This visit was quite special for me, as it was the first time I had been back to this prison, which I once worked in, since I had left back in 1993.
I was obviously excited to see it again (and relive part of my youth, perhaps!) I was, however, somewhat surprised to find it so much bigger than when I was there: since my time, there’s been a major building programme that started back in 2004.
The No. 1 praised the staff’s quality, commitment, and pride in their specialist role working with young men on long sentences (4+ years). The jail’s wide range of programmes and interventions were highlighted, along with the PIPE and PD assessment units. There were good words, too, for family relationship support, including family days for lifers, family invites to post-programme reviews, and for the family liaison officer. VPs on normal location (a rarity) got a special mention, too.
Prisoners agreed with the Governor about the good range of support for family relationships, and added their own praise for the ‘care leavers’ focus groups (for prisoners who have been in care). They also felt the OBPs were good.
The staff said management consultation, and the Governor’s Forum, were good, and they felt security was ‘strong’. They also praised VPs being on normal location, and called the PIPE and PD units both ‘very good’ and ‘interesting’ for staff. They thought the First Night Centre and induction ‘very good’, and said safer custody and ACCT helped lower suicide and self-harm rates while reducing violence levels. They said prisoners reported phones and drugs were hard to get, and thought MDT had made Spice less available than in comparable prisons.
Managers saw staff-prisoner relationships as good, and better than other jails. They rated staff family days, as well as the wellbeing days for staff and prisoners. They, too, rated the PIPE and PD units, VPs on normal location, family support, and OBPs. They said safety was ‘good’, and that violence levels were lower than similar prisons. (They also felt mail photocopying had helped a lot with Spice). They praised education & training, including the Railtrack and forklift truck courses, and, especially, help given by a large network of over 100 external volunteers.