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



Charlyann Dennehy

COMMENDEE 2022-23: Charlyann is a Senior Officer at HMP/YOI Bronzefield. Described as “second to none”, she receives a Commendation for her outstanding leadership on the prison’s 15-bed ‘trauma-informed’ healthcare unit, which houses some of the most complex and vulnerable women in the system.

Charlyann’s initial nominator, and Bronzefield’s Head of Healthcare, Dev Muniah, explains that Charlyann works on a dedicated ‘trauma informed’ healthcare unit with 15 beds. The unit offers enhanced support to prisoners with multiple complex physical, social, and mental health needs. These often include those who are acutely mentally ill and those awaiting transfer to a mental hospital. As well as their complex health and social care needs, many also have a long history of trauma and engage in severe self-harm or suicide attempts. Dev notes that last year, on average, 90% of prisoners in the unit had ‘severe, enduring mental illness along with a range of co-morbid complex needs’, and they were often non-compliant with their medication.

As a Senior Prison Custody Officer in the Healthcare department, says Dev, Charlyann ‘is the key interface’ on a day-to-day basis, linking the operational, primary care and the mental health care teams:

‘Every day, Charlyann makes decisions on how to manage difficult situations, always ensuring that prisoners are cared for, and decency is maintained, and that staff are safe, and given the appropriate support and supervision.  Charlyann is skilled in working through any issue in a methodical way, engaging staff and getting to solutions whilst always having the impact and outcome on the prisoner at the forefront.’

Charylann ‘interacts with both prisoners and staff compassionately and professionally’ and ‘truly leads by example’, adds Dev, and often has to make ‘very difficult decisions spontaneously’ to ensure the best outcome for the prisoners and staff.  Particularly skilled ‘in driving accountability’, she is ‘focused on ensuring that actions are completed with the view that any delay will inevitably impact on the prisoner’, notes Dev, as well as on ‘maximising the regime to enable even the most challenging prisoners to get involved in purposeful activity’.

These activities include arts and crafts, bingo, karaoke, music, and dancing, as Charlyann attempts to ‘bring some normality’ for this vulnerable group, reduce social isolation as much as possible, and promote a community feel. Dev says Charlyann has also been instrumental in relaunching the use of the sensory room where prisoners can safely have a break, take some time out, and de-escalate situations. ‘Her care, respectful and compassionate manner and approach to situations makes the Healthcare department a calmer and safer environment for staff to work in and for complex prisoners to live in.’

Butler Trust Local Champion and Bronzefield’s Senior Communications Manager, Marianne Fagents, shares further testimonials from colleagues, including further warm remarks by Dev, who says:

‘It is an absolute pleasure having Charlyann in the team. She leads a team of officers who have to ensure care and safety of potentially the most complex and vulnerable women in the London and South East. Her effort to support her staff in sometimes managing distressing situations is next to none. She makes the department a great place to work and truly embodies the company’s team spirit.’

Another colleague, PCO Kimberly Brett, says ‘Charlyann always goes above and beyond for the prisoners and the staff. She is supportive in every way imaginable. She truly leads by example,’ adding that ‘No matter what is thrown her way it is never too much for her, and she gets the job done without a fuss.’ Kimberley concludes by saying Charlyann’s ‘exceptional decision-making on how to manage difficult situations, always ensuring that prisoners are cared for, and decency is maintained, and that staff are safe, and given the appropriate support and supervision is amazing.’

Bronzefield Prison Director, Ian Whiteside, says that as the Senior Prison Custody Officer in the Healthcare department, Charlyann has been ‘instrumental’ in keeping prisoners and staff safe and well, adding that ‘she has undoubtably saved numerous lives both directly as a result of the number of attempted suicides in the department or indirectly though her work with prisoners with severe self-harm issues.’

Charlyann herself says that although she joined Bronzefield in 2017 as a a Prison Custody Officer working on the houseblocks and in Reception, ever since her promotion to Senior Prison Officer, and her move onto the Healthcare Unit in 2021, she hasn’t looked back – as she describes, with infectious enthusiasm:

‘My job is amazing, I work with some of the most challenging, complex, and vulnerable women in the prison, and in society. I enjoy making sure they are cared for and looked after whilst in Healthcare, but I predominately make sure they have meaningful progression during their time with us.

‘Seeing their transformation is amazing and so rewarding – it’s why I love my job. I always keep in touch with those women who have moved from Healthcare back into the prison and where appropriate I invite them back to Healthcare to support others who need their invaluable insight, empathy and understanding.’