It’s still an unseasonably warm November day, and now my early start pays off because Rye Hill is right next door to my previous visit, HMP Onley. Rye Hill apparently shares a bit of the ‘lost village of Onley’ thing, too, because although Rye Hill is in the parish of Barby in Northamptonshire, its postal address is in Willoughby, Warwickshire.
As if moving around in space isn’t enough, there’s time, too: I’m walking between fifty years of prison history, from Onley’s mid-1960s jail to Rye Hill’s much more modern 2014 one.
The prisoners felt ‘very safe’ in a jail with ‘a sense of community’, ‘great’ staff who ‘really care’ and ‘outstanding’ relationships between prisoners and staff. They said the SMT was ‘excellent’ and staff and management place ‘real trust’ in prisoners. They liked management’s wide consultation and ‘nothing about me without me’ approach, an effective Prisoner Council and management’s responsiveness to their ideas. They also valued a wide range of peer mentors and mutual support among prisoners. The charity-run counselling service for prisoners, was ‘brilliant’, and reception ‘fantastic’: a very relaxed ‘open’ feel set the tone, alongside a 3-month peer-led induction. They liked the varied regime’s many chances for personal development, a ‘second to none’ education, and regular celebration of achievement events. They praised visits, inc. regular family days, homework clubs etc. The gardens and green space made ‘a real difference’, as did in-cell phones and kiosks.
The SMs agreed there was ‘a genuine community’ with ‘amazing’ staff who treat everyone as ‘human beings’, and noted a ‘very’ visible, approachable No. 1 & Dep who led a management that consult and communicate with staff and prisoners ‘on everything’. Keywork was praised, as was managing challenging prisoners (based on individualised case work and involving families), and an IEP which ‘really encourages the positive’. They agreed, too, about reception & induction, gardens & green space, prisoners’ success events, and in-cell phones & kiosks.
Officers said staff-prisoner relations were ‘second to none’ and key work was making a huge difference. They highlighted impressive support for older prisoners, disabilities, complex social needs, and those at risk of self-harm, and praised work to turn around more challenging prisoners. They agreed, too, about reception and induction, as well as in-cell phones and kiosks.