It’s difficult to get to the Isle of Wight and back in a day, unless you turn straight round as soon as you get there, so I travelled down the day before and stayed overnight in Newport. I really wouldn’t recommend the hotel, but the beautiful weather and surroundings, and the visit itself to what is technically one jail but is actually spread across two sites, still known as Parkhurst and Albany, more than made up for it.
The prisoners said the jail was safe and rated relations with staff. The gym – access (5 x a week), facilities & staff – family days (‘lots of them’, ‘they’re great’) and good access to higher education & distance learning were highlighted. They noted ‘fantastic’ peer support, including trained ‘buddies’ for older men and those with complex needs, and good relations among prisoners generally (‘we help each other’, ‘it’s a real community’). The MQPL prison council, which meets monthly with the Head of Res and other SMT members, was a real positive too.
Managers agreed about staff-prisoner relations and safety, and rated prisoner engagement & consultation too; they also noted a strong sense of community, which they felt extended across the jail, and agreed with prisoners about visits, education and the gym. Keywork was ‘working well’ and benefited relationships and prisoners’ behaviour (including violence); they felt opportunities for prisoners to develop and progress through to Cat C were a strength; and an institutional intolerance of noise pollution was a benefit to all. Two annual well-being days, weekly yoga sessions, and the messes on both sites were seen as positives for staff, and the Dep personally contacted all staff after an assault or bereavement.
The Officers also thought relations with prisoners were good. The management and care of older prisoners and those with complex needs, was considered a particular strength, with prisoner ‘buddies’ and the commitment of staff seen as central. Education and training opportunities, and wider opportunities for development and progression, were highlighted too. They reported very good relationships among staff, with plenty of socialising out of work, and the messes on both sites were very popular. Staff felt well supported by operational managers from the No. 1 down, valued daily full staff briefings, and very much appreciated the Dep’s support for staff (including after an assault or bereavement).