On a crisp but beautiful Valentine’s Day, it was off to Erlestoke, nestled in the truly lovely Wiltshire countryside just outside Devizes, and built in the grounds of the former Erlestoke Manor House. I got lost last time I drove here last time (when The Princess Royal came to visit), so I opted for the safer option of a train and taxi this time.
The Officers described a safe and calm prison, with very good staff-prisoner relations and a culture of trust, to which prisoners responded positively. Keywork was a positive for everyone, as were the gardens and grounds, and cleanliness. They rated the wide range of work and training opportunities, and rapid allocation to them. They valued the daily briefing for operational staff, visibility of management and a ‘culture of thanks’, as well as the formal staff recognition scheme, with nominations from both prisoners and staff. They noted strong camaraderie and support among staff, and appreciated the annual Christmas party and summer barbeque, which were well attended by staff.
Managers also noted a safe and calm jail, with good staff-prisoner relationships. They too highlighted the physical environment and contribution of staff and prisoners to it. They noted a strong, individualised focus on safer custody, and commitment to equalities. They valued the quarterly prison council and monthly wing forums, and range of peer mentors and support workers – and highlighted the prisoner ‘public health trainers’ (supported by the local authority), patient health forum, and Andy’s Man Club. Probation, healthcare, and education (including ‘Learn Together’ with Bath Spa Uni.) and ‘Arts & Lit festival’, were singled out, as were the quarterly magazine by and for prisoners, and staff recognition.
The prisoners praised education (‘best I’ve ever seen’), library (‘exceptional’), ‘Arts & Lit festival’ and ‘Learn Together’ initiative. The farms and gardens were highly rated, as was the approach to diversity and support for over 50’s. They valued the prison magazine, Prison Council, and range of peer mentors and support workers. Family visits were another positive, as was a relatively relaxed regime. The ‘Friends of Erlestoke’ charity, which provide a range of services to prisoners and help with transport for families, was also singled out.