Corrections News Sept-Oct 2010

Chief Executive's comment

Barry Matthews, Chief ExecutiveOur thoughts are with our colleagues in Christchurch who are cleaning up and continuing to manage offenders in the wake of the serious earthquake that hit in the early hours of September 4. Fortunately no one was killed, but many people’s homes have been severely damaged, and the task of re-building will be mammoth.

Two of our prisons – Christchurch Men’s and Christchurch Women’s – have been evacuated: mainly because low water pressure means sprinklers would not work in a fire. Prisoners have been sent to other prisons around the country. Four of our seven Community Probation Service Centres have also suffered damage and staff are working hard to ensure offenders continue to be monitored at this time.

In an incident such as this, our first duty is to relieve the pressure from emergency services so they can attend to other important duties – and I assure you that both staff in Christchurch and at the Head Office Emergency Operations Centre in Wellington are doing just that.

It is the kind of swift and professional response that I have seen during this situation that assures me Corrections is in a strong position to move forward.

I announced my pending retirement recently, and feel confident we are now more accountable, more united, and better prepared to make a difference to public safety by our effective and humane management of offenders. Our principles of innovation and continuous improvement are bearing fruit, and throughout the organisation we are simplifying our often complex processes and bedding in the new structures that will take Corrections into the future.

When I spoke to members of the Australian Correctional Leadership Programme in August, there was a lot of support for the decisions we have made and the action we are taking, especially in regard to our new approaches to rehabilitation, and our solutions for managing rising offender numbers. Of course, we make our decisions based on the best information we have at the time, but it is still heartening to hear that other correctional leaders are supportive of our direction.

The redevelopment of the Mt Eden/Auckland Central Remand Prison site is progressing on time and to budget. Excellent co-operation between Corrections staff and the various building contractors that work at the site is a factor. It’s no small task to undertake such a large building project at the best of times, but to work on such a constrained inner-city site, which also has two busy working prisons, is a real challenge.

Once redevelopment is finished, Mt Eden and Auckland Central Remand Prisons will become one site. Last month we received three proposals from companies interested in managing the prison. The successful contractor will be announced early next year and the phased handover for the site will be completed in August 2011.

Community Probation Services staff also deserve sincere congratulations for the hard work they’ve been putting into making a success of their change programme. New, more effective ways of managing offenders on Parole, Home Detention and Post Detention conditions are already up and running, and probation officers are now managing offenders according to the changing levels of risk they pose, rather than focusing on managing the sentence.


Barry Matthews

Christchurch earthquake update

Earthquake damage: Falling masonry from the old prison building damaged a van at Christchurch Men's Prison. As a precautionary measure to reduce the risk and pressure on emergency services and local authorities in the Christchurch region, the Department of Corrections has moved prisoners from Christchurch Men’s and Women’s prisons to other prisons around the country.

“This is a temporary move to reduce the demand on local services, ease the pressure for contractors working at the prisons to restore infrastructure and ensure the safety of our staff and prisoners. Once we have assurance that the prisons are safe, we will return prisoners to them,” says Acting Manager Service Support Lance Alexander.

Prisoners from Christchurch Men's Prison are transferred to Rimutaka Prison with the help of NZ Army and Police. Although three Community Probation Service Centres suffered earthquake damage, offenders have been reporting to other centres and probation officers are continuing to visit offenders at home if possible.

Corrections staff expect that offenders serving community work sentences will soon be much in demand to help clean up, and are in close contact with local councils of affected areas to learn how we can help.

If you have been affected by the Christchurch earthquake and could use the help of a group of supervised offenders serving community work sentences, please call 0800 COM WRK (0800 266 975).

Need help with earthquake clean-up?

Community Probation Services have set up an 0800 number for people in Christchurch to call if they have a clean-up job for offenders serving community work sentences.

Anyone – whether community groups or individuals – can call the 0800 COM WRK phone number and make a job request.

