Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2016-17: Gail is Head of the Offender Management Unit at HMP Buckley Hall, and receives a Commendation for the dedication, skill and creativity she has shown in transforming offender management in the prison.
Gail Sessa is Head of the Offender Management Unit (OMU) at HMP Buckley Hall, and is described by one longstanding colleague as “the guru of knowledge” for the unit. Her dedication, efficiency, and commitment to innovation has helped to create the kind of systems that not only make the entire prison work more effectively, but also contribute to positive outcomes for both prisoners and staff.
As Gail’s nominator, and Buckley Hall’s Deputy Governor, Jayne Kirkpatrick attests, Gail “has created a joined up department during difficult times.” This is a lot easier said than done. Indeed, it is often easy to overlook the vital work of those who dedicate themselves to ‘gluing together’ any system’s multiple processes and many demands – the people who quietly make sure everything runs smoothly. But you can be certain that everyone quickly notices the importance of such work if it doesn’t happen.
Jayne hails Gail as “a committed, hard working, and effective manager” and notes that she “has implemented many new initiatives to ensure that Buckley Hall is at the forefront in risk reduction.” Indeed, many of these initiatives have been highlighted as best practice by the Regional OMU Team and HMIP in a recent inspection.
One innovation Gail implemented is ‘Mock Parole Boards’, also recently highlighted as good practice by HMIP, as well as systems to identify risk through screening which is shared throughout the establishment. As a Restorative Justice (RJ) trained facilitator who believes that RJ can be a turning point for offenders, “Gail has implemented a process where every prisoner entering the establishment is screened for suitability to complete RJ.”
Gail was also “heavily involved in setting up a Regional Transfer Protocol which enables prisoners to move to their resettlement establishment to maximise opportunity for prisoners, which HMP Wymott are adapting as good practice.”
Jayne adds, “Gail is focused on ensuring that all prisoners are involved in their sentence planning and that communication is at the forefront of this. She has implemented systems via the kiosk so that prisoners can send electronic messages to their offender supervisors and receive back a timely response.” Gail has also “created a joint news letter with the Reducing Re-offending department that is made available to all prisoners.”
As well as attending Prisoner Committee meetings – to provide information to prisoners and take questions, says Jayne – she has also created a ‘frequently asked questions’ leaflet for prisoners.
As so often with our winners, Gail would just say, “She is only doing her job”. But Jayne points out that while “she does not require praise for what she achieves”, Gail is “a respected hard-working team player who will go out of her way to support her team, the functional heads and the Governor whilst ensuring the best outcomes for prisoners and overall protecting the public.”
Chelsea Craven is Buckley Hall’s People Hub Manager, and the Butler Trust Local Champion, and reiterates that “Gail has led her team to deliver various initiatives that have been highlighted as good or best practice”, describing her as “responsive”, “innovative”, and someone who “consistently seeks out opportunities to create effective change, with a particular focus on risk management.”
Gail’s approach, adds Chelsea, is to “always look to encourage collaboration and the building of effective partnerships. She engages with both staff and prisoners and demonstrates professionalism, honesty and integrity… a dedicated and motivated individual who gives 100% effort.”
Colleagues agree, saying Gail is “supportive and helpful and always makes time for people”, “hard-working, conscientious and passionate”, and “can be relied upon to get the job done. She works well under pressure and always delivers.”
Another says, “my mentor and colleague for 9 years”, Gail “has made me who I am today. Gail is an inspirational manager and takes everything in her stride. She is the OMU guru of knowledge and everyone goes to her for help and information. Without her, OMU and the prison would be a different place.”
Governor Peter Rawsthorne is also clear on the outstanding value Gail brings to the team. “Gail is totally committed to her work, is dependable and reliable, and makes a difference every day. She is highly effective in her particular area of expertise but she is also a great team player who is always willing to help her colleagues.”
Peter points out that “when times are difficult or stressful she has the ability to lift the mood and can be relied upon to maintain a positive outlook irrespective of the situation or circumstances,” adding, “She runs her department with great efficiency but, in doing so, she hasn’t lost the human touch. She expects high standards and achieves them by being open and supportive with her team…. Gail is an absolute credit to HMP Buckley Hall.”
Gail herself notes the impact of her work, saying “My systems have resulted in an increase of offenders progressing to open conditions (325 in the last 24 months)… I’m advised that Buckley Hall is the foremost provider of suitable candidates for open conditions.”
At the core of her outstanding commitment, however, is that she is all about putting the prisoner “at the ‘heart’ of Offender Management.”
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