Some early starts feel like an effort, but this disappeared at soon as I began driving through the beautiful summer countryside of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. I was then welcomed at The Mount by its own version: bright, clean, and rather lovely gardens.
The Mount was built on a former Royal Air Force airfield, and was even used to film part of the James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun.
The Officers felt relationships among staff, and between prisoners and staff, were both key strengths. Support for new staff, including from their more experienced peers, was another positive. They valued the staff recognition scheme, and support for staff well-being, inc. well-being days, access to a mental health support team, helpline, and staff counsellor. They also highlighted the role played by Health And Wellbeing Champions (HAWCs) for prisoners.
The prisoners also saw staff-prisoner relationships as a positive. They praised the levels of prisoner engagement and consultation, as well as the extensive range of prisoners’ peer support workers – highlighting in particular the HAWCs, PIDS and OMU reps, as well as safer custody / violence reduction reps who were seen to play a valuable role in mediating between prisoners where required.
Managers agreed with staff about the quality of relationships among staff at The Mount, as the support offered to new staff. They, too, felt the staff recognition (‘employee of the month’ award) was also a positive. Support for staff was seen as a particular strength within the prison, including twice-yearly well-being days, and (as noted be staff) access to a mental health support team, helpline and counselling if required. They felt that senior management visibility was good too (and recently improved), with managers frequently touring the jail and seen out and about on the landings and elsewhere. They also valued the monthly full staff meetings, and regular meetings involving senior and middle managers. Like both prisoners and staff, managers felt staff-prisoner relationships were a positive. They also noted strong levels of prisoner engagement across the regime, with a wide range of reps and mentors – highlighting in particular the HAWCs, and their support for prisoners’ well-being, and both PIDS workers and OMU reps, who were felt to play a valuable role and ‘take a lot of pressure off’ staff.