The offenders will work in small groups, closely supervised by Community Probation Services staff.

0800 COM WRK (0800 266 975) is staffed between 8.30 and 5.00, Monday to Friday. Messages will be cleared over the weekends.

Teaching prisoners how to read and farm at the same time

Multitasking: Farming Instructor Graeme Anderton teaches prisoners farming skills alongside literacy and numeracy. How do you teach prisoners vocational skills when they lack essential numeracy and literacy skills? Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) instructors tackle this problem every day when training prisoners in various fields of work.

Many of CIE’s industries and training courses focus on industries with the highest proportions of workers with low literacy or numeracy skills, so upskilling  prisoners’ core numeracy and literacy skills within a vocational setting is hugely important.

That is why CIE has started to embed literacy and numeracy training within their curricula, and CIE instructors are learning how to teach reading, writing and maths as part of their vocational training.

Tongariro Prison’s Farming Instructor Graeme Anderton is about to begin his Level 5 National Certificate in Adult Education and Training. Graeme helps run a beef and sheep farm in the prison, managing 2300 hectares of farmland and teaching farming skills to around 30 prisoners a day.

Graeme has been teaching adult literacy and numeracy for almost three years. The qualifications he’s already earned in adult education mean he’s equipped to assess prisoners’ existing literacy and numeracy skills and develop practical resources to bridge their knowledge gaps.
 
Graeme uses simple tests to assess the numeracy levels of prisoners and word sheets to judge their level of under-standing of words. He also uses practical lessons to assist with prisoners’ learning. “Most of these people are very good kinetic learners and learn very quickly with their hands,” he says.

He admits that it is easy to underestimate the level of literacy or numeracy needed for the vocational courses offered by CIE.

“By changing words to increase understanding and teaching prisoners basic maths like addition and multiplication, it’s like a light comes on and they’re away.”

Prisoners appear in court by audio-visual link

Image courtesy of the Ministry of Justice. Since August, each day around 14 prisoners at Mt Eden/Auckland Central Remand Prison have been appearing in Auckland District Court by audio-visual link. This is part of a 6-month trial being run by the Ministry of Justice and Corrections.

Prisoners will also be able to talk to their lawyers via a link to an audio-visual booth at the Law Library at Auckland District Court prior to their court appearance.

Corrections Audio-Visual Link Co-ordinator Zane Paine says a prisoner’s appearance in Court by audio-visual link is treated just the same as if he was physically going to Court.

“The prisoner enters the audio-visual booth in the prison and appears on a large screen in Court. The prisoner has two screens so they can see and hear proceedings,” says Zane.

Prisoners can talk to their lawyer privately using a special handset.

Corrections Audio-Visual Link Co-ordinator Zane Paine says a prisoner?s appearance in Court by audio-visual link is treated just the same as if he was physically going to Court. The choice to use the audio-visual link is not up to the prisoner, who must appear this way if directed by a judge. It’s expected that many of the appearances will be for more ‘administrative’ matters, such as trial postponements, bail applications, and name suppression hearings.

“A few prisoners think it’s a bit of a novelty, but a couple have been annoyed because they just wanted a ‘day out’ at Court. Others are pleased with the speed of the process instead of having to go through the whole rigmarole of going to Court for a two-minute appearance,” says Zane.

“Most staff, including myself, think it’s a good thing, and the way of the future.”

The benefits of prisoners using an audio-visual link include greater public safety because the prisoner does not leave the prison, fewer costly prisoner movements, less contraband, and the speeding up of the judicial process.

It's our people, it's our world

Strengthening partnerships to improve public safety

Helping Rebuild Samoa: Corrections National Adviser Pacific Leatuavao Viko Aufaga (third from right) and Organised Crime Specialist Tony Coyle (far right) with other volunteers in the Rebuild Samoa Team. The tsunami that hit Samoa in September 2009 destroyed homes and lives, but emergency relief volunteers, including Corrections National Adviser Pacific Leatuavao Viko Aufaga, have helped the people to rebuild.

