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HMP ALTCOURSE Prison Regime Info


Higher Lane Fazakerley Liverpool L9 7LH image of HMP ALTCOURSE prison

Phone No.

0151 522 2000

Governor / Director

Director: Bob McColm


Male Local


North West

Operational Capacity


Cell Occupancy

Single, double and multiple

Listener Scheme


First Night Centre



Chair: Eileen Darbyshire
Vice Chair: Julie Hartless-Jones

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Category ‘B’ core local prison holding sentenced and remand prisoners. There are seven house blocks divided into individual units. Units hold between 60 and 95 prisoners and are named after fences on the Grand National steeplechase course. Young adult prisoners live alongside prisoners over 21 on all units except the vulnerable prisoner unit.


Opened on 1st December 1997 HMP Altcourse was the first designed, constructed, managed and financed private prison in the UK.

It was restructured from a category A to a category B core local prison in June 2003 and subsequently expanded with the opening of a further house block holding 180 prisoners.

HMP Altcourse is is managed by G4S Custodial Services


There are seven house blocks divided into individual units. Units hold between 60 and 95 prisoners and are named after fences on the Grand National steeplechase course.

Each unit is also colour coded to ease identification.

The prison is divided down its centre by buildings containing the support services, such as the healthcare centre, resettlement unit, sports centre, education department, segregation unit and first night centre. 

  • Beechers: Remand and short-term sentenced prisoners;
  • Canal: Medium- to long-term sentenced prisoners and a structured regime for prisoners with behavioural difficulties;
  • Furlong: Induction and detoxification unit;
  • Melling: Short-term sentenced prisoners and a compact based drug testing unit
  • Reynoldstown: Sentenced prisoners carrying out full-time education and vulnerable prisoners;
  • Valentines: Medium- to long-term sentenced prisoners working in industries and on an enhanced regime;
  • Foinavon: Full mixture of prisoners wishing to take part in vocational training courses

Young adult prisoners live alongside prisoners over 21 on all units except the vulnerable prisoner unit.

Reception Criteria

HMP Altcourse is a Category B local prison receiving prisoners from the courts in Merseyside, Cheshire and North Wales. The prison accepts young offenders and adult male prisoners who are both sentenced and remanded by the courts.


The following morning after arrival at Altcourse, the induction process begins and normally lasts for a period of 3 to 5 days.

  • Prisoners receive a Gym Induction and, once completed, will be allowed to attend the gym for 1 hour each day;
  • Prisoners are escorted to the Prison Chapel where the Chaplain informs them of their role within the prison;
  • If requested, prisoners are taken to Healthcare where they are seen by one of the prison doctors.

As part of the Induction process prisoners are required to complete an education assessment test and are issued with a timetable for attending education.

An Induction Officer delivers a class with information prisoners will need to know while at Altcourse, they also complete an initial custody plan and deal with any immediate needs they may have.

Within the first few days prisoners are interviewed by a number of different people;

  • a Job Centre Plus Advisor, who will help receive any benefit payments owed to them;
  • a Resettlement Officer who will assess housing needs and if a remand prisoner;
  • a Bail Officer.

During the induction process prisoners have the opportunity to speak with a member of the I.M.B. (Independent Monitoring Board) who informs them of their role within the prison.

If prisoners have substance misuse issues on reception, they are assessed by a
specialist doctor on reception and once treatment is confirmed, will be housed on the Induction Detox Unit where they receive detox/maintenance medication appropriate to the needs of the individual prisoner. If located on this unit prisoners receive the normal induction and also participate in psychosocial interventions.

If prisoners have completed a telephone indemnity form on reception, they will receive their personal telephone PIN number in the first few days, credited with £2.


