There are some organisations that simply demand respect, and so when I was invited to attend an event to launch the second question for the Prisoner Policy Network (PPN) run by the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) I had to say yes. And, I am so pleased that I did even though it meant taking a taxi back to prison (well they were going to let me out again on the same day).
It was on the morning of the PRT event that my friend, (colleague and mentor), said to me that we were getting a taxi back to prison. I have to say we did have a laugh about that, and talked about it as we travelled to HMP Coldingley.
This was a surreal moment as we signed ourselves in through the ‘official visitors’ entrance and showed our photograph ID. Then once enough of those attending had been signed in we were escorted from the gatehouse through to the chapel complex where this event was going to take place. I am not sure of the total numbers, but the mix of attendees from HMP Coldingley, the Ministry of Justice, mentoring and support organisations as well as other interested partners of PRT proved to be beneficial to the conversation and the day as a whole.
As a Life Sentenced Prisoner it was good to hear Jo Sims, the prison governor at Coldingley give an honest and open welcome address. It is refreshing when a governor starts by saying that her prison doesn’t always get everything right. They did get it all right for this event. Her address was followed by the PRT Director, Peter Dawson who gave us a brief introduction to the work of his organisation and what the PPN set out to achieve.
Dr. Lucy Wainwright gave an informative address on her report What incentives work in prison? The report can be read by clicking on the title. It was encouraging to hear Dr. Wainwright say that prisoners are unique, and their responses to this question fitted that. There was no one homogeneous response. The report came with four broad findings which go to say that when you get the basics right with meaningful incentives and positive models for the prison to follow then those in custody will go on to learn to trust the system.
The final part of this event was to discuss the second question: What do you need to make best use of your time in custody? Rest assured, I will report back on this in due course; this will be after our responses from the day, and those of serving prisons and others have been collated and the report published.