“Corrections is privileged by the services of so many Fautua Pasefika volunteers in our prisons, and so it is great the Department supported me to volunteer my help in return,” says Leatuavao.

More than 600 volunteers from all over the world, including New Zealand-based Samoans like Leatuavao, helped to build fales and repair homes in the worst-affected areas.
“The conditions were wet and humid and the work very physical, particularly hand-mixing concrete for the fales’ concrete floors and ablution blocks, but it was an awesome experience,” says Leatuavao.

“As a Samoan based in Wellington, I was very interested to see for myself how my people have mended their lives after the disaster.
 
Evidence of the tsunami that hit Samoa in 2009 still litters the landscape. “The fact is you can never underestimate the resilience of Samoan people at home. The tsunami took so much away from them, including loved ones who can never be replaced. For many, everything they owned was claimed by the sea, yet they still want to give something back to volunteers, even though they have very little left themselves.”

“The overwhelming feedback from volunteers was that it was an honour to be part of the effort. They went to Samoa with the intention of blessing the Samoan people, but returned home feeling blessed themselves,” he says.

The work done by the volunteers was co-ordinated by New Zealand Habitat for Humanity, which was appointed as principal builder by the Samoan government. Habitat for Humanity is a not-for-profit organisation that helps more than 60,000 families across the world into homes every year.

Leatuavao, who volunteered in June this year along with Organised Crime Specialist Tony Coyle, acknowledged the contribution of all volunteers since the beginning of the ‘Rebuild Samoa’ project in November 2009 up to the end date of 28 June 2010.

Intensive supervision

Case by case – sentences explained

This column profiles a typical offender and outlines some of the ways we manage their sentence.

Semtence - Intensive Supervision

Offender profile*

Name: Kayde
Age: 35
Occupation: unemployed
Offence: male assaults female, possession of methamphetamine
Sentence: Intensive Supervision for two years, with conditions to attend a residential drug and alcohol programme and a domestic violence course.
Managed by: Mt Eden Service Centre, Auckland
Situation: Kayde was living with his partner when he hit her several times during an argument about his drug-taking. He’s been in trouble for violence and drugs before and has already served a lesser sentence of Community Work and Supervision. His current sentence is intended to provide a strict structure and close monitoring. He is currently living at The Wings Trust, a residential drug-treatment centre.

* This profile is based on details from several offenders who are serving a sentence of this type.

The Corrections team

Kayde’s sentence of Intensive Supervision is managed by:

Probation Officer (Intensive Supervision) ? Sudha Packirisamy. Probation Officer (Intensive Supervision) Sudha Packirisamy


Sudha initially used the information from two reports about Kayde to manage his sentence; the pre-sentence report and an offender information report. The two reports tell her a lot about Kayde and help her identify risks, such as if he has any self-harm issues.

Sudha saw Kayde twice a week for the first month of his sentence. She referred him to the Wings Trust residential programme for his drug and alcohol problem. He has been doing well there, but came to Sudha a few weeks ago with fears of relapsing. One of the other participants on the course had smuggled drugs into the house and taken them; Kayde was afraid that he would do the same thing. Sudha helped him work through these fears by reminding him what he has achieved so far and highlighting the benefits of completing the programme.

Sudha liaises with other people and agencies involved in Kayde’s sentence such as Wings, Kayde’s partner (the victim of his assault) and the Victim Notification Register co-ordinator.

Sudha also referred Kayde to an anger management course, but he has been refusing to attend; she discussed this problem with her Service Manager.

Service Manager Corrinne Fowler. Service Manager Corinne Fowler

Corinne has monthly meetings with Sudha to discuss high-risk cases. In one of these meetings, Sudha raised the matter of Kayde refusing to attend the anger management course.

