Leicester is my home town, so this visit, five days before Christmas, is a bit like an early present. Leicester is also the final resting place of Richard III and was home to Daniel Lambert, a legendarily big man – and gaoler – and, of course, is home to the most unlikely and popular winners in Premier League history!
It’s the first time I’ve been to the prison since 1989, and the first thing I noticed was how much better it smelled (it still had slopping out when I last visited). One of the smallest Cat B locals in the country, it was built to look like a castle, too, which often confuses tourists.
The prisoners described a ‘safe jail’ with ‘very little’ Spice and other illicit drugs (attributed to the security team and small jail size), with decent staff-prisoner relations (‘staff really do try to help’). The governor grades and CMs were called ‘approachable and positive’. They rated visits here as ‘the best’, kept informal by staff and comfortable furniture (‘not like being in prison’) and with regular family visits. They praised the peer advisors (like PID workers), diversity & equalities reps, Listeners, and first night workers, as well as the decent education & training ‘for such a small prison’. They liked the music project (including guitars, lessons, and a recording studio), the ‘great’ gym (available every day) and its staff, as well as getting two hot meals per day (‘unusual nowadays’, and greatly appreciated).
The SMs and CMs said the ‘safe’ jail had a strong ‘#TeamLeicester’ ‘community feel’ among all disciplines and levels, very welcoming and friendly staff, ‘incredibly resilient and dedicated’ Officers, and good relations with prisoners. They rated the dedicated 10-bed Lambert unit for challenging prisoners, strong community links with ‘lots’ of prisoner support by outside agencies, and regular outside speakers. They valued the Governor’s weekly ‘Off the Cuff’ newsletter (‘informal’, widely read, including news & ‘thank you’s), and the staff recognition scheme, as well as monthly full staff meetings, regular staff well-being days and staff family open days, and the strong support (from the No. 1 down) for any assaulted staff.
The Officers agreed about safety (‘safer than other Cat Bs’), the community-wide ‘#TeamLeicester’ feel, ‘excellent’ prisoner relations, education & training, music project, ‘Off the Cuff’, and support over assaults. Keywork was new but ‘a big positive’. They praised ‘very good’ and ‘out and about’ management at all levels, ‘very good’ staff recognition, and full staff daily briefings and monthly meetings.