  • Own clothes
  • Own bedding (enhanced)
  • PlayStation (PS2 only)
  • Television with Freeview (£1 per week)

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Mon: 07:30-19:15

Tue: 07:30-19:15
Wed: 07:30-19:15

Thu: 07:30-19:15
Fri: 07:30-17:30

Sat: 08:30-17:15
Sun: 08:30-17:15



Mon: 17:30-19:15
Tue: 17:30-19:15
Wed: 17:30-19:15
Thu: 17:30-19:15
Fri: 12:30-17:30
Sat: 08:30-12:30 & 13:30-17:15

Sun: 08:30-12:30 & 13:30-17:15 


Own clothes, own bedding (enhanced), PlayStation (PS2 only), television with Freeview (£1 per week)

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The Sports Centre facilities at Altcourse consist of- The Main Sports Centre which has a comprehensive Weights area, a Cardio suite and a full size Sports Hall. A Three quarter length Astroturf football pitch and a Three quarter length concrete sports pitch. There is a smaller Gymnasium with a Weights room and Cardio facilities designed specifically for the Vocational training units.

They run a number of courses for older people; one being the over 40's club. This session is designed for those over 40. Prisoners are given guidance and advice, programmes are designed for specific needs.

Courses such as Focus Gym Instructor Level 1, 2, 3- B.W.L.A and C.S.L.A are also available with no upper age limit imposed.

Remedial classes are run for those needing help and advice in the following areas-Injury Rehabilitation , Weight loss and Cardio rehabilitation.

The Sports Centre has facilities for Disabled prisoners which include a toilet and access to fitness equipment and weights.

A Stress Management and Remedial Therapy session is run on a daily basis; the session has been designed for those with a background of mental health problems.

The following are normally available:

  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Circuit Training
  • Hockey
  • Indoor Bowls
  • Light Circuit Training
  • Over 40s
  • Over 50s
  • Remedial
  • Soccer
  • Soft Tennis
  • Sports Field
  • Volleyball
  • Weight Loss Programme
  • Weight Training

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Two 40 minute sessions a week.

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Every prison has a Chaplaincy department managed by a Co-ordinating Chaplain and supported by admin staff, other Chaplains and ‘Sessional Chaplains’ (faith leaders who visit for specific services or sessions). The Chaplaincy is considered an important part of the prison structure. When a prisoner arrives at a prison they are usually seen by a Chaplain within 24 hours and are invited to register as a specific religion (if they haven’t already done so) and can change their declared religion at any time.

The Chaplaincy does far more than just pastoral care; they often are able to lend radios, musical instruments and typewriters; they may take part in Sentence Planning and are available as a ‘listening ear’ and are able, sometimes, to help with domestic problems. Most Chaplaincies run various courses and activities which may or may not have a religious theme. Every prisoner has the right to follow their religious practices and attend Chapel for services pertaining to their declared faith (even when segregated).

The Chaplaincy are able to organise faith activities for all main religions (as recognised by the Prison Service; this does not, at present include Rastafarian as a specific religion) and contact faith representatives to visit individual or groups of prisoners for the purpose of religious activities. The chaplaincy can also intercede on matters of religious dress, diet and artefacts. A full list of permitted artefacts can be found in the Glossary Section under Religious Artefacts.

You can contact the Chaplaincy by letter or by telephoning the main prison number and asking to speak to the Chaplaincy. The Chaplaincy works as part of the prison and cannot, therefore, guarantee confidentiality (they can explain this to you in detail). Prisoners can contact the Chaplaincy in person or by Application.

Chaplaincy Statement of Purpose (HMPS)
The Chaplaincy is committed to serving the needs of prisoners, staff and religious traditions by engaging all human experience. We will work collaboratively, respecting the integrity of each tradition and discipline. We believe that faith and the search for meaning directs and inspires life, and are committed to providing sacred spaces and dedicated teams to deepen and enrich human experience. We contribute to the care of prisoners to enable them to lead law-abiding and useful lives in custody and after release.

The Co-ordinating Chaplains at Altcourse is: Katy Canty/Martin Earl

Full-time Anglican, Catholic, Free Church and Muslim Chaplains. Visiting Muslim Chaplain.

Facilities are provided, including Sessional Chaplains for all other faiths.

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The healthcare staff consists of registered general nurses, mental health nurses, healthcare assistants as well as two General Practitioners, and many visiting specialists.

Nursing staff are on site 24 hours a day.

There is an in-patient facility available which caters for patients who require closer observation of their condition.

Doctors surgeries are held every morning Monday to Friday.

All newly admitted prisoners, transfers and automatic releases will be seen including prisoners that may need to be seen for substance misuse.

