Another lovely sunny day, and this time it’s a short journey from the Butler Trust office by tube and train to Isis (an old alternative name for the Thames, and still used when it flows through Oxford).
Built less than a decade ago on grounds belonging to Belmarsh prison, it’s also part of the vast area that once housed the Royal Arsenal and is now also home to HMP Thameside. I should add thanks for the really good lunch I enjoyed in the staff canteen.
The prisoners praised a ‘highly’ visible and approachable management for a reliable regime that felt ‘very safe’. They said the Prisoner Council and monthly meetings with senior managers were more effective than similar councils they knew of, and praised the range of reps and mentors. They called family visits every couple of months (open to normal and enhanced) ‘excellent’, and liked the facilities that let prisoners play with their children. They said wing kiosks reduced potential conflicts with staff, and allowed prisoners some control and self-responsibility. They also liked plenty of time out of cell and the work & training – especially the gym instructors and ‘in-house’ record label.
The officers called Isis a good jail that felt safe. They said management was approachable, visible, consulted, and listened. They added that the ‘very good No. 1’ was also open, supportive, ‘and not risk averse’. They liked a monthly newsletter and full staff briefing and the ‘very supportive’ CMs and SMT who often said thanks and made staff feel valued. They called staff friendly, ‘very tight’, and said detached staff agreed. They liked training, including 2 weeks of shadowing, ‘excellent’ mentoring for new officers, and really rated the well-used staff mess.
The managers agreed Isis was safe and friendly, citing ‘very good’ relations across staff groups and a ‘focus on kindness and compassion’, led by a positive, friendly, supportive No.1. They too rated the prisoner mentors, visits & family days, and the ‘really good’ mess. They said management-responsiveness (e.g. directly feeding back to prisoners on complaints) and a smooth induction (with orderlies ‘key’) ‘set the tone’. They praised their risk-based OMU allocation (with higher risk prisoners being managed by probation officers), plentiful accredited offending behaviour programmes, and education & training. They also liked that the Governor read ‘thank you letters’ to staff (from prisoners as well as colleagues) at full staff briefings, and rated regular staff development days as well as the annual ‘Isis Awards’.