My visit today was to a prison which has had a particularly difficult time of late, and news had broken only the day before that the jail was to be returned from the private sector to HMPPS. I still received a typically warm Brummie welcome on the gate though, and staff, prisoners and managers still had plenty of positives to tell me.
Prisoners said staff-prisoner relations were generally good, safety and cleanliness were improving, and keywork was ‘great’. They valued phones in cells and kiosks, and a wider range of TV channels than most jails. They highlighted visits (including evening visits & ‘fantastic’ family days), the gym (‘staff are excellent’), prison council, and KPMG-run ‘Restart’ business course, and said photocopying all mail had helped tackle spice. They praised the ‘very good’ No. 1 as someone who was ‘visible’, ‘gets things done’, ‘is a straight talker’ & ‘follows through’.
The Officers agreed about staff-prisoner relations, safety and cleanliness, as well as the impact of phones & kiosks, keywork and photocopying the mail. They described the Governor as ‘inspirational’ and someone who was ‘first in and last out’, listened to and supported staff, gave praise where it’s due, and was very visible across the jail. They highly valued the No. 1’s full staff morning briefing (with tea & coffee!), commitment to ensuring infractions are punished and all assaults reported to police, and support for staff who’ve been assaulted, and said staff morale had improved significantly of late.
Managers too agreed with staff & prisoners about relationships, safety and cleanliness, phones & kiosks, keywork and photocopying the mail; they also shared their assessments of the No 1 and agreed about the morning meeting (including tea & coffee) which ‘sets the tone for the day’. They said a CM on each wing, and daily inspections by SMs, also improved control, decency and staff morale. Prisoner engagement and consultation, including wing forums, a prison council, and a good range of peer mentors, were also highlighted, as was a multi-disciplinary individualised approach to managing vulnerable and challenging prisoners, and ‘mental health first aid’ training for all staff and relevant prisoner mentors. The staff recognition scheme was another positive.