My last stop in Devon on this visit is Exeter, which I rush down to from Channings Wood. Although the current prison is Victorian, the ‘County Gaol’ has a history dating back to Henry I (1100-1135).
I was last here on a Butler Trust visit, with our Royal Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, which is, admittedly, always a slightly different way of visiting a prison!
The prisoners said most staff were ‘very good’, many ‘brilliant’, and the gym staff ‘fantastic’. In-cell phones ‘transformed things’, helped family relations and reduced arguments on the wings. They liked standard two-hour visits and full day child-centred visits. The Apps Rep was ‘very helpful’ in logging applications and ‘sign-posting’ prisoners. They valued ‘buddies’ support for those with health & social care needs, and the Zero Tolerance Reps and Time Wise programme were felt to helpful in addressing challenging behaviour.
The staff noted ‘excellent team work’ in a fully staffed jail (with safety ‘much improved’), where new staff were welcomed and supported. The SMT won praise as ‘hardworking’, ‘effective’, ‘very visible’, ‘supportive’, and for giving thanks where due (‘a simple thing which means a lot’). SOs were similarly valued for their supportiveness and regularly giving praise. The morning full staff briefing was ‘excellent’, and ‘effective’ annual team-building days highly valued, as was the ‘employee of the month’ scheme. They also rated the ‘excellent’ ‘rapid response’ to incidents, and the ‘very good’ keyworker scheme.
Managers highlighted the approach to tackling disruptive behaviour, inc. the Zero Tolerance programme & Time Wise course, and, through links with local police and the CPS, ensuring crimes committed in jail are prosecuted. Keywork was ‘fantastic’ and in-cell phones a ‘real boon’. They rated the support from prisoner ‘buddies’ & staff, for those with complex needs, and praised the palliative care suite and end-of-life family support. The gym, and staff & prisoner-led sessions for local children with learning disabilities, were also praised, as was the ‘excellent’ support provided by local organisations in helping prisoners find housing and employment on release. Annual open days for staff families were valued for helping reduce family members’ anxiety about their loved ones.