It’s taken until the third week of November, but this visit is on a cold and grey day, and it definitely feels like winter is setting in.
It’s a big prison – its capacity has expanded over the years to over a thousand – and is located, like several others in the estate, on the site of a former World War II army installation.
Managers noted good staff-prisoner relations (inc. joint events like quiz & curry nights) and strong decency focus, aided by a full-time works party. Safety & drugs were ‘markedly improved’, with keywork, a restorative approach to incidents, and a trained staff & prisoner VR team major factors, alongside an ‘enabling environment’ wing and ‘essentials’ shop in reception (to reduce debt). They rated the wide range of prisoner mentors (who can do Level 3/4 NVQs), an elected Prisoner Council who regularly meet the No.1, and a full-time ‘engagement lead’ manager. Education and training were ‘excellent’, inc. CSCS card course, job fairs and workshop contracts conditional on employing prisoners on release. They also highlighted Way out TV, family visits and the gym (inc. ‘personal trainer’ NVQ) for both prisoners and staff. Staff recognition, regular No. 1-led staff consultations, monthly training days, annual staff & families BBQ and staff-family open days, were highlighted, along with support for any staff who’ve been assaulted.
The prisoners valued the Prisoner Council, which they felt was effective, and range of peer support mentors – highlighting in particular the Listeners, mental health and violence reduction reps, as well as ‘carers’ for silk & elderly prisoners. Support & events for minority groups, involving both prisoners and staff, were another positive, while induction was ‘excellent’, preparing people well and signposting them to training & work, and the CRC-led resettlement work (inc. help with bank accounts, accommodation, CVs & interviews) was also praised.
The Officers praised staff morale and relations between staff, and said Spice and safety were ‘much improved’. The new staff were welcomed, and they praised a ‘brilliant’ full-time POELT mentor and extended shadowing & support. They enjoyed the staff BBQ, open days, and ‘free’ Christmas dinner! The ‘enabling environment’ wing was ‘fantastic’ and they rated education & training too.