I’ve now visited 19 prisons in four weeks, and this is the last before I take a breather – and a holiday.
It’s another lovely mid-summer day, and it’s a pleasure to walk down the leafy street to reach that iconic gate leading into this famous prison. Among its other more or less notorious inmates, it once welcomed the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards for a spell: Start it up!
The prisoners had good things to say about the wide range of prisoner peer support workers in the jail, adding a special mention for both the ‘apps’ orderlies and PIDS mentors, who they said were not only ‘really good’ but also ‘helped a lot’, as well as the VR reps, who had contributed to improvements in safety, and the peer-led Toe by Toe reading programme overseen by the Shannon Trust. They valued prisoner representation through a network of wing reps and weekly meetings with the Head of Residential, as well as the involvement of other peer reps and mentors in relevant departmental meetings.
Officers said relationships among staff were generally ‘excellent’ and mutually supportive. They added that CMs were ‘very supportive’ of front line staff, pointing out that ‘they say thank you’, ‘back you up’, and made you ‘feel valued’. They were positive about the two weeks ‘shadowing’ for new staff before and after training, and called experienced staff ‘very supportive’ of newer Officers.
The managers were also impressed with the two weeks of ‘shadowing’, before and after training, for new staff. They emphasised ‘extensive’ mentoring arrangements for new staff, and also added praise for the additional ‘jailcraft’ training being run by the mentors. They described the ‘in house recruitment’ as a real positive, and said it was something that had helped with both the numbers and the quality of the staff being recruited. They felt experienced staff were particularly supportive of POELTs, and said all this had contributed to relatively low attrition rates among new staff. They highlighted the prison’s links with outside agencies, including in dealing with gangs and gang-related violence. They valued the role of PIDS workers, who ‘take a lot of pressure off staff’, highlighted the NVQ and training offered to peer mentors, and felt that the prisoner consultation process was important and valuable too.