They decided Corinne should attend one of Kayde’s regular weekly reporting sessions and back Sudha up by reminding Kayde that the anger management course is a requirement and if he doesn’t attend he will have to go back to Court.

With Corinne’s reinforcement, Kayde realised that he could not get out of going, and decided it would be better to start attending the course.

Psychologist Nemsha NaiduPsychologist Nemsha Naidu

Because Kayde has been assessed as having a high-risk of re-offending, Psychologist Nemsha is working with him to develop and work through a treatment plan. This plan is additional to his treatment at the Wings Trust and the anger management course.

Sudha and Nemsha discuss Kayde’s case regularly to ensure the right action is taken when necessary. For example, Sudha received a call from Kayde’s partner who was the victim of an assault by him. The partner told Sudha about a big argument they had had and that she had feared for her safety. Sudha and Nemsha discussed this incident and agreed that Sudha should issue a non-association order until Kayde has completed the anger management course.

Blessings for new Flaxmere Service Centre

Helping at the blessing Barney Tihema, Corrections Area Advisor Maori, digs a hole for the mauri pohatu (life-force stone). Community members and Corrections staff gathered at a dawn ceremony on 2 August to bless the site of a new Community Probation Service Centre in Flaxmere, near Hastings.

About 30 people, including Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule, Councillor Henare O’Keefe and Des Ratima of Te Aranga Marae, were led onto the site by Koro Jerry Hapuku of Ngati Poporo.

Koro Jerry blessed a large stone taken from the bed of Te Awa o Te Atua, the river which ran through Flaxmere hundreds of years ago. The mauri pohatu (life-force stone) gives the site a life force and protection to all who enter the site in future.

The mauri pohatu was buried with the help of members of Tairawhiti Heretaunga (the local Maori Network Group) and Corrections Area Advisor Maori Barney Tihema.

Koro Jerry then said appropriate prayers and blessings, and local iwi representatives and Councillor Henare O’Keefe spoke warmly of the newly forged relationship between Community Probation Services and the Flaxmere community.

Later that morning, Mayor Lawrence Yule turned the first spade of soil to represent the beginning of development of the site.

“The people of Flaxmere and Community Probation Services have come together in a new way to work together in the town,” he said.

The new Service Centre will be opening in early 2011.

Busted!

Revenge attack foiled

Corrections gave support to the Police in Porirua when a gang member’s father was the victim of an assault. The gang member is a current prisoner at Rimutaka Prison and phone monitoring established that he and his associates were planning revenge on the alleged assailant. Information was given to the Police who were able to locate the alleged assailant before prisoners could arrange retribution.

Udderly illegal

What kind of grass has this cow been eating? This package of cannabis was found by good intelligence work and staff vigilance. At Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison  Intelligence staff discovered that milk cartons were being used to conceal drugs. As a result of that information and staff vigilance in inspecting the cartons, 90 grams of cannabis was found in a milk carton. The cannabis had a ‘prison value’ of $4500.

Know something about a crime but want to remain anonymous? Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Consulation over proposed Wiri prison well underway

The planned site of a new men's prison at Wiri in South Auckland outlined in red. Land owned by the Department of Corrections, including the existing Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility, is shown inside the black dotted line. In April this year, Infrastructure Minister Bill English and Corrections Minister Judith Collins announced that New Zealand’s first prison to be designed, built and run by a public-private partnership (PPP) was planned for Wiri in South Auckland.

The objective is to inject new ideas from the private sector into Corrections to enhance public safety, improve rehabilitation and lower costs.
 
International experience suggests that building a new prison at Wiri using a PPP will bring new ways of delivering services and offer savings over conventional methods over the 25-year life of the contract. The proposed men’s prison will be built on land already owned by Corrections which makes it a cost-effective option.
 
The new Wiri facility will play an essential role in ensuring sufficient capacity to accommodate the prison population.  Some of the Department’s current facilities are aging and need replacement.  The prisoner population is also continuing to grow.

