We arrived at Grendon in the early afternoon, after a morning spent at nearby Bullingdon. I actually did a placement here a few years ago and it was great to be back among familiar faces and sights.
The Governor met us first – unfortunately the Inspectorate had turned up unannounced at next door Springhill, for which he is also responsible, so our time was a little curtailed, but we still had a useful and informative meeting. And then it was on to one of the wings to meet first a group of prisoners, and then some of the staff.
Grendon is of course very different to other jails, but as the Chief Inspector noted recently, many of the principles and approaches taken here are applicable elsewhere, and the way the prison manages and engages a very difficult and challenging population is certainly noteworthy.
The Governor noted that the prison manages a challenging population yet levels of indiscipline and self harm are low, and staff-prisoner relationships are excellent. He stressed, among other factors: the collaborative approach taken by prisoners and staff; the level of responsibility given to prisoners and consultation with them; engagement with outside agencies; and a focus on maintaining strong family links. He also highlighted: support and recognition for staff; mutual support among staff and strong dialogue within staff teams; and training and development opportunities for staff. While he acknowledged that Grendon is very different to other jails, he stressed that many of the same principles and approaches could be taken in other establishments.
Staff emphasised communication and relationships between prisoners and staff as key positives, as well as the approach to handling and responding to challenging behaviours, with a focus on de-escalation and avoiding disciplinary sanctions where possible. Involving families and outside agencies as ‘part of the journey’ for prisoners was seen as important. Ongoing opportunities for staff training and development, as well as mutual support among staff, and staff recognition were all valued, as were events to enhance and share good practice.
Prisoners described Grendon in very positive terms. They particularly stressed relationships between prisoners and staff and the support provided to them by staff. They also highlighted the level of responsibility given to prisoners, with most domestic tasks devolved to them, with a range of elected ‘reps’ leading on particular areas. Prisoner representation consultation was another area rated positively, as was the opportunity to engage with outside organisations, including through prisoner-led events and open days, as well as the opportunities for extended visits with their families.