What’s good about prisons?
What are the ingredients to a ‘good prison’ – one that helps rehabilitate and stop people offending?
Much of the media attention around prisons has focused on what isn’t working well. National papers often include coverage about prison safety issues, riots and inadequate conditions.
Director of the Butler Trust Simon Shepherd has taken a different approach publishing a book ‘The Good Book of Prisons’, looking at what is working well and why. To find out, he has been asking those who use and deliver the service - prisoners and prison staff.
Three standout themes include:
The positive impact of the keyworker scheme
I am a strong believer in empowering individuals to change their own behaviour. Keyworkers do just that by providing greater consistency of staffing on the wings and giving staff more time to spend with prisoners. Prisoners say the relationship with their keyworker has helped them to understand what is expected of them and what they are supposed to be doing.
The physical environment
More intriguingly, many of the inmates said the physical environment of the prison has a detrimental or positive effect on their mood. We often accept the prison environment for what it is, but what can it be? Prisoners say small touches like hanging baskets and gardens have a calming influence.
Not unexpectedly, the value of family days and contact with support networks at home were given as examples by both men and women as making a difference to the way they conduct themselves and relate to others.
So, what should we do next?
With around 80,000 people in prisons and even more prisons being built, making sure they are places of rehabilitation is critical to reducing reoffending.
While the government has been recruiting more prison officers, could there also be further opportunities for prisons to maximise opportunities to reduce reoffending by focusing on these themes and best practice?
This book is a good start to help us understand our practice better, making it more informed and better targeted on those issues our service users see as important.
But perhaps a question we should also be asking is how do we continue to identify and share best practice to help us turn people’s lives around and to make our society a better place?