The weather had turned seasonably cold for my visit to Gartree, it is January after all! Built in 1965, Gartree is a long-term Category B prison catering for indeterminate prisoners – lifers and IPPs – and has a strong focus on risk-focused interventions. It’s located in Market Harborough, in Gallow Field Road, and it doesn’t take much of an imagination to work out what used to go on there.
Officers felt the prison was safe and settled with good staff-prisoner relationships (‘better than most’), and attributed much of this to staff management and de-escalation skills. They noted a wide range of opportunities for prisoners, inc. offending behaviour programmes, the PIPE unit, Gartree TC (‘GTC’) and TC+ for those with learning disabilities. They praised education and training, singling out the Sue Ryder bike repair shop, and family visits. The staff recognition scheme, and two monthly shutdowns for training and staff briefings were positives, and new staff were welcomed and well supported by more experienced colleagues.
Managers agreed staff-prisoner relationships and safety were good and praised the prisoner management skills of staff. They also noted a wide range of opportunities for prisoners, highlighting in particular education (‘excellent staff and courses’), workshops (inc. Sue Ryder shop), PIPE, GTC and TC+. The dedicated ‘Listeners’ cell, monthly family visits, and gift-giving scheme (allowing men to spend extra private cash on gifts at Christmas and Valentines) were all highlighted, as was the prisoner council (see prisoners’ comments). The layout of the prison, the grounds (‘lots of greenery and trees’, ‘good for staff and prisoners’), as well as estates management and gardens party, were all praised.
Prisoners too noted good staff-prisoner relationships and safety, and rated the specialist PIPE, TC and TC+ units. They also praised education and workshops, again singling out the Sue Ryder bike shop. They said family visits were ‘excellent’, and that prisoners could attend up to four a year. They highlighted in particular the prisoner council – a 7-member elected body meeting monthly with the Governor – which was ‘highly effective’, gave prisoners a voice, helped improve relations between prisoners and staff, and reduced tensions between prisoners. They also valued the wide range of prisoner reps and mentors.