After a morning at Wakefield, it was off into the nearby countryside to New Hall. In 1933 New Hall became the first open prison in the country but, following a variety of different roles within the estate, has been a closed women’s prison since 1987. I was last here for a visit with The Princess Royal when one of the women memorably called her Lady Diana!
Managers said the jail was safe and clean, with good staff-prisoner relations and an emphasis on respect and decency. They highlighted resettlement and the role of OMU; education & skills training; the charity clothes shop run by and for the women; and ‘Together Women’s Project’. The ‘Rowan House’ day centre, for more vulnerable women, and the prison’s ability to manage very challenging and complex women, were highly rated, as were the range of prisoner mentors and reps. The Mother & Baby unit, Mother & Baby visits, family days and lifer days, as well as support for visiting children, were positives too. They also highlighted services run by the gym for staff, inc. classes, sports injury rehab, healthcare advice and well-being days; staff recognition; staff mess (inc. cooked breakfasts); staff counsellor; and staff-family BBQ, and tours of the jail. The Chapel staff were ‘fantastic’, and the grounds were seen as a positive for all.
The Officers said they really cared about the women and had very good relations with them, and agreed that care for more vulnerable, challenging and complex women was a particular strength. In addition to many of the positives for the women identified by managers, they highlighted time out of cell, a ’40 mins from bus to bed’ reception process, and support for care leavers as strengths. They highly valued all the support and services for staff noted by managers – esp. ‘bacon sarnies’ in the morning – and agreed the grounds were a benefit for all.
The women highlighted, among others, the PD unit and Rowan House day centre; ‘Power to Change’ domestic violence and peer-led ‘Healing trauma’ courses; art group; family visits and ‘Story Book Mums’; access to distance learning (inc. OU); recognition awards (inc. £5 private cash voucher); and library, inc. a coffee shop where they can meet friends. They too singled out the Chaplaincy staff as ‘fantastic’.