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.
Managers (including Governor)
The senior managers thought staff-staff relations were good, and highlighted an ‘excellent’ staff care team, wellbeing 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 liked monthly awards & recognition with nominations by prisoners and staff. They said POELT retention was high, and thought their pre-training visits helped. They said staff-prisoner relations were ‘very informal’ and ‘positive’, and noted ‘excellent’ PIDS, induction, extensive peer mentoring, and a Prisoner council elected by prisoners and staff. Mental health and wellbeing support by and for prisoners were highlighted. Spurgeons children’s charity and the monthly ‘family day’ in the Chapel and grounds were praised for strengthening family support. They said the prison was safe, had low violence and self-harm, and praised the dedicated officer working on VR and self-harm. They rated face-to-face interviews to allocate prisoners’ work & training.
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, mentors (including induction mentoring), and PIDS.
The prisoners praised staff-prisoner relations, and called management visible and approachable. They also praised the tailored education & training, Prisoner Council, PIDS, safer custody, peer mentors, and the prisoner-led and -designed induction. They ‘loved’ monthly family visits with ‘fantastic’ staff in civvies, and walking the ‘great’ gardens and grounds for 5 hours. Prison media TV with its information, guidance, mindfulness, and foreign language films, was also highly praised.