Amid beautiful weather, and amazing views from the island over Chesil Beach and the Channel, my tour of the closed estate finally ended with a visit to Portland. It’s an imposing jail, originally built in the mid-1800’s, which holds Cat C prisoners from the age of 18 up.
The prisoners said they felt safe in the prison, and that the Officers, and security, had a strong hold over the jail. A prison council met monthly with management, and there was a wide range of reps and mentors. Support from staff and listeners for those at risk of self-harm was seen as a particular strength. There were some good vocational courses, and the wide availability of single cells was appreciated.
The Officers said safety and staff-prisoner relations were ‘good’ – and keywork had has a significant impact here, while staff jailcraft and CCTV helped with safety, too. Substance misuse services were highlighted, along with joint staff-prisoner ‘celebration of success’ events, with nominations from both groups and to which families of both were invited. A flexible workforce and operational experience in detailing were rated, as was an ‘excellent’ care team and prison-wide morning meetings, including thanks for jobs well done. Relations among staff were ‘great’ with plenty of socialising outside work. Year-long ‘buddying’, a full-time mentor and two-week induction for POELTs were rated too.
Managers too rated safety, control & staff-prisoner relationships, with keywork seen as central. They highlighted the management of challenging prisoners & those with complex needs, based on a strong multi-disciplinary, individualised approach, alongside ‘excellent’ support from Samaritans, who also offer support to staff, and Care UK. Substance misuse services, support for care leavers (with Barnardo’s), family visits, vocational training, and good ROTL opportunities, with ‘excellent’ links with employers, were rated, as was the prison council, which met monthly with SMs, and the ‘unique’ staff-prisoner celebration of success events mentioned by Officers. They also highlighted joint staff-prisoner sporting events & links with outside teams, and enhanced mentoring & support for POELTs.