I’m still in deepest Devon, and from Dartmoor it’s less than an hour’s drive, past the ponies, to reach Channings Wood, hidden among tiny villages on the outskirts of Newton Abbot (and a short hop from Torquay, whose Gleneagles Hotel inspired Fawlty Towers).
Originally a camp and shooting range built by the United States as part of the preparations for the 1944 invasion of Europe, it opened as a prison in 1974.
The prisoners praised education and vocational courses, including the involvement of prisoners in training their peers, and valued links with local employers, including regular ‘job fairs’, which helped ensure courses were relevant and improved job prospects on release. They liked two-hour visits ‘as standard’ and praised all-day family visits. They said the gym worked very well, and liked the range of courses and circuits for different fitness levels, as well as the Park Run, football competitions, and a prisoner & staff triathlon charity event. They also rated the strong focus on equality and diversity, and said staff were very supportive of members of minority groups.
The Officers said staff were very supportive of each another. They praised Senior Managers and Residential Governors, as well as a ‘highly visible’ and ‘approachable’ No. 1 ‘who knows everyone’s names’, as ‘very supportive’ of staff and ‘careful to give thanks where it’s due’, and they found the daily full staff briefing ‘extremely valuable’. They, too, praised education, training, and links with outside employers. They said prisoner progression pathways, from induction to resettlement, and with ‘good’ ROTL opportunities, were positives, also.
The managers too noted the supportive relationships among staff. They also valued the full staff briefing each morning and praised the Governor’s visibility and support for staff. They highlighted a strong focus on thanking staff’s good work, from the Governor down, including in the daily briefing and Governor’s weekly blog. They noted the involvement of outside ‘partner agencies’ across the regime, echoed the prisoners views on education & training, job fairs & employer links, as well as visits, and rated regular ‘celebration of success’ events, to which families were invited. They also highlighted occasional amnesties for weapons, drugs and phones, which had worked ‘very well’.