Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice



AWARD WINNER 2016-17: Annette, from HMP North Sea Camp, is granted an Award for the inspirational way she responded to being assaulted, by becoming a champion for safer custody and, through her commitment and determination as Safer Custody Business Administrator, transforming the culture of the establishment, and the safety and security of both prisoners and staff. [This Award is supported by G4S Care & Justice Services.]

Annette Duckham’s amazing work as a Safer Custody Business Administrator at HMP North Sea Camp has changed an entire culture – and as a direct result, had an inspiring impact on the safety and security of both staff and prisoners alike.

Marcus Riley, Head of Residence and Safety at North Sea Camp, and Annette’s nominator, explains that when Annette returned to duty, after herself experiencing an assault at work, she set about “going on to champion safer prisons for both prisoners and staff, [having] decided that she would use her negative experience in a positive way.”

Ever since, “she has championed a zero tolerance to violence and antisocial behaviour… and driven home this message to both prisoners and staff alike.” Annette’s work also includes victims of violence, with her insights and support helping “put them on the road to recovery.”

Annette has introduced “numerous systems”, says Marcus, “that mean we are able to better track and identify those prisoners at increased risk, and put in place interventions.” Additionally, Annette has “dramatically increased staff awareness of potential signs of risk”.

The dramatic impact of Annette’s work is measurable: her work is credited by Marcus as “instrumental in reducing actual acts of self harm at HMP North Sea Camp by 400% during the last year compared to the previous year.”

Monique Watts, People Hub Manager and Local Butler Trust Champion, describes how Annette “has created a holistic environment where staff and prisoners work together as a community.”

Annette “decided to tread the more difficult path and turn the negative into the positive”, Monique says, and “made herself an inspiration and shining light for other people, both staff and prisoners alike…[showing that] there is hope and a light at the end of a dark tunnel.”

Above all, Annette’s work has firmly embedded “the message that any form of violence is unacceptable and not to be tolerated, no matter how small.” Monique adds that Annette’s work “has caused many ‘light bulb’ moments with staff” as to the effects and consequences of violence – and how they can be part of the solution to changing behaviour and thought processes in prisoners.”

Don*, an offender, describes how Annette “has made a real difference to safer custody here at North Sea Camp and she is well respected by prisoners and other staff. Her no nonsense and straight forward approach, as well as her passion for making North Sea Camp safe for everyone, is infectious and I know she has made a massive difference in many prisoners lives.”

Another offender, Dave*, says that “Annette has always treated not only those she works with, but everyone as equals regardless of age, gender, uniform, non-uniform or prisoner. Annette is a true asset for North Sea Camp, and she is always available for those who need to speak to her and whether you get the answers you want or not you always leave feeling listened to and valued.”

North Sea Camp Custodial Manager, Siobhan Russell, says Annette returned to work “100% dedicated, motivated and is a role model to staff and prisoner alike. She has singlehandedly kept safer custody performing at a high level,” adding that Annette “is passionate about her role and job, often giving up her own time for prisoners and prisoner events.”

Another Custodial Manager, Mark Allan, says that “Annette works with a drive, passion and enthusiasm in her area and without a shadow of a doubt has made North Sea Camp a safer place for prisoners and staff alike.”

Governing Governor Paul Yates says Annette “has done a fantastic job… for prisoners and staff across the whole establishment,” adding that Annette works with “drive, passion and enthusiasm.”

Like so many Butler Trust Winners, Annette herself is notably self-deprecating. “I do not feel that I have done anything more or have worked any harder than anyone else. The only difference is that I maybe have a unique understanding of the kind of lasting effects being the victim of violence has on a person, and as a result it is my steadfast desire to do what I can to stop it happening again to anyone else.”

Nevertheless, again like many Butler Trust Winners, she also describes her work as “absolutely a passion for me.”

Employing key prisoners as Peer Mentors to get the safer prisons message out, she trained a group – “many convicted of violent offences or perpetrators of violence during their sentence” – and empowered them “to drive home the message of zero tolerance to violence along with challenging anti-social behaviour in other prisoners.”

More important, she says, was “to get them to understand the effects their actions have on others. This is particularity important (and difficult) as many of these prisoners have been exposed to a violent environment… and been shaped by it. Breaking the cycle of violence and chipping away bit by bit at their acceptance of it is a long, but ultimately rewarding struggle.” In turn, they “become advocates of decency and pro social behaviour, passing this on to others in what I hope is a self-perpetuating cycle.”

Annette also started a comprehensive training programme “to up skill staff to notice early signs of violence or risk so they could then intervene at the earliest possible stage to stop it.”

Change has also come by “creating an environment where people felt confident in both challenging issues as they happen, and also in reporting issues without fear, knowing that things would be dealt with effectively and transparently.” Annette created and implemented a new reporting system to deliver this.

Another passion of Annette’s is to reduce the risk of self-harm and suicide. Again, the impact of her work is striking. “There have only been two incidents of minor self harm in the last 12 months at North Sea Camp”, she reports, and “only a single incident of violence towards staff in the last three years” since she grasped the nettle.

With Annette’s help, the Peer Mentors also produce a Safer Custody Newsletter. Meanwhile, exit feedback from prisoners being released shows a remarkable 95% of prisoners released this year describing North Sea Camp as a safe place to live.

Annette wants to build on this exceptional work in other prisons and with other prisoner groups including veterans and older prisoners. As Annette puts it so eloquently, “It makes no difference to me who the people I am trying to help are, be they colleagues, strangers or prisoners. I see everyone as human beings.”

* Name changed

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