Maidstone has a number of claims to fame: it’s one of the oldest prisons in the country – it turns 200 next year – and the exterior is highly recognisable, as it’s in the opening credits of Porridge. Even so, it came as quite a shock to realise that the last time I was here was as long ago as 1987. Back then I was an undergraduate and just getting interested in prisons and criminal justice, and came as a visitor… a lot’s changed since then!
It’s no longer a local and is now a dedicated foreign national prison. There was a cheery welcome, though, as well as a lovely, very quiet atmosphere.
The senior managers thought staff-staff relations were ‘good’, and highlighted an ‘excellent’ staff care team, well-being days, CAB-access, and the mess and staff room. They also rated a daily full staff briefing, lunchtime ‘staff walks’, BBQs and other (Governor-funded) events. They rated the monthly awards & recognition scheme with nominations by prisoners and staff. POELT retention was high, and thought their pre-training visits helped. Staff-prisoner relations were ‘very informal’ and ‘positive’, and they rated the Prisoner Council, elected by prisoners and staff, and wide range of peer support workers, inc. PIDS and induction reps. Mental health and well-being support by and for prisoners were highlighted too. Spurgeons children’s charity and the monthly ‘family day’ were praised for strengthening family support. They said the prison was ‘safe’, with low violence and self-harm, and praised the dedicated officer working on VR and self-harm.
The staff agreed staff-staff relations were good and called the Governor ‘visible’ and ‘supportive’. They rated regular departmental briefings, and welcomed the ‘excellent’ POELTs who ‘picked skills up fast’ – they thought extended post-training shadowing helped. They said jailcraft was ‘excellent’, with good de-escalation skills. Staff-prisoner relations were called ‘very humane’, and they also flagged up the Prisoner council, and peer mentors, inc. PIDS and induction reps.
The prisoners praised staff-prisoner relations, and called management visible & approachable. They also praised the tailored education & training, Prisoner Council, PIDS, safer custody, peer mentors, & the prisoner-led and -designed induction. They ‘loved’ monthly family visits with ‘fantastic’ staff in civvies, and the ‘great’ gardens and grounds. Prison media TV with its information, mindfulness, & foreign language films, was also highly praised.