Routine Doctors surgeries are held in the afternoon, again Monday to Friday.

There are no routine appointments at the weekend and on bank holidays; however emergencies will be seen based on individual need.

As well as the services listed below they also offer a Screening Service for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and other sexually transmitted conditions including regular and follow up services for Asthma, Diabetes and CHD.




NHS Healthcare Information for Altcourse

Prison Healthcare Manager: Christine McCabe
Tel: 0151 522 2066




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Literacy, Numeracy and IT are all delivered up to level 2. Art, ESAL (English as second language), drugs awareness and parenting skills qualifications are also available. Correspondence courses available on an individual basis.

Literacy, numeracy and IT is linked with vocational training with 240 general education places and 180 vocational training places.

Classes available include;

  • Art
  • Basic Education
  • Computer Studies
  • Cookery
  • Crafts
  • Creative Writing
  • Drama
  • English
  • Key Skills
  • Languages
  • Life & Social Skills
  • Maths
  • Music
  • Open University
  • Pottery



OFSTED inspect education establishments from schools to colleges to prisons. They inspect education facilities within prisons and have inspected Altcourse.

To read their latest report click here

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Employment and workshops include;

  • Bin Party
  • Book Redistribution
  • Bricklaying
  • Carers
  • CD Recycling
  • Education Orderlies
  • Fabrics
  • Foreign National Orderly
  • Gardeners
  • Gym Orderlies
  • Industrial Cleaners
  • Joinery
  • Kitchen Workers
  • Laundry
  • Mentoring
  • Metal Fabrication
  • Orderlies in Various Departments
  • Outside Workers
  • Painting & Decorating
  • Plastering
  • Prison Radio Worker
  • Sandwich Production
  • Shop Retail
  • Unit Cleaners
  • Vehicle Maintenance

Accredited Qualifications

  • ASET certificate in welding
  • Bawla
  • CSRA
  • Focus 1, 2 and 3
  • Health & Hygiene Certificate
  • Health & Safety level 1 Certificate
  • NVQ Catering
  • NVQ in Bricklaying
  • Painting & Decorating
  • Plastering
  • Vehicle Maintenance & Joinery


Current Wages
Employed: Up to £28.00
Education: £9.99

Retired: £3.25 - £5.00
Long term sick: £3.25 - £5.00

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  • Alcohol Awareness
  • Anger Management
  • IDTS
  • In-Reach
  • Initiative Recovery
  • Victim Awareness

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  • 100% Housing Needs assessment on reception 
  • 100% Discharge interview.
  • Assistance with benefits and tenancies – closing these down or ensuring payment of benefits is maintained if appropriate.
  • Links with external agencies for employment, TNG and Connexions.
  • Housing needs paperwork is streamlined with all establishments using the same documents to assist prisoners when they move to alternative establishments.
  • ID Card scheme implemented for Welsh prisoners on release to assist in them claiming benefits etc.
  • Job Centre Plus offer a Job Search for prisoners close to release with prisoners serving under 12 months automatically being given priority. Prisoners serving over 12 months apply to Job search if required.
  • All prisoners requiring housing needs who serve under 12 months are case managed.
  • Welsh prisoners identified as having drug/ alcohol problems are referred to TSS if they are serving under 12 months. ( There is also a gate pick up service offered by TSS)
  • The opportunity to undertake ROTL for housing interviews is offered to some offenders. 
  • Staff undertake a through the gate approach and with specific cases escort them to their initial housing or train station to ensure they make their appointments.
  • Ex-Forces prisoners are linked into the British Legion who can offer financial assistance.
  • CAB Wales offer assistance to Welsh Prisoners.

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Ministry of Justice Performance Rating for this prison: 3
This is on a scale from 1 (serious concerns) to 4 (Exceptional) and is worked out by the Ministry of Justice taking into account 34 criteria such as overcrowding, purposeful activities etc. A score of 3 is considered a good performance. Published quarterly.

Average weekly hours of Purposeful Activity: 35.0 (2010)
This figure is supplied by each prison to the Prison Service. Actual hours are usually dependent on activities etc. and should be taken as the maximum time either in workshops or education over a whole week.

