My second visit of the day involves some surprisingly scenic driving, from Forest Bank just outside Manchester, to Buckley Hall in Rochdale – where neither my driver nor I had been before. A very warm welcome on the gate which, as always, was much appreciated.
It’s got a complicated history – since the ‘Hall’ was demolished many years ago, it’s been an orphanage, and a public, private, and then public sector prison again. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing about it up close…
The managers praised ‘can do’ staff bringing ‘dignity’ and ‘mutual respect’ (e.g. all using first names) to ‘excellent’ staff-prisoner relations that the No.1 called ‘better than any other jail I’ve worked in’. They have a ‘No decision about me without me’ consultative approach. On ‘graduation’, POELTs’ families can visit new recruits at work for reassurance (they plan to extend this ‘to all staff’). ‘Key work was up and running’ and ‘the biggest positive in many years’. The staff mess was ‘well-used’ and ‘valued’, and the gardens and green areas made ‘a big difference’ for all, as did prison-wide charity events. Healthcare, catering and gym ‘worked closely’ to support healthy living – and the catering was ‘excellent’. Family support was ‘strong’ (including parental contact visits, parenting courses etc). Drug recovery services were praised, as was education & training with its strong employer links (e.g. the Recycling Lives charity guarantees a job & accommodation on release).
The prisoners felt ‘very safe’, and agreed there was an ‘excellent’ rapport with staff (‘who really want to help’), liked the use of first names, and said the No.1 was ‘very good’, highly visible, and approachable. They were consulted ‘on everything’ and the ‘very good’ Prison Council had quarterly meetings with the Deputy Governor and regular department meetings. Family support was ‘the best’ (including family and parental contact visits, ‘sitting next to’ partners, Story Book Dads with video, and parenting courses). They liked the charity ‘fun’ days and events, called the healthy food ‘phenomenal’, and praised the healthy living focus (including the prison Park Run) and ‘excellent’ gym staff and drug rehab support.
The officers said the prison was ‘safe’, with ‘very supportive’ managers (including a visible and approachable No 1), and supportive staff (‘lots of social events’) with ‘very good’ de-escalation skills, who had made POELTs very welcome. Staff-prisoner relations were ‘excellent’ and ‘informal but respectful’.