It’s January and my first visit of 2018 – on this occasion a relatively short hop from Butler Trust HQ. I’ve been to High Down on a number of occasions before, including lunch on more than one occasion at the excellent Clink restaurant, and accompanying our Patron The Princess Royal on a visit. You’re always guaranteed a friendly welcome to warm your cockles – a particular treat on a cold day like today. And once inside, both prisoners and staff had many positives to report. So all in all, a good way to kick off the year…
Local recruitment had allowed the prison to rapidly reach a full staff, which ‘has made a real difference’. Managers praised the friendliness and professionalism of staff. They highlighted staff recognition and support of staff, including a staff counsellor. They also noted a commitment to effective communication and consultation with staff, along with visible management, and ‘back to the floor days’, in which managers spend time shadowing frontline staff. The introduction of in-cell phones and kiosks on the wing were widely welcomed. Family visits and the ‘Homework Club’ were rated highly, as was education and training opportunities for prisoners. The range of peer mentors (including novel ‘communication orderlies’, similar to PIDs workers) were also highlighted.
As with managers, staff highlighted a friendly staff culture (‘we’re quite famous for it’) which they said was particularly appreciated by new staff and those visiting on detached duty. They also noted good relationships between prisoners and staff. They praised the visibility of management, including the ‘back to the floor days’, as well as management communications, including regular staff briefings and an ‘open door’ policy. The introduction of a staff counsellor, and dedicated support for new staff, were also welcomed. They rated family visits and education and training opportunities for prisoners as key positives.
The prisoners highlighted family visits and in-cell phones as positives which helped them maintain family relationships. They welcomed the introduction of kiosks on the wings, which they said helped in submitting apps, and organising visits, canteen and menu choices etc more effectively, as well as reducing pressures on staff and removing sources of potential conflict. Peer support mentors, including Listeners and the ‘communication orderlies’ were also highly rated.