After a fairly intense round of long distance visits over the last few weeks, and a number of similarly far flung visits planned during October, it was good to be a bit closer to home today for my first visit to Aylesbury – although the walk from the station was slightly longer than I’d bargained for (not helped by my notoriously poor sense of direction, which added a good half a mile to proceedings).
The officers said they worked well as a team, ops and non-ops ‘pulled together’, and there was a good rapport with prisoners. They rated ‘visible management’, the Governor’s weekly rounds, and frequent ‘back to the floor’ days, and also liked staff briefings, by area, every morning. The gym and chaplaincy were ‘excellent’. As elsewhere in the estate, in-cell phones had made ‘a big difference’. The Redemption Roasters coffee makers (i.e. more than baristas) training program was praised as ‘excellent’ and had helped numerous prisoners get jobs.
The senior managers had fulsome praise for the staff’s ‘courage’, ‘resilience’, and ‘excellent’ camaraderie. They noted good support for detached staff (many ‘want to stay’), and liked regular staff well-being days and the monthly training shut down. They cited a good range of OBPs, ‘excellent’ drug services and mental health support, and a (unique) ‘Pathways’ daycare programme for prisoners with PD, alongside all staff training in managing PD and complex needs. They also rated healthcare’s complex care (including weekly case reviews). They praised family support, including monthly family visits, ‘Fathers & Children’ days every few months, annual ‘Lifer Days’ (run by Pact), Storybook Dads, and quarterly ‘celebrations of achievement’ with families invited in. Redemption Roasters, the Chaplaincy, and gym staff and facilities all got the thumbs up, as did a dedicated local police team for suspected crimes in prison. The safer custody team was ‘very strong’, with families brought in on ACCTs to provide support, and Listeners invited to regular safer custody meetings. They also liked the Prisoner Council, monthly meetings with governors and department heads, and the ‘Best Kept Wing’ Competition.
The prisoners also said the gym, its staff, and Prisoner Council were very good. In-cell phones (including to the Samaritans 24/7) were ‘excellent’, as were single cells. They also liked the good educational and personal development opportunities.