Jumping straight into a cab from Durham’s Georgian prison, I headed half an hour down the road to Holme House in Stockton-on-Tees.
It’s a much more modern prison (it originally opened its doors in 1992) and so it was perhaps unsurprising that my first impressions were of a clean and bright jail.
Managers (including Deputy Governor)
Senior managers praised their ‘amazing’ staff’s teamwork, resilience, care and commitment. They rated the monthly staff training days (focused on offender management and challenging behaviour). They highlighted a ‘comprehensive’ drug strategy, including dedicated search team, reception X-rays for prisoners, body scans for visitors, and wider use of drug dogs and searches of staff, and said it led to ‘very low’ drug usage. They were also enthusiastic about the range of education & training, ‘excellent’ sport facilities, and outside agencies running activities (e.g. Inside Out, where Teeside students & prisoners learn together), and they added that monthly family visits, supported by local charity NEPACS, were ‘very good’. They rated the palliative care facility and Houseblock 6’s Therapeutic Community. Wing kiosks and in-cell phones were ‘transformative’. Noting a range of peer mentors and good prisoner consultation which included elected wing reps and monthly meetings with management, they added the new keywork scheme was also ‘very promising’.
The prisoners were really enthusiastic about in-cell phones and kiosks, too. They called the family visits ‘great’, and had high praise for both education, and the Inside Out programme in particular. They also valued the ‘effective’ Democratic Council (prisoner council), and the wide range of peer mentors, highlighting especially the support provided by fully trained social care peer workers.
The Officers felt staff were ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘committed’, and the new staff were ‘a breath of fresh air’. There was a ‘strong’ rehabilitative culture across the jail. Training days, staff support and the care team were ‘very good’. In-cell phones and kiosks were ‘brilliant’ and keywork was ‘great’, and the drug strategy was ‘making a real difference’. Family visits were another positive highlighted.