Supporting meaningful recovery from drug and alcohol addiction: HMP Pentonville's approach

Tuesday 31 May 2022



Jenny Warren has just completed a short stint at Crest, as part of the acclaimed leadership development programme, Unlocked, in which graduates train and work as prison officers while studying for a Master’s degree. Jenny is based at HMP Pentonville, in north London. It’s a vast Category B prison, which was built 180 years ago and can hold around 1,000 men. Here she gives an insight into her work on a wing of the jail which is designed to help inmates who have been dependent on drugs or alcohol.

HMP Pentonville’s Incentivised Substance Free Living wing (ISFL) provides specialist substance misuse services for prisoners who are already in recovery - with a series of incentives intended to reduce the risk of relapse. We offer more time with the drugs recovery team than would be possible on other wings. There’s more group work and more courses relating to substance misuse, with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings available on a regular basis.


Other incentives include communal dining, extra gym time, yoga classes and exercise DVDs - all with the aim of encouraging healthy living. Prisoners are in some form of work or education while on the wing which means most are busy for the majority of the day. The goal is to create a community atmosphere through engaging activity on the wing.


Prisoners tell me they feel a positive community spirit when they come onto the ISFL wing and believe they generally have better relationships with prison officers. We hold regular forums so staff can work together with prisoners to improve activities and facilities on the wing. This gives them a voice and shows how they can add value to the wing themselves; they have some responsibility over certain aspects of the regime and can offer independent advice on how we continue improving it.


So far the ISFL has been a positive experience for staff and prisoners in terms of relationships on the wing with a tangible difference to prisoners’ health and wellbeing.

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