‘A prison transformed’: HMP Wayland making ‘amazing turnaround’ from violent past, says MP
A jail has been praised for making an “amazing turnaround” from its violent past by a visiting MP.
Inspectors said the number of violent incidents at HMP Wayland had “increased steadily between 2015 and 2016”, with even prison governor Paul Cawkwell being subjected to one vicious attack which left him with serious fractures to his eye socket and cheek bones.
But visitors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons have said that while concerns still remained about safety, the jail at Griston, near Watton is “making progress”, adding: “The progress being made in challenging circumstances is a credit to the governor and staff.”
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman admitted he “went in quite wary about what I was going to see” when he visited the category C men’s jail on Friday, December 1.
But he said the prison shows an “incredible story” of how Mr Cawkwell is addressing weaknesses over violence and disorder and is putting in place on-site mental healthcare, as well as training to ensure inmates can find jobs on release.
“He showed me all the indicators of fights, fires and thefts all down and falling fast,” Mr Freeman said of Mr Cawkwell.
“Going round the prison, the morale of staff is good and the prisoners are polite. It’s a very interesting story of how he’s done it. It’s an amazing turnaround.”
Mr Freeman particularly praised the educational training in subjects such as plumbing and building, adding: “It’s about giving them vocational skills so they are coming out at grade three level.
“If the prisoners haven’t got a sense of when they leave that they can get a job, the chances of them going back to where they used to for their money are high.
“They’re going to come out and they need to know there are employers.
“It’s a positive thing he’s done with the training - it’s huge.”
Mr Freeman also said treatment for inmates with mental ill health by NHS staff on site, instead of sending them outside the prison to hospitals, is not only saving money but having a positive impact.
But he said his visit showed there is “too much bureaucracy in the prison service and probation service”, adding: “It is getting better but not fast enough.”
He also is also eager for the government to release more data on what happens to the jail’s 1,000 inmates - two thirds of whom are serving more than four years - once they leave, as he believes this would show whether prison has worked as a deterrent.
“Two years ago HMP Wayland was facing a serious outbreak of disorder fueled by a mix of the latest drug ‘Spice’, staff overstretch and low morale,” Mr Freeman said.
“Today it is a prison transformed by the new governor and a great team of staff.
“Pioneering innovative approaches to mental health, training and rehabilitation, Wayland has been praised by the Prisons Inspectorate and the Prison Officers Union.
“This is a Norfolk success story.”