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Praise for advances in the reduction of prison violence at Serco-operated prisons

Serco-operated prisons have received praise for advances in the reduction of prison violence, in reports by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Independent Monitoring Board. HMP Thameside “bucks the national trend on safety” and prisoners “generally feel safe”, read one report, while at HMP & YOI Doncaster, “there was a good, and improved, strategic and operational focus on violence reduction”.

Violence in the custodial sector has become more prevalent in recent years. In our commitment to making our workplaces as safe as possible – for staff and service recipients alike – we are refusing to accept rising levels of violence as ‘the new normal’. Where conventional methods have proven insufficient, innovation has enabled success, in particular at HMP & YOI Doncaster where we have developed a new solution to help curb violence: the Social Responsibility Unit (SRU).

The SRU is based on a system of reward, not punishment. It addresses the minority of prisoners causing the most disruption by placing them in a separate environment with a specially-selected team of prison custody officers, psychologists and health workers who help them address their behaviour and take responsibility for improving it, promoting pro-social behaviour and creating a safer environment. Rehabilitated prisoners are reintegrated back into the general prison population, where they can then earn leisure and education funding for the prisoner community, subject to behavioural targets. Plans to introduce the SRU to other Serco-operated prisons are in development.

Jerry Spencer, Contract Director at HMP & YOI Doncaster, said: “Our violence reduction strategy, including the SRU, is starting to make real headway, reducing levels of violence and bucking the national trend.”

Craig Thomson, Contract Director at HMP Thameside, added: “We will continue our zero tolerance approach. The leadership and all the staff here are totally committed to making improvements and building on what we have already achieved.”