Durham is a lovely city, founded when monks from Lindisfarne brought the remains of Cuthbert, ‘the patron saint of Northern England’, to rest here. The prison itself is Georgian – 2019 will mark 200 years since it first took in prisoners – and overlooked by the historic Cathedral and Castle, which are both now part of a World Heritage site.
Throw in a beautiful May morning and it all made for a very pleasant walk up from my hotel to be met, in turn, with a cheery warm welcome on the gate.
The prisoners thought staff-prisoner relations were generally good, with approachable senior managers and decent levels of consultation (they highlighted PIDs wing reps having weekly meetings with the residential governor). They called the mental health team and its specialist unit ‘excellent’, and said the substance misuse services were ‘very good’, too. They were also positive about support for older prisoners. They liked the prison being ‘clean’. In-cell phones were called ‘game changing’, and the wing kiosks ‘a big help’, bringing benefits to both prisoners and staff.
The Officers, like the prisoners, said relationships between them were generally positive. They agreed with prisoners about the impact of phones in cells and kiosks on the wings, which they felt had improved safety and relations with staff. They felt that their jailcraft, and especially their de-escalation skills, helped to maintain control within the jail. They also rated relations between staff and the support they provide to one another, added that new staff were ‘made to feel very welcome’ and supported by their more experienced peers.
Senior managers thought staff-prisoner relations were good, and also highlighted mental health support, support for older prisoners, and the impact of in-cell phones and kiosks. They added praise for the management of difficult prisoners, and said photocopying mail and a designated search team had ‘really helped’ to start to reduce Spice. They, too, were enthusiastic about the ‘really good’ PIDS workers. They noted their role in ‘decent’ prisoner consultation (and said they were ‘better than in a lot of other Cat B locals), and pointed out that outside agencies came in to keep them up to date on housing, benefits and other issues. The new key worker scheme pilot was ‘working really well’, and they also praised the ‘Thank you pads’, used by staff and prisoners to thank staff.