Another very early start today as I set off for the first of two visits in a day to prisons in the female estate, starting with Drake Hall in Staffordshire. Mornings are not my thing, but the unseasonably lovely weather, surrounding countryside, and the warm welcome I received, sugared the pill nicely.
Managers (including Governor)
Managers highlighted low violence & self-harm, and staff-prisoner relationships. They rated mental health care, and said it was the first whole prison and public-sector jail to attain ‘Enabling Environment’ and ‘Dementia-Friendly’ status, respectively. The noted free-movement from 7am-8pm, and strong prisoner engagement and consultation. They rated education and training, including ‘Halfords Academy’ and others providing employment post-release, and extensive ROTL opportunities. The food was ‘excellent’ with two hot meals a day. Family support and engagement, regular family days and lifer days, quarterly ‘celebration of success’ days to which families were invited, a charity clothes shop and WI group were all seen as positives, as was the annual Xmas party for staff families.’
The Officers also highlighted safety and good staff-prisoner relationships, and highly rated self-harm prevention, the mental health team, and counselling provision for the women. Employment training and links with local employers were again a positive. The charity Pact and local CRC were singled out for family and housing support. The Chaplaincy’s support for both staff and prisoners was ‘bang on’, and the Governor was seen as highly supportive towards staff.
The women too praised staff-prisoner relationships, the supportive approach of staff and enabling environment. They highly valued the ‘open’ regime, and the freedom, responsibility and self-reliance it provided. They also rated a wide range of training and employment opportunities, including interview-training by ‘Work Smart’, and highlighted OMU’s 7-day ‘drop-in’ service. Support for families (including the ‘fantastic’ family days, with staff in ‘civvies’ and plenty of activities, and lifer & long-termer days) were highlighted too. The charity clothes shop, the quality of the food, the coffee shop (where they can meet friends in their spare time), and the greenery and cleanliness of their living environment were also positives.