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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
UK's largest prison 'unacceptable'
HMP Liverpool has been threatened with privatisation

Prison overcrowding and poor industrial relations led to an "unacceptable regime" at the largest jail in western Europe, the Chief Inspector of Prisons has said.

Liverpool Prison was described as "seriously under-performing" by Anne Owers, who found that parts of the jail were generally unclean, had cockroach infestations and broken windows.

At the time of last June's inspection, inmates were able to shower and change their clothes just once a week.

Ms Owers said: "Liverpool was not delivering an acceptable regime for the prisoners in its care.

"The availability of association, exercise and showers was far below the average for other local prisons, with most prisoners having association only once a week, if that.

"Conditions on the induction wing, for newly-arrived prisoners, were among the worst we have seen and standards of hygiene and cleanliness there, and in the healthcare centre, were unacceptable."

We get to take a shower perhaps once or twice a week, and there is a problem getting hot water
Prisoner Ray Peel

Many single cells at Liverpool, which holds 1,500 inmates including those on remand, housed two prisoners who had to share an unscreened toilet.

Ms Owers said that opportunities for work and education had declined since the last inspection in 1999, with only 18% of prisoners having access to education, even though 95% had basic literacy and numeracy problems.

The inspector added that "poor industrial relations contributed to regime deficiencies".

The report found "prisoners' needs fell through the gap between agreed work patterns and regime requirements".

On the induction wing there was an infestation of cockroaches, broken windows and unclean toilet facilities, with some inmates lacking basic items such as bedding and toiletries.

In many cells two prisoners had to share an unscreened toilet

In the healthcare centre, vulnerable prisoners with mobility problems were in a small, dirty ward with blocked drains, and could not even open windows.

Good work in the resettlement unit did not reach the majority of prisoners, but there had been a "marked improvement in culture" since the previous inspection, it added.

The director-general of the Prison Service, Phil Wheatley, said: "The Prison Service had already identified Liverpool as an under-performing prison.

"It was for this reason that Liverpool was selected as one of the prisons to undergo performance testing.

'Shortcomings'

"This process is already under way and, with additional management support, Liverpool is planning a major improvement to the regime and its delivery.

"If the bid is to be successful it will have to address the many shortcomings this report identifies."

Liverpool and Dartmoor prisons were both threatened with privatisation last month, and performance testing is due to be announced for a further two jails next month.

The report's findings were echoed by prisoners at Liverpool.

Ray Peel, 44, who is serving life, said: "We get to take a shower perhaps once or twice a week, and there is a problem with the hot water in the prison.

"Everybody finds they are not getting out of their cells enough. There's too much lock-up."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Liverpool prison is one of the largest in western Europe"



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