Having been at Thorn Cross yesterday to present a Butler Trust Certificate, we decided to stay up in the area for a further two days and, using Liverpool as a base, visit Liverpool, Altcourse and nearby Hindley prisons.
My mini-tour of the north-west kicked off at Liverpool prison. After a warm welcome from staff on the gate, I held focus group meetings first with some prisoners, then with a group of front line staff, and finally with members of the senior management team. In addition, while the Governor was away on the day of my visit, she was kind enough to meet me for dinner the night before.
While Liverpool has recently received a very critical report from the Prisons Inspectorate, both prisoners and management praised the quality and approach of the staff, and relationships between prisoners and staff were rated positively by everyone. In addition, the prison has been piloting the new key worker scheme, which managers and staff agreed was working very well.
Prisoners rated the staff at Liverpool positively and praised the quality of relationships between prisoners and staff. They also highlighted the ‘Steps to the gate’ pre-release programme, which they rated as more in-depth and wide-ranging, and with more extensive links with agencies and employers in the community, than equivalents they had experienced elsewhere.
The staff group felt the prison to be safe and, as with the prisoners, viewed relationships between staff and prisoners positively. They also noted strong camaraderie and mutual support among staff, and the support offered to new officers. They rated management, noting good relationships at all levels, and praised the visibility of the Governor and her team. Staff also highlighted the new key worker scheme, which the prison has been piloting, as a positive.
Like prisoners and front line staff, the focus group of Custodial Managers, Functional Heads and the Deputy Governor rated staff-prisoner relationships positively, and they described the prison as a safe place to work. They praised front line staff, noting their resilience, passion and pride, jailcraft, approach to prisoners, and ‘can do’ attitude. They also noted staff camaraderie and the support they offer one another. Gym staff were singled out for particular praise both for their work with prisoners and members of the local community (including their annual Christmas event for the elderly). Implementation of the new key worker scheme was good, and the staff care and welfare facility on site was also highlighted as a positive.
Though new in post, the Governor was fulsome in her praise both for frontline staff and managers, who she rated as the best she had worked with.