Corrections’ Public-Private Partnership Director Jeremy Lightfoot says the new prison will provide ‘fit for purpose’ facilities and will be an important part of the overall network of prisons.

“Building this prison at Wiri will ensure sufficient capacity.  But equally importantly, by using a PPP, the Government expects there will also be an opportunity for new ideas to be identified, tested and shared with the wider prison network,” says Jeremy.

As well as providing more beds and innovative rehabilitation and reintegration services, the PPP is expected to be effective with Maori prisoners.

Corrections has begun meeting with iwi as any successful private provider will include Maori-specific services.

“We have already met with mana whenua representatives as well as leaders from Ngati Whatua, Ngai Tahu and Nga Puhi iwi and received feedback about how best to engage with iwi and Maori on the PPP,” says Jeremy.

The process to inform the local community and listen to their feedback has been progressing well since mid-April this year.

The Department is due to lodge a designation application in November this year to get approval to establish a new prison on the Wiri site. As part of the Resource Management Act consultation process, Corrections has received feedback on the proposed prison from over 60 individuals or groups.

“A lot of the feedback relates to how a new prison will impact on the existing community. We are doing our best to address these matters and mitigate them where possible,” says Jeremy.

Engaging and consulting with the local community and stakeholders will continue.

The Government will make a decision on whether to construct the prison using a PPP by the end of the year.

Mt Eden/ACRP redevelopment progressing well

The redevelopment of Mt Eden/Auckland Central Remand Prison is progressing well. The photo shows two new prisoner accommodation buildings, with the green roof of part of the old Mt Eden Prison in the left foreground. The replacement of historic Mt Eden Prison, and redevelopment of neighbouring Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP), is progressing on time and to budget.

By March next year several new buildings will be operational – including two accommodation blocks to house 554 prisoners, a gatehouse and a visits centre. Work on a third prisoner accommodation building will begin later this year and will provide another 245 prison beds by late 2012.

Mt Eden/ACRP Assistant Regional Manager, Grace Smit, says the redevelopment work will provide a safer, more secure and efficient site.

“Advanced electronic security systems on the new site will improve public safety and be far better for staff and visitors.

“Tremendous teamwork has gone on between prison staff and hundreds of building contractors to keep the busy Mt Eden and ACRP prisons operating smoothly and safely,” says Grace.

Redevelopment Project Director Campbell Twist says maintaining rigorous security on site has been a challenge.

“Over 3,000 people have gone through on-site security and safety induction, and with truck deliveries in the thousands, you can imagine how teamwork has been so vital,” he says.

The inner-city site is challenging to redevelop as it has a constrained land area and hundreds of contractors must move in and out of what are currently two different busy prison sites.

Part of enhanced security was creating a new ‘single point of entry’ in the ACRP reception area. All visitors to either prison now enter through this point where security checks include an x-ray machine and metal detector.

When completed early next year, the new gatehouse building will be the new ‘single point of entry’ to the new integrated prison.

Redevelopment Project facts at a glance

  • $216.6m budget
  • 27,598m2 of floor area
  • 15,000m3 of concrete delivered (over 3,000 trucks)
  • 29 tonnes of cell doors
  • 18km of non-pick sealant
  • 640 security cameras
  • Over 3,000 people inducted in site security & safety

Change Programme nears next milestone

The next major milestone for the Community Probation Services (CPS) Change Programme on 1 November will almost double the number of offenders being managed under the new Integrated Practice Framework.
 
Through the Change Programme, CPS is redesigning the way staff work with offenders to achieve better outcomes for public safety. The focus is on holding offenders to account, reducing the likelihood of re-offending and minimising the risk of harm to others.

Staff are already working within the framework with close to 5,000 offenders on Parole, Home Detention and Post Detention Conditions. From 1 November, staff will begin using the framework when managing offenders on Extended Supervision and Release on Conditions*.

