From Drake Hall, it was straight-off in a cab for the 30 mile journey to my second women’s prison of the day, Foston Hall. The prison, parts of the buildings of which date back to the 17th Century, used to be a hunting estate, and it looks like it! It’s also the only prison I’ve come across (so far at least) with donkeys in the grounds…
The Officers described the jail as safe and ‘more of a community rather than a prison’, noting good relationships with the women and among staff. They described staff as ‘very caring’, with especially strong de-escalation skills. The family bonding unit, affording full-day visits, facilitated by a family engagement worker, was ‘great’ and the physical environment (large, open grounds, greenery, and animals) were a positive for both staff and prisoners. Open days for staff families, summer BBQ and staff well-being days were widely valued.
Managers described caring staff with good relationships with the women. They rated the management of complex & challenging women, based on a multi-disciplinary approach & involving families; also, support for women with children, birthing companions, family bonding unit, family days including tours of the grounds, and visitors centre run by ROTL’d prisoners. They highlighted trained health & well-being peer champions, a ‘healing trauma’ course and transgender training for staff run by prisoners, and monthly prison council meetings with the No. 1. ‘Distraction packs’ on reception, medication in possession, basic education and two social workers for the women were positives; as were the grounds and animals, well-being days for prisoners & staff, events for staff & families, and a staff counsellor.
The women rated relationships with staff and their caring approach, and the prison’s rehabilitative culture. They valued the ‘semi-open’ regime and said the grounds were ‘amazing’. They highlighted the range of peer mentors, and the vocational qualifications they could achieve, and noted their involvement on induction. They rated the ‘Cameo’ programme for women with personality disorders, and the ‘super-enhanced’ wing. Support for families, including family visits and the family bonding unit were particular positives, as were the gym (accessible daily), in-reach mental health services, and the animal sanctuary.