Honoured prison governor looks back on 40 year career

The Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare, Countess of Euston hosts the Investiture Ceremony at Euston H

Sue Doolan, OBE - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A prison governor who has spent four decades leading work to reform inmates at several prisons across England has looked back on her career. 

Sue Doolan, from Ipswich, started working in the prison service straight out of university rising from prison officer to governor of several prisons.

She said part of the work that was largely "unappreciated" but the most important was working to reform inmates.

Her most challenging role at HM Prison Littlehey, a prison for 1,200 male criminals who have committed sexual crimes, located near Huntington, was to be her last when she retired in September 2020. 

HMP Littlehey

HMP Littehey in Cambridge - Credit: Archant

She said: "Prison is a punishment. 

"Sex offenders are a completely different kind of prisoner. 

"It's difficult to work with them but it's really important and it's not something the public wants us doing.

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"It's to stop them reoffending and a new victim being created when they're released. 

"It is always a challenge but you try to work with individuals that have caused harm and will get out so you need to do something."

She said she did see during her time some individuals make "good progress". 

"All different types of prisoners have time to reflect on what they've done," she added. "This sector of prisoners is there for longer. 

"We do our best and try to get them an education. 

"These individuals are often illiterate when they come into custody. 

"Most telling is they're reoffending prognosis reports."

Ms Doolan also managed HMP Highpoint and HMP Bure where she often saw the same prisoners return again. 

"We are not going to teach everyone but we can only do the best we can," she added. "Without hope things would be awful.

"It's been a fascinating, challenging and exhausting time. 

"Crime is a real concern for people but what they do not realise is there is a lot of wonderful staff at prisons who do a lot of innovation in a challenging environment. 

"I've seen staff make incredible progress during my career."

The Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare, Countess of Euston hosts the Investiture Ceremony at Euston H

Sue Doolan, OBE, and the Lord-Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare, Countess of Euston. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

At Littlehey, she also had to contend with the Covid pandemic and was honoured in November 2021 for her efforts with an OBE from The Queen. 

"I had a brilliant health care team and staff," she said.  "We had to wash everything and had no masks so had to contend with that, which was quite hard. 

"It was a struggle to allow people out and to help them symptomatic, who needed to be managed carefully."

Ms Doolan will spend her retirement scuba diving and singing with a rock choir.