Guys Marsh is on the site of a former US Military Hospital. It’s also located just below Shaftesbury in Dorset, home to ‘Gold Hill’ which was made famous, in 1973, as the location for the Hovis ‘Boy on a Bike’ TV advert (once voted Britain’s favourite).
Dorset is a truly beautiful corner of the world, so it was a considerable pleasure to be visiting Guys Marsh on an unseasonably lovely day in November.
The CMs and SOs thought the jail ‘safer’ than similar prisons, with ‘very caring’ but ‘quite informal’ staff having ‘very good’ relations with prisoners. They noted a strong focus on ‘encouragement and praise not shouting and criticising’. Joint staff-prisoner events, including a community fair, coffee morning and sport, were making ‘a huge difference’. Staff management of complex, challenging and vulnerable prisoners was thought ‘better than other jails’, and they highlighted families’ involvement in planning and support. Keywork was ‘working really well’ and in-cell phones praised, as elsewhere. They liked monthly prisoner-manager wing forums, and thought staff-manager relations good (with a ‘highly visible’, ‘proactive’ and ‘supportive’ Governor). They rated the daily full staff briefing attended by the No. 1 and Deputy alongside senior managers, and also liked the ‘strong culture’ of giving thanks and due credit to staff for work well done.
The prisoners said it was ‘the best Cat C in the country’ with ‘great’ staff who ‘really care’ and used their first names. A unique prisoner-driven charity Growth Project aims to build the whole community with opportunities (including some of the joint events the CMs & SOs liked) and even new staff training by prisoners using their take on effective jailcraft! They agreed on the in-cells phones and top management, and liked monthly wing prisoner-manager meetings, informal visits and regular family days, and a Friends of Guys Marsh rail-prison bus for visitors.
The officers rated the ‘very close knit’ supportive staff (and staff care team who ‘really go out of their way’), ‘plenty of informal socials’ out of work, and the daily full staff briefing attended by the ‘very good’ and a ‘highly visible’ Governor who is ‘approachable’, ‘listens’ and ‘supports staff’. They liked 2/3 of staff getting annual well-being days, and annual award and celebration events for staff held outside the jail. They, too, rated the prisoners’ family visits and in-cell phones.