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 and staff-prisoner relations, based on first-name terms, that the No.1 called ‘better than any other jail I’ve worked in’, and noted a ‘No decision about me without me’ consultative approach to prisoners. Key work was ‘the biggest positive in many years’. Healthcare, catering and gym ‘worked closely’ to support healthy living – and the catering was ‘excellent’. Family support was ‘strong’ (inc. parental contact visits, parenting courses etc). Drug recovery services were praised, as was education & training with its strong employer links (e.g. Recycling Lives which offers a job and accommodation on release). Allowing POELTs’ families to visit helped reassure them about their loved ones’ safety, while the staff mess was ‘well-used’ and ‘valued’, and the gardens and green areas made ‘a big difference’ for all. Charity events involving both prisoners and staff were positives too.
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’ (inc. family and parental contact visits, ‘sitting next to’ partners, StoryBook 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 (inc. the prison Park Run) and ‘excellent’ gym staff and drug rehab support.
The Officers said the prison was ‘safe’, with ‘very supportive’ managers (inc. 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’.