Today it was off to Lewes prison. It’s a Victorian-era local in Sussex, where I was once, very briefly, a member of the IMB. This was the 100th visit of my prison odyssey – there are only two more to go after this and I’m starting to get gate fever (probably as a result of the number of gates I’ve been in recently).
The Officers said relations between staff & prisoners were good and safety had improved markedly. They felt keywork had significantly improved relationships, and dynamic security, while an x-ray machine on reception had reduced smuggling. Resettlement services, and the role of probation, were highlighted, as was the gym, which was a positive for both prisoners and staff. The No. 1 was praised as someone who is ‘visible & approachable’, ‘encourages & listens to staff’ and ‘cares about both prisoners & staff’ and they valued the Governor’s weekly rounds, and commitment to improvement. Staff jailcraft, support for one another and commitment were also highlighted.
Managers also felt staff-prisoner relations were good (‘prisoners often remark on this’). They also valued keywork, and noted its impact on resettlement, which was another area they too saw as a strength, highlighting the role of probation and regular job fairs. The gym was ‘excellent’, including the sports leadership course (linked to Brighton & Hove Albion). Cleanliness, plants & greenery, and artwork on the walls, were seen as a positive for all. They highlighted monthly family visits, and improved visits facilities, and felt equalities & diversity was a particular strength, noting a wide range of activities, good support for trans prisoners and a number of staff trained in trans awareness. The monthly ‘Lewes Community Group’ meeting between SMs and prisoner wing reps was rated too.
Prisoners praised staff (‘kind’, ‘caring’, ‘they treat you like a human’) and relations with them, and described safety as ‘good’. They too rated keywork and its impact (‘a really good thing’), and the gym (‘great facilities’). They also valued the monthly ‘Community Group’ meetings, chaired by the Dep, and agreed that equalities & diversity, with a range of reps and regular meetings with managers, was a strength. Activities for older prisoners were highlighted too.