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 approach, including a dedicated search team, reception X-rays for prisoners, body wave 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 again thought transformative. Noting a range of peer mentors and good prisoner consultation, including elected wing reps and monthly meetings with senior managers, they added the new key worker scheme was ‘very promising’.
The prisoners were really enthusiastic about the phones and kiosks, too. They called the family visits ‘great’, and had high praise for both education and the Inside Out programme. They also liked their Democratic Council reps, and especially praised the fully trained social care peer workers supporting prisoners.
The officers agreed staff were enthusiastic, committed and had good relations throughout, and noted a ‘strong’ rehabilitative culture, with new staff ‘a breath of fresh air’. Training days, staff support and the care team were ‘very good’ and phones and kiosks ‘brilliant’. The key worker scheme was ‘great’, and they were also very positive about both family visits and the comprehensive drug approach.