cell was reasonable for most prisoners and the range of vocational training opportunities had improved;
  • the provision of activity places was broadly sufficient for the population held and most prisoners were involved in something purposeful; and
  • management of resettlement was good and public protection arrangements were satisfactory.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • although first night and induction procedures had improved, many prisoners still felt unsafe on their first night;
  • more generally, too many prisoners felt unsafe;
  • too many prisoners at risk of self-harm were being held in segregation;
  • there were real challenges with the diversion and trading of prescribed medications;
  • the segregation unit and regime were particularly poor;
  • prisoners with disabilities suffered from poor access to some areas of the prison; and
  • too much teaching and learning was inadequate and the achievement of qualifications on some courses had fallen.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Liverpool appears to be coping well following some recent restructuring and the realignment of its resources. The prison is well led. There is a competence and realism on the part of the governor and his senior team about the risks they manage and what can be done to affect improvement. The environment is a concern and in need of meaningful investment. There remain gaps and weaknesses in some provision and the often negative perceptions of prisoners should be addressed seriously and not rationalised away. The prison needs to improve the way it deals with vulnerable prisoners. Despite this, outcomes in many areas are better than we have seen in the past, and there is a sense of continuing steady, if slow, progress.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has confirmed that Liverpool continues to improve despite a more complex and challenging prisoner population and a 19th century infrastructure.

“The Governor and his staff deserve real credit for implementing ‘new ways of working’ and achieving improvements whilst also reducing cost.

“We will use the recommendations in this report to support further improvement – I want to commend the leadership provided by the Governor and his senior team and the commitment demonstrated by Liverpool staff.”

Notes to Editors:

1. Read the report.

2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.

3. This unannounced inspection was carried out from 14-25 October 2013.

4. HMP Liverpool is a category B local prison serving Merseyside.

5. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview.