I head to the county town of Stafford for the second prison visit of the day, taking a cab for the 40 minute journey from Dovegate. The physical contrast between the two prisons are striking: over two hundred years separate their history, with Stafford (on ‘Gaol Road’) a largely Victorian redbrick construction boasting the only ‘curved wing’ of its kind.
I was last here in 2015, on a visit with the Butler Trust’s Royal Patron, HRH The Princess Royal. Once again there’s a noticeably warm welcome, which is always a pleasure.
Managers & Officers
The managers and Officers said this was a ‘very safe’ prison with good staff-prisoner relations and ‘no issues’ with Spice. They rated the ‘visible’ management – with the jail toured daily by the Duty Governor and regularly by the No.1 – daily briefing for all operational staff, and regular full staff meetings. Being ‘very clean’ and well-maintained (by the garden and small repairs parties) was ‘good for both prisoners and staff’, as was their mutual respect within a ‘strong’ culture of decency and care for prisoners (‘residents’). ACCTs were ‘very low’ and support for prisoners at risk of self-harm was ‘excellent’, as was the wide range of prisoner reps and mentors (including for veterans and older prisoners). The ‘active’ Prisoner Council was ‘very effective’, with members identified by T-shirts. They noted a good range of education, vocational training, and workshops. They liked ‘Jail Jottings’, the weekly staff newsletter, which included ‘thank you’s for jobs well done, and staff recognition with prizes (including gift vouchers & free meals at the highly valued staff bistro). Family members being invited to the prison’s POELT graduation ceremony was also much appreciated.
The prisoners described a ‘very safe’ jail with ‘very tight’ security (‘a good thing’), little or no drugs, and a ‘very visible’ and approachable No 1. They praised the thorough 7-day, peer-led prisoner induction, and the wide range of peer mentors (including healthcare champions, trained by healthcare staff), who were linked to, and well supported by, relevant prison managers. The ‘effective’ Prisoner Council, with two reps per wing, regular and fully minuted meetings with senior managers, and strong senior management buy-in, was ‘widely respected’ by prisoners and staff. The food was ‘very good’, and the gym was ‘excellent’: its ‘very’ supportive staff did ‘excellent’ work with prisoners with physical and mental health issues (‘common in this prison’). The DAAT (Drug & Alcohol Treatment) team was also highlighted as doing ‘very good’ work, and education and training opportunities were rated too.