Still in County Durham, I head to the beautiful town of Barnard Castle – also known as ‘Barney’ – to Deerbolt prison. The prison is overlooked by the magnificent 13th century Castle, once owned by Richard III, just half a mile away.
The grounds are pleasant and there’s a clean and very ‘open’ feel to the prison, which dates from 1973. As far as I can recall, I was last here in 1993, so it’s nice to be back.
The prisoners thought the staff were good, and had good relationships with prisoners. They liked the ‘decent’ amount of time out of cell, and had good things to say about sports – they highlighted the playing pitches and the annual sports day. They thought education and vocational training was good, and gave special mention to the bike shop as well as the ‘excellent’ library – they were very positive about the regular talks given by authors. They also praised the healthcare team, mental health support, and the drug services. They described visits, including family and parent/child visits, as ‘very good’, and liked their ‘2 hours as standard’ length. The food was also given a ‘thumbs up’.
The officers described staff as ‘great!’ and called relationships with prisoners ‘really good’. They agreed with the prisoners in praising education, training, the library (including author talks), mental health support, and drug services.
Managers (including Deputy Governor)
The senior managers praised staff who ‘really cared’ as ‘excellent’. They liked the staff mess and staff family open days. They highlighted the decency agenda ‘embedded in everything’, with its focus on a clean and decent environment. (The No. 1 does a monthly ‘decency walkabout’ check). They thought the prison safe and had ‘very low’ levels of violence and self-harm compared to other YOIs, adding that mediation was offered to prisoners after violent incidents. They, too, praised the sports day and prisoner family visits, and called healthcare and mental health provision ‘fantastic’. They rated the prisoner consultative committee and reps, and pointed to monthly Governor and Head of Residential meetings. They also thought photocopying all mail helped reduce NPS levels.