Are you OK with cookies?

We use small files called ‘cookies’ on Some are essential to make the site work, some help us to understand how we can improve your experience, and some are set by third parties. You can choose to turn off the non-essential cookies. Which cookies are you happy for us to use?

Skip to content

HMP Altcourse – maintains positive outcomes for prisoners but self-inflicted deaths a concern

HMP Altcourse in Liverpool, a modern men’s prison serving courts in the Merseyside and Cheshire regions, was found by HM Inspectorate of Prisons to have maintained the positive standards in many areas of prison life seen in previous inspections.

However, inspectors who visited the privately-run prison in November 2021 were concerned to learn that eight prisoners had taken their lives since the last inspection in 2017 – four of them in the last year and three between August and October 2021.

Charlie Taylor. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that the prison held 1,158 men, just short of its 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 [on the inspection], although critical of some aspects of the prison’s performance, continues to highlight some very encouraging findings.

Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

However, inspectors assessed safety outcomes as not sufficiently good, a deterioration from reasonably good in 2017.

“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.”

Prisoners in crisis told inspectors 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, Mr Taylor said, the prison was calm and well-ordered with staff working hard to ensure prisoners’ experience of custody was respectful: 83% of prisoners said they felt respected by staff. Leaders had retained a 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, Mr Taylor said, this was much better than most prisons inspectors 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.”

Mr Taylor added:

“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.”

Notes to editors

  1. Read the HMP Altcourse report, published on 18 February 2022.
  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. HMP Altcourse opened in 1997 as a category A prison. It was turned into a category B core local prison in June 2003. It subsequently expanded in 2007 when a further house block holding an additional 180 prisoners opened. It is run by G4S.
  4. Inspectors identified two examples of notable positive practice.
  5. This inspection took place on 1–2 and 8–12 November 2021.
  6. Please email if you would like more information.