So, it’s the middle of the greatest summer in living memory and yet, somehow, it’s cold, drizzly and misty as I drive over the moors towards Princetown and one of the most famous prisons we have (it even has its own museum!).
As ever, as it looms into view, it’s an impressive site… and my first impression on entering: the gardens are amazing!! My second, there’s something different about Dartmoor, in a good way.
The prisoners said they felt ‘safe’ (more than they did in similar prisons) and thought staff relations were good. They liked the two-week, peer-led ‘new prisoner induction’, thought ‘peer buddies’ for prisoners with disabilities and social care needs ‘excellent’, and said integrating VPs into main location worked ‘very well’. They praised education & training (including Construction Skills Certification Scheme [CSCS] prep) and the ‘brilliant’ prison choir project. They liked all day family visits, and single cells (‘make a big difference’).
The officers called the jail ‘calm’, with a staff ‘family’ valued by managers and a ‘very’ visible and supportive No. 1 who ‘knows everyone’s names’ (and sends them all Christmas cards). They also liked Staff Recognition, a monthly training shutdown, wing staff rooms, gym use, an annual wellbeing day, outside family social events, and ‘family & friends’ open days. Team-based self-rostering was ‘brilliant’ (‘really helps’ family life), and communications (including daily briefings and the No.1’s blog) ‘very good’. They rated the integrated regime, and agreed on staff-prisoner relations, education, training, CSCS, and single cells.
Managers (including Deputy Governor)
The managers had fulsome praise for the ‘sense of identity’, ‘pride’ and ‘resilience’ of a staff group with a ‘team spirit second to none’, and for the No.1 (who, with the Dep, walks the prison weekly, and sees every part of it monthly). They also rated the Staff Recognition scheme, as well as wellbeing and training days, and the popular outreach activities for families and friends. They said staff retention was ‘very good’, and agreed with the others in rating the induction process, peer buddies, and popular education & training (citing attendance of ‘98% at last count’). They also valued the detailed care and management plans, with multi-disciplinary strategy review meetings, for very challenging prisoners.