Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2015-16: Alan is Commended for the quality of his work, over many years, in the farms and gardens at HMP Kirkham, and (to quote his nomination) for his “utter commitment to his colleagues and the men in his care”.
Alan Pitham is a Facilities and Services Supervisor at HMP Kirkham, and is Commended for his exceptional service in this role for a quarter of a century.
Lead nominator Dave Bland, Head of Reducing Reoffending at Kirkham, describes Alan’s service in Kirkham as “25 years of utter commitment to his colleagues and the men in his care”, and continues, “Alan has responsibility for a vast area of horticultural operation and production at Kirkham. It is his devotion which ensures the finest quality of fresh produce is delivered each day to the prison kitchens helping us provide excellent healthy and nutritious food to the prison and staff via our restaurant. This produce is also available to the general public through our farm shop with staff, families and the local community positively beating a path there to sample delicious and mouth-watering fruit and vegetables. This isn’t a role however which you need to like to do, you need to love it and Alan does so with a passion. He is growing some of the finest produce in the county here and he is helping the men who come to live and work at Kirkham grow new hope, skills and dreams for the future.”
Dave adds, “However, if this were not enough, Alan has led his team consistently to success in the Windlesham Trophy competition and as winner of the some of the biggest prizes at the Southport Flower Show, one of the most prestigious horticultural shows in Britain. You may wonder why this is so extraordinary. Well, simply to do one’s job well is commendable, to promote your establishment and NOMS (National Offender Management Service) to the public in competition and to succeed on a national level, showing standards of excellence, and helping men in custody to develop new skills, gain recognition and go forward into employment is simply outstanding. However, what is even more incredible is that Alan would take little personal credit for this; he would say it’s his team that deliver so fantastically – however, they would say this is only possible because of him and his care and commitment. If you are reading this and thinking it’s too good to be true the answer may well lie in something a colleague of Alan’s said to me recently: ‘I have been at Kirkham for 17 years and Alan has never taken his full leave complement, never asked for it to be carried over or for it to be given in pay. In fact I have known a lot of years when he hasn’t taken any leave at all!’
Dave, again: “Flowers, vegetables, our rare breed herds of long horn cattle and pigs, let me assure you this is farming and horticulture at its very best, a standard and level of service to be truly proud of, and we are! In these modern times of selfishness to find such a selfless man giving everything of himself to improve the lives and futures of others is nothing short of inspiring.”
As Dave explains, “Alan has so many achievements it would be impossible to record them all here, from training and winning national garden festival awards, producing exceptional quality produce and livestock and serving the local community as well as the prison to recycling. Today we take recycling and protecting the environment for granted, but in 2001 this was just on the horizon. Alan was visionary at the time in seeing the huge implications and issues ahead for a large prison and farming operation. Alan pioneered the prison service’s involvement in recycling, and the work he undertook then is still as solid today.
“In fact, such were the quality standards he developed, Kirkham achieved environmental accreditation to standard ISO14001, a remarkable achievement and one of only three prisons in the country to do so. To this day recycling and responsible environmental management remain at the heart of what we do at Kirkham. Whether this is in connection with wood, paper and cardboard recycling or green waste management we consider our environment and understand as a result of Alan’s vision that we have a responsibility to the community around us. It is the ability to influence positive change, bring that change and maintain it which is one of Alan’s unique qualities.
“The recycling operation at Kirkham has created staff and offender employment and also generates income for the prison ensuring, once again, that we are able to deliver outcomes with public funds in the most positive way. The farm and land based services teach new skills, exceed standards and serve the prison and the community with incredible food. Whether it’s recycling paper or lives, growing plants or dreams or winning gardening awards or hearts and minds, Alan’s work is about taking very little and making something wonderful out of it. The men who work with Alan understand this very quickly. Hard work, dedication and time will always bring success, always foster hope and always bring about positive change: something Alan does effortlessly.”
Butler Trust Local Champion and Kirkham’s People Hub Manager Karen Phillips takes up the story: “The nomination is for Alan’s outstanding commitment and dedication to HMP Kirkham. This includes the selfless devotion to his colleagues, the men in his care and to NOMS. Alan always gives 100% to everything he does and goes over and above his job description. He is always willing to help anyone and is a walking weatherman who is always able to provide a weather forecast for the week.”
Karen describes how “Alan stands out from the crowd for his dedication to HMP Kirkham. He goes over and above his job description. He is always willing to help staff and prisoners and is a man with endless drive, respect and commitment who can implement policy, achieve the highest standards and save money. Alan just keeps on giving, innovating and delivering and is a true inspiration to everyone.”
Another testimonial comes from Kirkham’s Business Hub Manager, Liz Gordon: “Alan Pitham is a man of drive and experience and HMP Kirkham has benefitted from his complete dedication to the establishment over the last 25 years. Alan is the backbone of the Land Based Activities department, always first in and often last out, he leads and guides both staff and prisoners with his wealth of knowledge, through complex tasks of providing market garden crops for the prison kitchen and the external market. Alan spearheaded a project to allow prisoners to drive official vehicles, giving them a sense of purpose and reducing our transport costs by 75%.”
