It’s back to West Yorkshire – more or less exactly halfway between York and Leeds – for my next visit. HMP Wealstun is the ‘offspring’ resulting from the amalgamation of two earlier prisons, HMP Thorpe Arch (named after the local village) and HMP Rudgate. These were in turn built on the site of a former Royal Ordnance Factory.
The managers described relationships between prisoners and staff as ‘very good’ and praised the ‘highly committed’ staff, who had a ‘can do’ attitude, and said there were ‘excellent’ and ‘friendly’ relationships among staff at all levels. Wealstun was one of the pilot sites for PAVA (synthetic pepper spray), and the managers said it had had a ‘major’ and ‘positive’ impact on staff safety. They also highlighted the value of having two full time mentors for POELTs, which they thought had contributed to ‘very low’ levels of attrition. They praised the gym and its staff more generally (‘excellent all round’), which was also available to, and well used by, staff, and noted the links made with local sports teams, inc. Leeds Rhinos Rugby League team. They rated vocational training and work opportunities for prisoners as another positive, along with ‘strong’ community links ‘in general’, including with local employers. The managers also felt Wealstun to be a ‘nice environment’ in which to live and work, with ‘plenty of green space’ – while the ‘popular’ mess was also a positive for staff.
The prisoners described Wealstun’s staff as ‘excellent’ and said they had ‘very good’ relationships with them. They added particular praise for, and appreciation of, the ‘very good’ all day family visits. Like the managers, they also gave a positive rating to the gym and gym staff, inc. the links with local sports teams.
The Officers also praised staff-prisoner relationships. They said the staff were ‘very friendly’ and ‘supportive to one another’ across disciplines, and cited the value of a ‘strong camaraderie’ and regular ‘staff nights out’. They agreed with managers about the mess, which was ‘well used by staff of all grades and disciplines’, and helped with mixing among staff across disciplines. They called PAVA spray ‘awesome’ in making ‘a real difference’ to staff confidence and safety. The grounds were seen as another positive too.