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’.
The officers had good things to say about the staff. They praised their jailcraft and the staff group’s relationships in general, and added that new staff were ‘made to feel very welcome’. They too thought staff-prisoner relations generally positive and, like the prisoners, were enthusiastic about the phones and kiosks.
Senior managers thought staff-prisoner relations were good, and also highlighted mental health support, support for older prisoners, and the impact of 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.