Labour MP Bill Esterson takes a tour of Altcourse Prison and hea

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson with prison director John McLoughlin during his tour of Altcourse Prison.

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson took a tour of Altcourse Prison this week to hear what steps are being taken to stop inmates reoffending when they are released.

Bill was given a tour of the prison and met prison director John McLoughlin.

He heard from staff and inmates about the innovative measures being taken to rehabilitate prisoners.

Bill said: "I met two inmates who told me about their experiences of the care system. Both had been in care from the age of nine or 10 and felt that their time in care drove them to homelessness and crime.  They had already experienced abuse in various forms before being removed from their families and had been identified as having mental health problems from a young age, but were not given the support they needed from the care system to mitigate the affect these early experiences had on them.

"But they told me they were get the support they needed while in prison. Altcourse has launched a pilot scheme in the prison to rehabilitate inmates. Called SORI (Supporting Offenders through Restoration Inside), this intensive programme focuses on victim awareness, bringing inmates face-to-face with victims of crime.

"The prison uses a range of therapies aimed at addressing mental health problems that are linked to crime and re-offending. 

"I also had the chance to toured the dedicated ‘Family Wing’, which brings inmates nearing the end of their sentences into much closer contact with their family and external support network.

"Staff told me that the steps they take make a real difference to the lives of prisoners after they are released.

"It is vital we reduce re-offending. It costs a fortune to keep 84,500 people in prison in the UK so getting prisoners into a life away from crime makes sense. That is what I saw at Altcourse and I support what they are trying to achieve."

Bill saw the education programmes on offer at Altcourse and met with an art and design class where he spoke with an inmate working towards IT qualifications including City & Guilds and the European Computer Driving License.

Bill said: "Where inmates are released before getting their certificates, Altcourse works with local colleges to finish their qualifications outside the prison. Thirty per cent of prisoners in the last year came to the prison with a reading age below that of a 10 year old. The prison offers entry-level literacy and maths, and ESOL courses for foreign inmates.

"I was also given a tour of the Altcourse factory, where 28 inmates work full time in the warehouse manufacturing parts for sale through a furniture supplier. I saw first-hand the professional standards the inmates work to, completing City & Guilds qualifications and apprenticeships in joinery and welding.

"Staff at the prison recognise the importance of giving prisoners the skills needed to get into work when they are released so they don't turn back to crime. There are obviously difficulties in securing employment not just because of the current economic climate but because of the attitude towards ex-offenders on the part of employers. 

"But Altcourse works closely with employers and other education providers to forecast job opportunities, tailoring the training given to inmates to match market needs."

Bill also had the chance to speak to the director about how the MP can help children who are in the care system avoid falling into crime.

Bill said: "During my conversation with prison director John McLoughlin, we both agreed that the best way to improve the situation is to target children before they enter the care system or once they are in care and foster homes. 

"Through my work on the Children and Families Bill Committee and my Westminster work, I am committed to improving care and opportunities for looked-after children so that they don’t end up in the prison system.

"During my visit, I had the chance to see directly the consequences which a poor care system has on young people who are unfortunate enough to go through it.

"I would like to thank John McLoughlin and his team for showing me around Altcourse and the excellent work they do."

 

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