Deerbolt to shut? It's here to stay, says governor
Andy Hudson, the governor of Deerbolt Young Offenders’ Institution, has been in his post for a year. David Wibberley caught up with him
ANDY Hudson, who hails from Kent, joined the prison service in 1992. He served across the south in a variety of roles – from probationary prison warder at Wormwood Scrubs to leading a government task force challenged with increasing the number of tagged inmates released back into society.
But last year, it was time for him to head north. Mr Hudson explains: “I wanted to get back into prisons. I was missing the thrust and challenges of day to day.
“There was a vacancy here and the prison population at Deerbolt is an age group I like working with. You can make a real difference with this particular group of prisoners.
“Working closely with them you can help them build better lives.”
Mr Hudson admits it was challenging getting to know then ins and outs at Deerbolt.
“Building relationships and trust takes time and every prison is different – every prison has its own character,” he says. “When I stepped through the gate I didn’t know anyone and certainly didn’t know anything about the day to day life. I aim to build on what I have learnt to make Deerbolt the best it possibly can be. Just before Mr Hudson’s arrival, an unannounced inspection of the prison found that “the establishment had maintained its previous ‘reasonably good’ performance in the areas of safety and respect”.
However, Deerbolt, like any other prison, has its problems with alcohol, drugs, bullying and violence. The report found that the level of violence had risen although it had levelled off.
But Mr Hudson says this was still not as
high as other similar establishments. This January, Deerbolt Independent Monitoring Board warned about gangs, drugs and attacks on officers and a shortage of staff. However, Mr Hudson says that during the past 12 months the rate of violent offences has started to fall.
Mr Hudson does not see his – or indeed his staff’s role – as an “intimidator”. For him, it’s a case of being a counsellor and educator. He says he wants Deerbolt to be seen as a prison that never gives up on anyone.
Deerbolt holds prisoners aged between 18 and 21 and has a capacity of 513 inmates.
“We have people in the prison with complex and challenging behaviour. We the staff have to adapt our behaviour to help and encourage them. Many of our prisoners are still developing emotionally, and many have arrived with a range of problems,” Mr Hudson says.
“The more we know about each individual’s story, the more we are able to help them. When we truly know the person behind the behaviour then the easier it is to help someone change that behaviour for the better.”
Deerbolt is one of seven prisons chosen from across the UK to feature in an ITV documentary to be screened this autumn. Film crews have been in the prison since the beginning of the year and the series is designed to show the human side of prison life.
Mr Hudson says: “One of my most poignant moments since I arrived at Deerbolt has been the prison Remembrance Day parade where staff and prisoners mutually pay their respects to the fallen.”
The Ministry of Justice has been selling large areas of land to housing developers around the prison, leading to claims from residents that the prison is next on the list.
But Mr Hudson says rumours of Deerbolt’s impending closure were just that – rumour. He says: “If the prison was closing I would not have moved my wife and young family to the North East.”