Even for a lad from the Midlands, this is a visit that feels like I’m a very long way north – even Durham is south from here (and that’s miles from home already) – I’m deep into the beautiful borderlands, with Lindisfarne and the Scottish border not too far away.
Meanwhile, the prison itself is clean and there’s plenty of space (it is after all two prisons joined together, so it sprawls over a huge area) – and there are impressively well-kept gardens, too.
The prisoners praised relations with staff (including ‘excellent’ new staff), and a visible and responsive Director ‘constantly trying to make a difference’. They said the Prisoner Council was very effective and management highly responsive to it. They liked the range of mentors, reps, and the pre-release residential support workers. They said in-cell phones made ‘a huge difference’ with families and, with wing kiosks, helped communications generally. Induction (by staff and mentors) was highly rated, as was ROTL, education & training, and frequent family visits in a friendly atmosphere with good food, photos, and Storybook Dads.
The staff agreed on staff quality and relations in the prison. They were also proud to have weathered a lot of recent change in a prison they said ‘felt safe’. They called communications ‘excellent’, and liked the weekly newsletter, and the focus on positives and thanking staff for a job well done. They praised the gardens party work as ‘great’, good relations with outside agencies and employers, and were also impressed by the Enhanced wing.
Managers (including Governor)
The managers added their own praise for the staff and their engagement and relationships with prisoners. They too rated the Prison Council, key worker scheme, staff newsletter, and phones and kiosks. They said valuing, consulting and recognising staff was ‘key’, and called operational managers ‘very visible’. They also picked out staff training & development, rapid promotion chances, local recruitment, extensive shadowing, and a staff helpline and counselling, and said staff attrition and sickness were ‘very low’. Prisoner family days and ‘resettlement fairs’, as well as staff family tours and open days and the Christmas service, were also rated.