Liz adds that “Alan helps out other departments helping to ensure that the prison fleet of vehicles are physically maintained and managed. Alan ensures that the grounds are kept immaculate and planted with innovation and sensitivity, recent projects of note being the wild flower meadow and the orchard which, along with the bee keeping, are in harmony with our conservation ethos and the local countryside. HMP Kirkham’s success over the years in the Windlesham Trophy is testament to his pride and commitment in his work.
“Until recently, Alan managed the Prisoner Opportunities Board responsible for the allocation of prisoner labour during their time at Kirkham. Alan did this with sensitivity and common-sense, often helping men into work for the first time in their lives.
Alan Pitham is selfless and tireless in his pursuit of excellence, always seeking ways to improve efficiency and new ways of working and his twenty five years of dedication should be marked as he is an inspiration to all the staff and prisoners of HMP Kirkham.”
Kirkham’s Governor, Graham Beck, fully supports these testimonials:
“When reading this nomination and thinking about my experience of working with Mr Pitham, I was struck by the volumes that could be written about his contribution to our establishment. Alan is not a man who would publicise his successes or his many contributions. As this nomination indicates, he quietly goes about his business, solving problems, helping his colleagues, and above all, delivering high quality work and encouraging the same from others.”
Graham adds that “visitors always comment on the relaxed, friendly and professional environment they experience from arrival onwards here at HMP Kirkham. This is down to Alan, who constantly strives to ensure we are at our best every day. His loyalty to the establishment is absolute and he frequently can be relied upon to find a solution to any number of institutional issues. He supports colleagues, is a wise advisor for prisoners and will always take time to welcome visitors and guests.”
“The land based activities offered at Kirkham”, says Graham, “are a huge contributor to our regime and to our culture. Alan is the person behind the many successes of this enterprise and in my view deserves consideration for this prestigious recognition. In the guidance notes for this award, we are advised that the people who are considered are those ‘who have shown outstanding dedication, skill or creativity in their work’. I commend Alan to you on all three counts, but above all his long term dedication and loyalty.”
Alan, like so many Butler Trust winners, is modest and unassuming in his response to this praise. “Having the read the nomination,” he says, “I feel overwhelmed as I don’t think that I have done anything special. I have always come to work with a positive ‘can do’ attitude. I am a perfectionist and always see a job through to the end. I always lead from the front with the expectation that it rubs off on the staff within my team. I came to Kirkham as a craftsman and was promoted in 2005 to Farm Foreman 1. I have managed the same team now for 15 years, and in all that time we have had an excellent working relationship with high productivity, low sick levels and continuity of staff.”
Alan describes how several years ago he was asked to develop and lead on a new initiative called ‘The Opportunities Board’ to take the place of the traditional ‘Labour Board’. “This,” he says, “was right up my street. The initiative I put in place gave me the opportunity to not just allocate jobs to offenders but to interview every prisoner, identify any issues involving education, housing, family and offending behaviour and, more importantly, gave me the opportunity to get to know them and discover their aspirations. The Opportunities Board has evolved and now includes other departments’ input.”
Alan also gives more background on his transport initiative: “Transport costs for the prison was something I was very passionate about, and I was determined to find a more cost effective way to transport prisoners to and from various appointments. I took it upon myself to investigate where the costs were arising from. I collaborated with other departments to look at ways in which costs could be reduced. The result was the Prisoner Driver scheme which enables offenders who are at the Release on Temporary Licence [ROTL] stage of their sentence to apply for the role. This role gives them a sense of responsibility, improved communication skills and work ethic. There was a reduction in the use of taxis, and in the beginning the cost savings were approximately £50,000.”
Another of Alan’s passions is waste: “be it electricity, water, food or general waste – it’s on my radar. During the early 2000s, I was given the opportunity to be in involved in the implementation of the ISO14001 Environmental Standard. We were a small team with a big task to complete but, through hard work and determination, we were able to gain funding for an on-site Waste Management Unit (WMU) – I designed it and was instrumental in the building of it. The WMU reduced the amount of waste going to landfill, generated revenue and gave offenders the opportunity to gain experience and skills in a growing industry. My drive and determination to push this project resulted in the prison being one of [only] three prisons awarded this standard.”
Then there’s The Farm Shop, “another passion of mine”, says Alan. “I was the instigator and driving force behind the expansion and introduction of offenders working in a public facing role. I wanted to offer the public the opportunity to purchase the produce which was grown on our land and give them an insight into the work we do surrounding reducing re-offending. This was also another avenue for offenders to gain customer service skills and a positive work ethic, particularly for the Life Sentenced/Long Term prisoners.”
As well as training people and growing and supplying produce, Alan’s also taken a role in the resettlement for long term life sentenced and indeterminate sentenced offenders, by managing the Community Work Party. This, Alan explains, “engages with external organisations and charities to enable community projects such as improving public areas, painting public buildings and landscaping both for charities and local authorities which in turn had a wider benefit to the public.”
Looking ahead, Alan would like to see further development and investment in Prison Industries and Land Based Activities at Kirkham “as this would enable development in my future work. We are fortunate that we have the space and environment to enable this to happen, along with offenders who are aiming to develop new skills in preparation for their release. Therefore an emerging and exciting evolution of this area would see continuous improvement in the development of purposeful activity for offenders, which would offer offenders accredited training and further opportunities of employment upon release.”