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 rated the staff and said relations between prisoners and staff were ‘good’. They liked the ‘amount of time out of cell, and valued the sporting opportunities in the jail, highlighting gym, the playing pitches and the annual sports day. They thought education and vocational training was ‘good’, and gave special mention to the bike shop. The library was ‘excellent’ – they particularly welcomed the regular talks organised for visiting authors. They also praised the healthcare team, mental health support, and drug services. They described visits, including family and parent/child visits, as ‘very good’, liked the ‘2 hours as standard’ length, and rated catering in visits too.
The Officers described ‘really good’ relationships between prisoners and staff, based on the approach and ‘excellent’ jailcraft skills of staff. They agreed with the prisoners about the quality of education and training on offer, and also praised the library and the talks given by visiting authors. Mental health support, and drug services were other positives mentioned by staff.
The managers praised staff, who ‘really cared’, as ‘excellent’. They highlighted the decency agenda ‘embedded in everything’ – and noted the Governor’s monthly ‘decency walkabout’ to monitor this. They said the prison ‘safe’ with comparatively ‘very low’ levels of violence and self-harm, and felt mediation offered to prisoners after violent incidents played a role in this, while photocopying all mail had helped reduce NPS levels. They, too, rated sporting activities, and singled out the annual sports day, and like prisoners thought visits another positive. They rated healthcare and mental health provision as ‘fantastic’. They also valued the range of reps and mentors, and monthly prisoner consultative committee meetings with the Governor and Head of Res. The ‘well used’ staff mess and staff family open days were seen as positives for staff.