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 quality and commitment of staff proud of their role with young men on long sentences and ability to keep vulnerable prisoners (VPs) on normal location. 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, inc. family days for lifers, family invites to post-programme reviews, and for the family liaison officer.
Prisoners valued the support provided for maintaining family relationships (as outlined above). They also highlighted support for care leavers, as well as the wide range of offending behaviour programmes (OBPs), as other positives.
The staff valued management consultation, including a Governor’s Forum. They felt safety and security were strengths, with prisoners reporting drugs and illegal phones hard to get hold of, and ‘comparably low levels’ of Spice – they also noted their ability to maintain VPs on normal location. Management of ACCTs and support for those at risk of self harm was another strength. They also rated an ‘excellent’ First Night Centre and induction, as well as the PIPE and PD units.
Managers felt staff-prisoner relationships were strong, and better than many other jails, and that violence and drug use were comparatively low. They said photocopying the mail and an effective security team had had a real impact on Spice. They, too, rated as positives the PIPE & PD units, VPs on normal location, family support, and OBPs – as well as education & training, inc. Railtrack and forklift truck courses. A large network of over 100 volunteers, were seen as a real boon to all aspects of the jail. They also highlighted well-being days for both staff and prisoners, as well as regular ‘family days’ for staff.