This is my second round trip from London to ‘Donnie’ this week, this time to visit Doncaster Prison, after visiting Moorland and Lindholme less than two days ago!
The prison is entirely surrounded by water, with the River Don on two sides, and the River Cheswold, reputedly Britain’s shortest river, completing the triangle to form Crimpsall Island. So it is literally a prison with its own moat which, for some reason, rather appeals.
The officers described a good rapport with prisoners (‘they don’t want to move’), a culture of ‘thank yous’ (read aloud at monthly full staff meetings), and Serco’s ‘strong’ staff recognition (locally and nationally). They praised staff communication and consultation by the Director – including monthly meetings of staff reps from every area. They liked the annual staff family ‘fun day’ and ‘good training opportunities for a local’. Keywork had just started and was ‘excellent’. They said there was ‘good time out of cell’ for a local, and rated regular job fairs bringing in employers from outside. The Butler Trust Award-winning Families First initiative was ‘excellent’. Visits (7 days a week, weekly family visits, hot food etc.) were highlighted, as was gym access and links to Doncaster Rovers (who come in monthly) as well as prisoners training as personal trainers. In-cell phones and kiosks were valued, as everywhere, as was the PAL (Prisoner Advice Line).
The managers agreed about the ‘strong sense of community’, and said staff were ‘very’ supportive of each other. They, too, valued staff recognition and ‘thank yous’, staff communications & consultation, and staff training & development. They highlighted the family ‘fun day’, the staff mess, and the staff Christmas Dinner (and vouchers). Green areas and flowers etc. were ‘good for everyone’s mental health’. They also rated staff-prisoner relations, in-cell phones & kiosks and the PAL.
The prisoners also valued in cell-phones & kiosks (as per everywhere else with them) and the PAL, and called work around families, and the visits, ‘outstanding’ and ‘better than anywhere else’. The gym and its staff were ‘brilliant’ (including good access and facilities and the Doncaster Rovers’ Football Academy). They rated the range of peer support workers – and picked out violence reps for extra praise – who they said ‘help calm down’ situations and reduced bullying.