A few months ago I posted about the inception of a new initiative here at Wakefield aimed at making the prison into an Enabling Environment where people live and work together to improve both themselves and each other as well as the environment around them. Since then a lot has changed.
Firstly, a new regime came into place which moved the unlock and lockup times to have prisoners at work for longer but also to mitigate that with slightly longer association times. These things take time to settle into place of course and the unlock times are still routinely happening late whilst the lockup times are either dead on time or even early. But give it time, it may sort itself out.
We’ve also started an Enabling Environments forum which I volunteered for and we meet every week on Friday mornings. There are 18 ‘Enabler Reps’ across the prison who attend this meeting, and around twenty more ‘Assistant Enablers’ who aren’t recognised as Reps and don’t attend the meetings, but who want to have some involvement in the initiative. We hold mini meets with them on the wings each week to keep them updated and to get their feedback and ideas on how we can improve things here which we then take forward to the main meeting.
But we have been undertaking practical tasks too. The weekly canteen orders used to be given out by staff here at a central serving hatch shared between four wings over three days. But now this responsibility has been given to prisoners to do on the wings themselves. To start with it is us Enabler Reps who are giving it out, with two service points on each of the four wings, effectively cutting the time it takes to distribute it to less than a quarter of what it took before. Of course, there are some grumblers who never like change, but for the most part everyone has seen that they get their canteen quicker and more reliably and they’re happy enough with that.
But the work doesn’t end there. We are actually working on around twenty different projects from revamping the entire induction process to considering ideas on how best to handle transfers out of the establishment and everything in between. It’s a long process and there remains a fair few people who openly say that they don’t want it to work, but there are enough of the right people in the right positions who are personally and professionally invested in the initiative for it to be one which no one else can stand in the way of. It will happen. It could be slowed by non cooperation, but it cannot be stopped. I just hope that the doubters realise this and don’t try to stand in the way of a moving train.