One the site of a former RAF base, Highpoint is set in the lovely countryside around Newmarket. It was previously two separate prisons (Highpoint and Edmunds Hill) which merged in 2011 into Highpoint North and South. It was a truly miserable day when I visited, cold and overcast, with a biting easterly wind, but the welcome was warm and I was immediately struck by how clean and quiet the prison was.
The Officers described staff-prisoner relations as good. They highlighted a decency drive, based on regular cell inspections to ensure prisoners have what they need and are looking after it, and a strong focus on cleanliness throughout the jail (including well-used bins in the grounds, and a ‘decency’ working party). They also mentioned the introduction of keywork and trained prisoner VR reps, and noted all prisoners involved in violence are interviewed and individual action plans prepared – all of which had contributed to improvements in behaviour and self-harm. Relations among staff were described as good, and new staff were made to feel very welcome. They felt the ‘Amends People Awards’, for both staff and prisoners, were highly valued throughout the prison.
Managers described an ethos of giving everyone a second chance and ‘we see the man’, and noted a real sense of ‘Team Highpoint’, with staff from all disciplines working well together. They too felt staff-prisoner relationships were good and safety had improved significantly. They attributed this to the same causes as staff, and they also rated the bi-monthly ‘Amends People Awards’. Communications with staff, including a ‘highly visible’ Governor and Dep, monthly full staff briefings and ‘breakfasts with the Governor’, were also positives.
The prisoners said staff were friendly and helpful, with relations characterised by mutual respect. The jail was safe and self-harm low, and its cleanliness/decency and quiet contributed to a good living environment. Progression opportunities were ‘strong’, and frequent job and employment fairs involving outside employers, as well as keywork, were ‘very good’. They noted a wide range of peer support mentors, with conflict mediation/resolution VR reps singled out in particular. Family support was ‘very good’, including regular all-day family and lifer visits, and free coach service for visitors (funded from canteen profits).