Both of these figures are published retrospectively by the MoJ and HMPS and may have changed since the figures were published but they give a simple comparison between prisons.

Parliamentary Information
CONSTITUENCY: Liverpool Walton
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Steve Rotheram(Labour)

Prisoners may write to either their ‘Home MP’ or the MP in whose constituency their current prison lies.
The address to write to is:
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA


Local Authority
Liverpool City Council
Contact through City Centre One Stop Shop
Municipal Buildings, Dale Street, Liverpool L2 2DH
Tel: 0151 233 3016
Click Here for link

You can contact the local authority on matters such as libraries, environmental health, trading standards, food hygiene, social services, education and electoral registration.

Trading Standards
The nearest Trading Standards department is at:
Liverpool City Council, Environmental Health & Trading Standards, Municipal Buildings, Dale Street, Liverpool, Merseyside L2 2DH
Tel: 0845 040506
Click Here for link

Trading Standards can help with problems with purchases such as weights and measures, ‘best by’ dates, pricing & faulty goods.


Most prisons now have PIN phones. Your relative or friend usually needs to apply to have your name and number on his/her telephone account. You will usually receive a call from the prison to check who you are and to ensure you are happy for them to call you. Prisoners cannot receive telephone calls.

There is no restriction on who prisoners can call except in the case of calls to journalists intended to be broadcast. In some cases child protection measures may mean extra checks on who they call.

Prisoners can normally make calls only during ‘association’ periods. Some prisons limit the length of time a call can last to avoid queues and people being disappointed. Prisoners’ telephone calls are very expensive; calls to landlines now cost 10p per minute and 37.5 p to mobiles (compared to 2p in a public phone box). In most prisons the phone calls can be listened to and/or recorded.

In general prisoners phone calls follow the same rules as for letters in as far as who can be contacted and what can be said. If the rules are broken the prison may terminate the call.

If a prisoner is newly convicted or transferred they should be offered an immediate ‘Reception’ phone call to tell you where they are. It may take a few days for numbers to be transferred or added.

When you write to a prisoner you must include your full name and address. In most prisons the letters are searched and can be read before being given to the prisoner.

You can write about anything but letters must not be obscene, name ‘victims’, or be a threat to discipline or security. Do not enclose any items with letters. Make sure you put sufficient postage to cover the costs (anything bigger than A5 counts as ‘large’). Prisoners can normally receive a ‘reasonable’ number of letters per week.

If you send greetings cards these should be of reasonable size and not padded or pouched. Do not send musical cards. If you are sending more than one card put them all inside one outer envelope, this saves postage. Remember to include your full details (you could put your details on a ‘Post-It’ note stuck to the card or include a letter which has your details).

Always put the prisoner’s full name and prison number. If the person has been moved their mail will be forwarded.

On conviction or transfer a prisoner should be given a ‘Reception’ letter to write to tell you where they are.
Prisoners are given a free letter each week to post out, they can send more, but at their own expense. Some prisons allow you to send in stamps.

You can send stamped address envelopes (address to yourself), for the prisoner to reply, to any prisoner in any prison.

Prisoners are not allowed to send you letters or information to be posted on social networking internet sites.

Remember all letters are opened and checked and may be read.

Full information about prisoners correspondence can be found in Prison Service Instruction 20011-006

You can usually send in photographs but in some prisons these must not include any image of the prisoner. Child protection measures may mean that some prisoners may not receive pictures of children, unless they are their own and were not ‘victims’. If you send pictures of children include an explanatory note identifying who the children are and their relationship to the prisoner.

It is not a good idea to send cash, this can get ‘lost’ in the prison. Prisons prefer Postal Orders, but you could send a cheque. Enclose a letter detailing who the PO/Cheque is for and who it is from.

  • Postal Orders; Make these payable to the prisoner's full name and number: Write your own name and address on the reverse.
  • Cheques: Make these payable to 'G4S' and write the prisoner's full name and number on the reverse, plus your name and address.

Money you send is paid into the prisoner’s ‘Private Cash’ account and they get access to a certain amount (depending upon IEP) each week [currently £15.50 for Standard prisoners]. Include your full detail in an accompanying letter or note. It takes about a week for the money to be credited to the prisoner.

