My visit to Eastwood Park on a warm and sunny February afternoon followed a quick dash by taxi from a visit in the morning to Bristol. The two prisons are very different, not least since Eastwood Park is a women’s prison and rather smaller than its relatively near neighbour – and the gardens are lovely. It was opened in 1996 and previously held young male prisoners.
The women said the prison was safe, staff were ‘brilliant’, and the Chaplaincy were ‘amazing’. They rated healthcare, a full-time trauma-focused counselling psychologist, Drug Recovery Community (DRC) and 12-step programme, and ‘Stepping Stones’ mental health courses. Family support, including mother & baby, and all day family, visits run by Pact, were another positive, as were mentors on reception & induction, trained safer custody mentors, Listeners and Toe-by-Toe mentors. Access to distance learning and phones in cells were also valued highly, and the grounds were seen as a positive for both prisoners and staff.
The Officers described a strong sense of community and excellent relations between staff & prisoners. They too highlighted healthcare, the DRC, peer support mentors, and Pact-led family and mother & baby visits. They also highly rated the mother and baby unit, and felt education was a particular strength, including access to distance learning and ‘outstanding’ art classes. They agreed with the women about the impact of the grounds, and also noted the use of pastel shades throughout the prison, and the role of the ‘housekeeping’ work party in keeping the prison clean and preparing cells for new receptions.
Managers agreed the prison was safe with excellent staff-prisoner relationships, and praised the positive attitudes and caring approach of staff. They singled out reception & induction, and the role of peer mentors there, the personality disorder and mental health units, as well as the role of peer mentors in safer custody. They also rated education and the gym (with up to 13 sessions a week), as well as support for children and families provided by Pact. The gardens, cleanliness and low rise buildings were positives too. They felt staff were well supported by managers and the ‘excellent’ care team, said self-rostering worked well and was widely valued, and highlighted the availability of parking for staff!