‘Dramatic improvements’ at prison which had worst ever conditions – report

HMP Liverpool has been praised for making dramatic improvements Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

A prison criticised as having some of the worst conditions ever seen by inspectors has been praised for making dramatic improvements.

In 2017 HMP Liverpool was the subject of one of the most damning reports in years by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, which found there was an “abject failure” to provide suitable conditions.

Better known as Walton Prison, the category B jail, built in 1855, now holds around 700 inmates.

It was found to be ridden with litter, dirt, rats and cockroaches, with problems with violence and drugs.

Later it emerged that drones were being seized at a rate of more than one a week at the prison.

The findings of the previous inspection prompted an unprecedented investigation by MPs, who warned that the conditions were symptomatic of the wider failings in prisons across the country.

A new governor was drafted in, the number of inmates was cut by around 500, and a refurbishment programme begun.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said the impact of such measures has been “dramatic” and the rise in standards from the lowest to highest ratings in two years was a “remarkable achievement” but much still needed to be done.

The largely positive report on the inspection in August and September did raise concerns about a small rise in levels of violence – some of which was serious – and there were “still too many drugs entering the prison”.

But Mr Clarke said the “squalor and filth” had gone and there was now a “culture of care” with a “real change in the quality of leadership”.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the “very encouraging report” also contained “crucial messages” for the Justice Secretary, adding: “With 500 fewer prisoners in the prison and dilapidated accommodation taken out of use, the leadership team have been given a fair chance to make a difference.

“Every prison deserves the same opportunity, and it is only ministers who can deliver it.

“If they overcrowd Liverpool again in the future, there should be no confusion about who is accountable for the consequences.”

Phil Copple, director-general for prisons at HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), said: “The turnaround at HMP Liverpool is an impressive achievement for the prison’s staff and senior leaders, and I’m glad that their progress has now been recognised by the chief inspector in such positive terms.

“I’m confident that the prison’s progress will continue.”