* Extended Supervision Orders are imposed by the Court and allow Corrections to monitor child sex offenders for up to ten years following their release from prison. Release on Conditions Orders allow Corrections to supervise offenders who have been released early from prison sentences of up to two years.

Stories from the floor: de-escalation in action

Keeping prison staff safe by increasing capability

Keeping it cool: Corrections Officer Ema Fifita. In September 2009, Corrections began rolling out ‘de-escalation’ training to around 4,500 prison staff across the country, enabling them to better manage angry or upset prisoners without the use of force.

This huge piece of work is promising to be a success, with initial feedback showing that 65 percent of corrections officers who have done the training have already used the techniques to calm prisoners down.

Smoke without fire

Corrections Officer Ema Fifita from Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility tells her de-escalation story:

“Prisoner B started kicking and verbally abusing staff because she wanted her last smoke, which is a privilege in the At Risk Unit.

“I asked her if there was anything I could do to help because I could see and hear how angry she was. I asked her to stop kicking and shouting because she was disrupting the rest of the wing, and I gave her the options of either stopping or losing the privilege of having a smoke before lock.

“The prisoner couldn’t make eye contact as she felt embarrassed and started smiling. In a calm tone she stated she just wanted a smoke before lock. She said she understood her options and would ‘stop being a bitch’.

“The prisoner began quietly reading in her cell. Just before lock she politely asked for a smoke and genuinely apologised for her behaviour.

“No further issues with this prisoner after the de-escalation was done. In fact it was all ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ afterwards which is out of character for this prisoner!”

Drumming up support for White Ribbon Day

White Ribbon Day. White Ribbon Day, held on 25 November, is the international day when people, particularly men, wear a white ribbon to show they will not tolerate, condone, or remain silent, about violence towards women.
 
Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews has confirmed he will be a White Ribbon Day ambassador, and this year Corrections plans to involve as many people as possible with events all over the country.

“White Ribbon Day is a great way for us to get people thinking about why violence towards women is something we won’t tolerate in New Zealand and for us all to show our support for the campaign,” says Barry.

“Corrections has programmes in place to help offenders address the causes of their violence. However, there is still much work to be done and Corrections has a key role to play in assisting with this very important cause.”

At Rimutaka Prison, prisoners too have become involved by providing a vital service to support the White Ribbon Day campaign.

The prisoners have hand-made more than 500,000 individual ribbons out of around 60 km of ribbon. The ribbons will be supplied to national organisations for distribution on the day.

All fund-raising proceeds from the day will be donated to Women’s Refuge.

Could you get involved in Corrections’ White Ribbon events? Please contact Corrections Corporate Affairs on (04) 460 3365 or email commdesk@corrections.govt.nz

Minister's column

Minister of Corrections Hon Judith Collins. The recent Canterbury earthquake has had a significant and shocking impact on the region. Thankfully no one was killed, but there is extensive property damage and people are emotionally shattered.

Recovery will be a key Government priority in the weeks and months ahead.

I visited the three Canterbury prisons and a Community Probation Service Centre to express support and see first-hand how staff were responding to the disaster.

It was absolutely clear to me that Corrections staff are working tirelessly to do their jobs in trying circumstances, even though many of them face personal problems such as damaged homes.

Corrections is an essential service – even in times of disaster our first priority must be to keep the public safe.

Unlike many places of business, our staff can’t immediately go home and check the damage to their houses or be with their family.
 
Nevertheless, it was extremely humbling to hear reports of un-rostered staff turning up to work following the quake and offers of help pouring in from staff across the country.

To me the earthquake has highlighted the dedication and professionalism of Corrections staff. They have done themselves proud, and I’m very grateful.

The earthquake has inflicted damage on some of the Department’s infrastructure.  At least one Community Probation Service Centre is likely to be closed for some time, and the damage to Christchurch’s Men’s and Christchurch Women’s Prisons required hundreds of prisoners to be moved quickly and safely to prisons outside the region.

