Thursday, 20 May 2010

Stepping inside HMP Altcourse - life and work on the inside.

This morning I attended an unusual event with Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, who have a series of unlikely venues for networking under the name Area 51. It was at HMP Altcourse, a category B local prison for Merseyside, Cheshire and North Wales.

Getting there proved a challenge. I left my parent's home in plenty of time and being organised had set my Sat Nav the night before ..... for the Liverpool venue I was due at in the afternoon!!! Stupid me took ages for the penny to drop as I was so organised, wasn't I?! Once I realised my stupid mistake, I corrected myself and still felt confident I would be on time. However, the postcode takes you to a back lane which is now blocked off and there were no signs telling me otherwise! Luckily for me another car was doing the same manoeuvrings to get out of the fix - we consulted and after several more wrong turns and asking friendly pedestrians we made the venue - late but succeeded where 15 others had not!

14 years ago I had entered another environment which I previously hadn't considered myself 'to be the type' - in a psychiatric hospital. That experience has taught me not to judge others. Many of us have possibly walked a fine line between the right and wrong side of the law and I have a 'there but for the grace of God go I' attitude these days.

The prison is modern, spacious and seems to have a passion for making a positive change for the inmates, providing them with opportunities to work in a variety of workshops and activities. I could almost feel that considering the deprived and poverty-stricken backgrounds some must be from, that HMP Altcourse is comfortable. I was impressed with the relationships between the staff and inmates - all made us feel very welcome.

We ate breakfast in the chapel and then had a tour of some of the workshops and one of the accommodation block. Of course security was very high and every door, gate and fence was locked and unlocked behind us but it was nonetheless an informative and enjoyable morning. Thank you Jenny and team!

Some of the other members I chatted to were

Jon Harris, of Launch Resources which is a recruitment company for IT and financial services.
Joanne Finnerty, branch manger at the business connection
Clare Beavan, Philanthropy Development manager at Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services
Gill Underwood, Recognition Express Wigan and Wirral

John Arnold, Head of Enterprise and Vocational Training at HMP Altcourse.

So where are we going next Jenny?

Elaine Hanzak

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