Bringing service to life in offender management
HMP & YOI Doncaster holds an offender on average for just 12-16 weeks, making its population one of the hardest to rehabilitate. When John Biggin took over as the prison's director, he was prepared for the challenge. "I had a vision for the prison and the difference it could make to people's lives," he says.
John sharpened the prison's focus on reducing re-offending, introducing innovative schemes and a zero tolerance for violence and drugs. Research shows that offenders with strong family ties are six times less likely to re-offend, so new fathers now have a separate visiting area, helping them to bond with, feed and bathe their babies. Visits take place outside in summer and the prison arranges family activities.
A new directorate brings outside groups into the prison, helping Doncaster achieve more without extra funding. One example is the theatre work with the Central School of Speech and Drama. "Our restorative justice project gave the men a real insight into their impact on victims," says John. "When they performed in the houseblocks, the audience also got the message."
To help offenders re-enter the community, Doncaster's team helps them access housing, benefits, employment or training. Charity Catch22 provides round-the-clock mentoring after an offender leaves prison.
John's initiatives have produced a sharp drop in violence, drug use and smuggling by visitors. The next step will be payment by results, with part of our revenue at Doncaster dependent on educed re-offending six months after release.
In recognition of his achievements, John was voted the 2010 Guardian Public Servant of the Year. Underpinning his success is Serco's way of working. "I was encouraged to have a vision and to realise it," he says. "Serco gave me the chance to get Doncaster ahead of the game."