The transport of these prisoners was probably the largest and most complicated logistical exercise ever undertaken by the Department, and it required the support of staff from across the country. It is a tribute to them that the operation took place without incident, and I congratulate and thank everyone involved for their effort.

I am also very grateful to the Defence Force, who allowed the Department to use their aircraft to transport prisoners, and to the Police who provided invaluable assistance with transfers between airports and prisons.


Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections

Prisoners’ art gives to Victim Support

North Shore Victim Support receives $7430 from the sale of prisoners' art. A recent exhibition of prisoner art and carvings at the Mairangi Bay Arts Centre on Auckland’s North Shore has raised $7430 for Victim Support.

The InsideOut exhibition featured work by prisoners from Auckland Prison and Northland Region Corrections Facility. Over half of the 80 pieces on display were sold. “This is huge for us. We thank them for giving back to the community,” said Service Coordinator for North Shore Victim Support, Debbie Craddock.

Catering stars

Two prisoners training with Corrections Inmate Employment have gained their Level 3 National Certificate in Catering over the past two months. The level 3 certificate is industry-recognised, and only one level below the full trade certification for catering. This is a huge achievement and represents a great deal of time and dedication from both the prisoners and their instructors.

Two minutes with Prison Nurse Pam Sutherland

Adaptable, open-minded and professional: Prison Nurse Pam Sutherland. Pam has been a prison nurse for nearly eleven years. She works at Arohata Prison, near Wellington.

What skills/qualifications do you need to do your job?

I’m a registered nurse. Prison nurses need to be autonomous, quick to react in emergencies and able to adapt to difficult situations. You need to be open-minded and interact with each prisoner as you would with any other person.

What do you love about your job?

The variety, the responsibility and the challenge. The knowledge that the women leave healthier than they arrive. They come off drugs and alcohol and you often see a different person.

Many of the women have very complex health issues; they’ve been abused, they’re mothers, they have psychological issues. I know a lot of them feel safer in here than at home; they know we’ll look after them. They get a warm bed, three meals and no abuse.

What’s one thing you’d change?

It’d be nice if we had consistent staffing levels.

Any words of advice for others in a similar role?

Safety first! You are unable to help or assess a prisoner until the area is secure. Also, don’t be put off by the language some prisoners use – the custodial staff are always supportive and intervene if needed. It’s a very steep learning curve when you’re new, but it’s important not be overwhelmed by this.

Tell me about a recent or typical patient?

A woman came in last night with a probable sexually transmitted infection, problems with her ears and teeth, eczema, and drug and alcohol problems. She’ll probably be withdrawing from cannabis now. ‘Thank goodness I can have it all sorted,’ she told me. She’s been in prison before and is aware of the health care available. It’s free and arranged by the Health Team. Out in the community there often isn’t the money available for a doctor.

What do you do in an average day?

I do the morning medication round, giving prisoners anti-biotics, anti-inflammatories, pain-killers, anti-psychotics etc. I also issue methadone on prescription.

I assess all prisoners in the At Risk Unit, reviewing eating, sleeping patterns, assessing mood, if they have any thoughts of self harm. I talk to custodial staff or ring the local (external) forensic team or doctor if I have any concerns.

I assess prisoners throughout the day in the Health Centre, including taking blood pressure, blood glucose, weight and temperature.

I refer them to a doctor if necessary. I also do dental triage, and arrange for external dental visits.

I do a comprehensive medical assessment of any new prisoners within four hours of their entering the prison, including a mental health screening and a sexual health screening.

Twice a week a doctor comes in and I hand-over to them before clinic. We also have two forensic clinics; one with a psychiatrist and one with a psychologist.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a prison nurse?

Working in a secure unit as a forensic nurse specialist.

What do you do to relax?

Shopping! Reading, especially romance novels like Danielle Steele – something where I don’t have to think too hard. I also like crime stories. My husband and I also support our local football club and spend time with our grandson.