Escorts and transfers to and from prison
Long waits in court in the large catchment area meant too many women arrived late at the prison. Women were not consistently provided with written information either in court or in transfer to Mayfield.
In our survey 39 per cent of women said they spent over two hours in the van on their most recent journey to the prison. Too many women experience long waits in court and the prison covered 75 courts. These were spread out over a large catchment area, which meant that women often arrived at the prison late in the evening. All essential first night processes were completed on arrival, but women who arrived late had little opportunity to settle in before being locked up for the night.
Vehicles were appropriate and clean, and on their journey women received food and drinks. We found escorting staff courteous and friendly and transfers between vehicles and reception were fast and efficient. We were told that women were not moved to the prison in vehicles shared with men. Only 5 per cent of women in our survey said they had received written information about the prison prior to their arrival at Mayfield.
Video link facilities were good and their use had increased over the previous two years, but they still needed to be used more frequently. Only 19 courts had video link facilities.
We recommend that women should be transferred from court to the prison as soon as possible following their hearing. This would give them enough time to settle in at the prison.
Early days in custody
Women are treated with respect and feel safe on their arrival into prison and for the first few days in custody. Women’s individual needs are identified and addressed, and they feel supported on their first night. During a woman’s induction she is made aware of the prison routines, how to access available services and how to cope with imprisonment.
The reception area was clean and welcoming. In our survey women were negative about some aspects of the support provided on arrival but we saw courteous and respectful reception staff, supported by peer workers, delivering good service. First night checks were undertaken in reception and included an interview in private to identify concerns about women’s safety or vulnerability. First night cells were clean and well prepared. Staff are knowledgeable and there were additional checks during the women’s first night.
The reception was large, clean and welcoming. Some holding areas were being redecorated. It was open throughout the day. The reception was busy with an average of 40 new arrivals each week.
In our survey, women were negative about some aspects of support on arrival but we saw a good level of care delivered by courteous and respectful reception staff, supported by peer workers. Peer workers were available every evening and could be called during the day if required. They provided valuable support to newly arrived women. Listeners are prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to fellow prisoners and these provide new arrivals with support.
Only 25 per cent of women surveyed said they had spent less than two hours in reception when they arrived at the prison, lower than the comparator 55 per cent. Women surveyed suggested that the provision of healthcare services was often delayed.
Even though fewer women than in comparator prisons reported being offered a shower on the first day, we saw staff provide women with good service. This included offering women a shower, hot drinks, hot food and clothing packs. We were confident that women leaving for court in the morning were routinely offered a shower, breakfast and clean clothes prior to departure. Newly arrived women received clean kit, including essential toiletries, clean clothes and new underwear.
First night checks undertaken in reception included an interview in private to identify any safety or vulnerability concerns. We found evidence of the appropriate use of interpretation services in reception, and also a range of written information in a number of languages.
Women requiring detoxification support were located in house block one for the first five days before beginning the standard induction programme. However, they received essential induction information on arrival. Other new arrivals were routinely located in house block two, where we observed clean, well prepared cells, and knowledgeable staff, although overcrowding meant that women sometimes spent their first few nights in the healthcare unit, which was inappropriate.
Women in our survey were more negative about their first night in prison than the comparator. Only 61 percent compared with 72 per cent said they felt safe. However, it was unclear why they felt unsafe. Women we spoke to about their experiences said they had been well supported during their first night. Staff undertake six inspections of all new receptions during the night in addition to the observations carried out by nurses providing 24-hour cover.
The induction programme was well designed and women could speak to representatives from a wide range of services and peer workers. However, women in our focus groups and survey were more negative than the comparator about the induction process, saying that they did not get all the information they needed, and that it was delivered too quickly. Others said they felt overloaded by the amount of information they received in a short space of time. Induction was sometimes delayed and when this happened, women spent long periods locked in their cells with nothing to do. We welcomed the recently developed induction workbook for new arrivals. We recommend that the information provided at induction should ensure women have a good understanding of how the prison operates and the essentials of everyday life at the prison.