Bronzefield is a modern jail, opened in 2004, catering for women prisoners. It’s a 15 minute walk from Ashford station, or at least it is if you’re walking from Ashford in Surrey – it’s rather further from its rather larger namesake, Ashford in Kent. I’ve been here a few times before and received a warm welcome on my return.
Managers described staff-prisoner relationships as ‘truly outstanding’. They rated the local, strengths-based approach to recruitment and said retention was high. They highlighted a strong focus on staff – including well-being days, staff recognition, weekly newsletter (including ‘thank you’s and human interest stories), monthly ‘breakfasts with the Director’, personalised Christmas/birthday cards, and regular staff forums – and noted the Director tours the prison every day. Phones and kiosks were positives, likewise learning and skills training, with a focus on market-entry qualifications (including hair & beauty, and business enterprise), visits facilities, and support for families. The range of peer workers and their integration in to the regime were also positives, as was the Prison Council which meets regularly with the Director and is elected by both prisoners and staff.
The prisoners praised the staff, and relations with them, and valued being referred to as ‘residents’. Phones in cells and kiosks on the wings were highly valued. The Prison Council was also valued and seen as active and effective, as was the wide range of peer mentors and supporters. The facilities on visits, and the staff (‘warm and welcoming’), were especially highly praised; and education and training opportunities were also seen as a positive.
The Officers felt the prison was safe, with ‘excellent’ staff-prisoner relations, and noted strong, supportive relationships among staff across the jail. They highlighted phones and kiosks as significant positives for both prisoners and staff, and rated the induction process, employment opportunities and ‘through the gate’ support for the women. The wide range of peer mentors and support workers were also rated, as was the Prison Council. The Director was seen as visible, supportive and approachable; and staff communications and consultation, Christmas and birthday cards, and staff recognition were also much valued.