Another early start, this time from London to get to Leeds for the visit. But there’s always the compensation of passing through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.
The county would have come 12th in the Olympic medals table at London 2012 if it were a country! And while Leeds Prison in Armley, built in 1847, is a rather imposing building, the cheery welcome I received was much appreciated.
The senior managers said the jail was ‘safe’ with a positive overall culture and ’good’ relations between prisoners and staff. They felt the SMT worked as a ‘cohesive’ group which delivered both leadership and visible management, from the Governor down. They felt having two dedicated mentors, as well as an additional fortnight of ‘jailcraft’ training and ‘shadowing’ back at Leeds for POELTS, had helped retention and effectiveness of new staff. The ‘Q’ Branch minor repairs work party (made up of prisoners and staff, and named after the James Bond character), had improved living and working conditions, while photocopying all post had helped tackle Spice and reduce associated violence. Partnership work with the local probation services was seen as another strength. The role of peer mentors and support workers was highlighted, with the PIDS [Prisoner Information Desk Services] workers seen as particularly helpful.
The Officers particularly praised the ‘team work’ in the prison and said that staff were supportive of each other. They, too, felt there was good support for new staff, and again mentioned the additional jailcraft training and shadowing as examples of good practice. They also rated the ‘good’ and ‘visible’ management. They said in-cell phones had made ‘a huge difference’ to prisoner behaviour, and had also contributed to far fewer mobiles in the prison, while they too agreed that photocopying the mail had impacted on both drugs and violence.
The prisoners also had positive things to say about staff-prisoner relationships, and welcomed the new cohort of Officers coming in, who they described as ‘very good’. They valued the level prisoner consultation and communication, including regular minuted meetings of the prisoner representative committee, which was ‘making a real difference’ and also recognised the positive impact of peer mentors and support workers (including PIDS).