For the afternoon of day two of my three-day mini-tour of the North West, it was off by cab from Manchester to Styal, swapping the inner city for the Cheshire countryside just outside Wilmslow, in the ‘Golden Triangle’ beloved of the rich and famous (including premier league footballers). One of the most striking things about the prison is that the women live in communal houses, rather than wings or house-blocks, and the grounds are lovely (even in the rain).
Managers said staff were ‘caring’ and reported good relationships with prisoners, and among staff of all disciplines. They said a high proportion of staff had completed trauma informed training and this had had a very positive impact on management of the women and relationships with them. They rated the prison council and the Mother & Baby unit was ‘fantastic’. They highlighted the ‘excellent’ care team, and support for staff after an incident, as well as monthly training days, regular full staff briefings, staff recognition, yoga & meditation for staff, six-monthly staff wellbeing days and twice-yearly staff-family events. The grounds, inc. trees, gardens and ducks, were a positive for all.
The Officers said relations with the women were good and valued the full integration of vulnerable prisoners across the establishment. They highlighted reception and induction, and the role of staff and peer mentors in caring for new prisoners, and the monthly family days (run by POPS and Phoenix Futures) and twice-yearly lifer days. Recycling Lives, who provide housing and employment on release, were ‘fantastic’, and the Clink restaurant, staffed by ROTL’d women, and links with local employers were highlighted too, as were the gym, and the PT qualification they offer, and the ‘excellent’ hair & beauty course. Staff, too, valued the grounds and gardens, and felt they had a positive impact on everyone.
The women valued the enabling environment provided by a ‘semi-open’ regime, living in houses rather than wings, catering for themselves, and getting themselves to where they need to be. They too highlighted reception and induction, and the staff and peers working there, and valued the range of peer mentors generally, as well as the elected wing reps (who meet bi-monthly with SMT). And they also rated Recycling Lives, The Clink, and links with outside employers, and agreed about the positive impact of the grounds (including the ducks!).