Published 18 March 2020
Ross Murray, a prison officer at HMP Woodhill, was recently seconded to our office for two weeks as part of the Unlocked Graduates programme. Here, he tells of his experience working with Crest.
I am an Unlocked Graduates prison officer based at HMP Woodhill, a Cat A Establishment in Milton Keynes. I am completing a Masters in Custodial Environments and Leadership and writing a Policy Paper exploring ‘purposeful activity’ in prisons. For the last two weeks I have been fortunate enough to work at Crest Advisory.
During this time I have managed to get insight into a diverse range of projects, including helping deliver workshops on Integrated Offender Management, writing up information gathered in focus groups, and researching for a project on police demand. Two weeks have provided me with a snapshot of the huge amount of work Crest is doing to pursue positive change in the criminal justice system and have opened my eyes to the vast number of agencies involved.
Researching the ongoing violent crime project, most recently the drugs as a driver of serious violence report, has highlighted the range of pathways with which the most vulnerable and socially excluded can become involved within the criminal justice system. The development of organised crime groups and county lines are often predicated on the exploitation of children, which results in them being positioned at the most violent end of the retail chain. Children living in poverty are typically the most at risk. This emphasises that ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ can often be interchangeable, raising questions over the management of those involved.
While exploring policing demand, I came across the London Landscaping tool which makes crime, demographic, health and socioeconomic datasets available to analysts and professionals, allowing them to gain an understanding of the potential drivers of various crimes. This is to help decision-makers explore the underlying and systemic causes of offending, and work towards preventative measures. Working in the Prison Service, a large proportion of my job is about addressing an individual’s criminogenic needs, while developing positive relationships in the pursuit of desistance. Achieving this involves being aware of the various drivers which may contribute to a person committing crime. When I deliver training as a Becoming Trauma Informed instructor to help frontline staff answer the question ‘What has happened to them?’, it is common to come up against resistance when trying to achieve this. The research I have been involved in at Crest will help reinforce the benefits of an approach which considers individual circumstances.
One common theme which emerged from the Integrated Offender Management focus groups that I took part in was the need for ‘end to end’ support for those involved in the system. Frequently, offenders are released from prison, without adequate attention being paid to problems, such as substance misuse and housing. More multi-agency communication is necessary across the board, to identify risks and coordinate solutions. Returning to HMP Woodhill, I am going to try and reach out to other service providers to get a greater understanding of what they do and the support they can offer.
Working at Crest, I have been impressed by the focus on using and developing the evidence base with fresh and informed perspectives, and moving forward I want to ensure that the research I am doing for my Master’s dissertation and Policy Paper is written in a similar fashion.