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Prison praised for 'culture of hope'

PUBLISHED: 16:16 30 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:16 30 August 2019

HMP Warren Hill. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

HMP Warren Hill. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Archant

A jail might not be the place where you expect to find inspiration, particularly if you're facing a long stretch. But now one Suffolk prison has been praised for offering a "culture of hope" by a criminal justice expert during a nationwide tour of the country's cells.

Highpoint Prison in Suffolk Picture: ARCHANTHighpoint Prison in Suffolk Picture: ARCHANT

But now one Suffolk prison has been praised for offering a "culture of hope" by a criminal justice expert during a nationwide tour of the country's cells.

Simon Shepherd saw the good, the bad and the ugly of the UK's criminal justice system on a 17,120-mile trip around 102 of the nation's prisons.

The director of the Butler Trust and former prison psychologist spoke with 2,067 staff and prisoners and, with rumours of widespread drugs and violence, was braced to hear the worst.

But despite all the reports, Mr Shepherd said he found "many good things going on too" - including at HMPs Warren Hill, Highpoint and Chelmsford.

He has documented what he found The Good Book of Prisons, which is free to download online.

"Both staff and prisoners at Highpoint rated their environment and a culture that recognised outstanding work," he said.

"Prisoners at Warren Hill said staff there put visits 'on another level' and praised the 'culture of hope'.

"Meanwhile the staff at Chelmsford prison were 'resilient', and their approach to education and training were also highly appreciated - including courses to help 'short termers' turn around their lives.

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"The region's jails have much to be proud of."

Warren Hill was described by prisoners in the book as "extremely safe", with use of the Spice drug that has been reported to beset prisons as being rare.

They said that the progression regime for offenders means that "the prison gives you hope", while officers "agreed relations with prisoners were excellent".

Warren Hill's decision to call prisoners "residents" has been criticised by some, with Ipswich criminologist Faith Spear saying it risks giving prisoners too much control by being overly-PC.

But the book said: "They liked being called 'residents' and valued being given trust and responsibility by the prison."

At Highpoint staff-prisoner relations were also said to be good, with Mr Shepherd saying officers "highlighted a decency drive, based on regular cell inspections to ensure prisoners have what they need and are looking after".

Mr Shepherd also noted the "strong focus on cleanliness throughout the jail".

Summing up the book, Mr Shepherd said: "Nationally, the prison service is getting back control after five years of rising violence and drug abuse.

"Above all, though it's the prison officers who are at the heart of the good stuff in our prisons.

"It's a really tough job, and they do it on behalf of all of us. They really are true hidden heroes and The Good Book of Prisons is a tribute to them."

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