For full information about visits please refer to our ‘Visit Info’ section for this prison. Visits are very important to prisoners. At most prisons you may not give any item to the prisoner. Any items you wish to give them must usually be posted to the prison, and often after the prisoner has placed an ‘application’ for authorisation to have it sent in. The items which can be posted in are very limited. Check with the prisoner first and wait until they confirm that you can post it.

If there is a serious emergency - close family serious illness, death, or other reason you need to inform the prisoner immediately, you should telephone the main prison number and explain the problem to the operator who will transfer you to the appropriate person. If you are unhappy about their response redial and ask to speak to the Chaplaincy. Prison staff will not pass on general messages but only critical and very urgent messages. You should provide full details of the prisoner including their number.

Support and Advice
There are many very good charities and agencies who offer support and advice to people with family or friends in prison. We have a special section ‘Help/Support’ which has details and contact information for many of these. Do not hesitate or feel shy about calling any of these; they are there to offer support and advice.

This service operates at this prison. Email a Prisoner enables you to send messages to prisoners, in the UK and Irish prisons that operate the service, from any computer, without any of the hassles of writing and posting a letter, and it costs less than a second class stamp!

Your message is delivered to the prison within seconds so that it can be delivered to the prisoner by the prison staff in the next delivery.

It is free to sign up to Email a Prisoner and only takes a few seconds - all you need is an email address (EMaP can help you if you don't have an email address).

Once a member you will be able to send a message to any prisoner in the UK or Ireland, provided you know their prisoner number, from just 25 pence per message.

Click Here for link to Email a Prisoner website


Story Book Dads/Mums
Story Book Dads/Mums operates at this prison.
The imprisoned parent records a story and a message which is then edited and enhanced using digital audio software and editors remove mistakes and add sound effects and music. Finally a CD is made, a personalised cover created, and the finished disc sent to the child. The whole service is free.

Click Here for more information


Prison Video Link (PVL)
All prisons with video link facilities have at least one courtroom and two briefing rooms where the defendant can hold a conference with their solicitor before and, if required, after their court hearing.

If court hearings are not taking place it may be possible for solicitors, barristers and Probation Officers to hold interviews with a prisoner via video link to save having to visit the prison.

The facility is also available to assist the Parole Board in dealing with oral hearings.

It should be noted however that court hearings must take priority. At other times, operational reasons may mean bookings are refused or cancelled at short notice.

To book the Video Link facility telephone: 0151 522 2000 ext 2085

Monitoring and Inspection


Prisons Inspectorate
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) regularly inspects prisons and produces a report of their inspection with recommendations for improvements.
Click Here to download a guide to inspections
Click Hereto visit our Library Section where you can download the latest inspection reports for all prisons
Independent Monitoring Board
Each prison has an Independent Monitoring Board made up of local people who visit the prison regularly to check on the treatment of prisoners. They produce an Annual Report.
Click Here to visit our Library Section where you can download current and earlier IMB annual reports
Click Here to download the IMB’s information leaflet; explaining who they are and what they do.
OFSTED, who check on teaching standards in schools also visit prisons and publish a report of their findings.
Click Here to visit our Library Section where you can download OFSTED reports for all prisons
Monitoring & Inspection
Our on-line Library has a special section containing information, reports and publications about the monitoring of prisons and related services.
Click Here to visit the ‘Monitoring and Inspection’ section of our on-line Library


Information in this section has been kindly provided by the individual prison and the Ministry of Justice. This is supplemented with information from various government websites, Inspectorates and IMB reports and specialist departments within the Prison Service, government, and regional assemblies/parliaments.
Some of the data is published retrospectively: IMBs/Visiting Committees publish their reports up to 6 months after the end of the reporting period and at different times throughout the year, HMCIP publish their reports up to 6 months after the inspection. Population and performance figures are the latest published but can be considerably out of date.
Please Note: Information is constantly changing: The information on our website is regularly checked but if you have additional information, or if you believe that any of our information is incorrect or any links appear to fail please click on ‘Contact’, below.
Before acting upon any information you are advised to contact the prison directly to ensure there have been no recent changes.

Last Update: October 2013

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