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 highlighted the quality of staff-staff relationships at The Mount, and thought highly of both the support for new staff as well as the staff recognition scheme. They also had good words to say about the mental health support team, its helpline, and the counsellor for staff. They felt staff-prisoner relationships were good, and highlighted the positive role played by Health And Wellbeing Champions (HAWCs) for prisoners.
The prisoners also picked up on good staff-prisoner relationships. They praised the levels of prisoner engagement and consultation as well as the extensive range of prisoners’ reps and mentors – and picked out in particular the HAWCs, PIDS, and OMU. They also had positive things to say about the Safer Custody reps who they particularly valued for their mediation role.
The Senior Management Team and Custodial Managers also had praise for the quality of staff-staff relationships in The Mount, as well as for the amount of support available for new staff. They, too, said staff recognition was good in the prison, citing the ‘employee of the month’ as an example. The prison’s mental health support for staff was again recognised, and they drew attention to another element that was very welcome: the allocation of two ‘wellbeing’ days per annum to staff. They felt that senior management visibility was good, with the team being seen out and about on the landings and elsewhere. They also valued the monthly full staff meetings, and felt the SMT/middle management meetings were also worth highlighting. This group agreed that staff-prisoner relationships were good; they also pointed to the strong levels of prisoner engagement, and again picked up on the role of reps and mentors. They mentioned, in particular, both PIDS workers and OMU reps, who they said ‘take a lot of pressure off’ staff.