From Norwich I head deep into the Norfolk countryside to Wayland, a modern prison opened in 1985 and which has since been expanded several times. Like Bure, it’s Prison Visitor Centre is one of ten run by the Ormiston Family Trust.
It’s my third prison visit in a two-day mini-tour of East Anglia, itself part of a high summer sprint through ten prisons in eight days, travelling over 1500 miles.
The managers praised relations in the prison, with ‘can do’ staff committed to making a difference, and a culture of ‘thank yous’ by managers to staff. Phones and ‘in-cell’ tablets (for ‘kiosk’ services) made ‘a huge difference’. The catering team and Education & Training were both ‘excellent’. Vocational training covered ‘all the trades’ (including CSCS). A course helping prisoners set up in business was praised, as was family support, visits, and the Personality Disorder & PIPE units.
The officers agreed prison relations were ‘very good’. Experienced staff were ‘very supportive’ of new officers, and they appreciated POELTs getting two weeks shadowing, extra training, two dedicated mentors, and drop-in meetings each lunchtime. They liked the full-time staff welfare officers. Phones and in-cell tablets were ‘terrific’ for all, and gave prisoners ‘more control and self-reliance’, supported family relationships, reduced conflict (i.e. no queues), and greatly reduced demands on staff. They praised the ‘great’ First Night Centre, separated off, with its Induction Mentors & Listeners and emergency credit for prisoners to call home on arrival. Wayland’s on-wing (rather than prison-wide) prescribing was ‘much better’, and meant ‘far less’ bullying and ‘taxing’ problems. Security cameras ‘everywhere’, and all staff in body-cams, had ‘greatly’ reduced violence. They said Wayland was ‘very good’ at managing prisoners high on Spice. Education & training, including local employer links, were ‘excellent’.
The prisoners felt ‘calm’ and ‘safe’, and said staff did ‘their best’ to make ‘a real difference’ (in spite of the pressures). They agreed about in-cell phones & tablets, and praised visits, including weekly family visits and others lasting ‘the full two hours’. They rated the wide range of prisoner mentors and the Prisoner Council. They also liked the chance to progress with ‘excellent’ vocational training (including CSCS).