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COMMENDEE 2020-21: Jim’s Commendation is for going well beyond his role as HMP Oakwood’s Industries Manager, supporting prisoners and colleagues, addressing violence, and changing prisoners’ lives, while also transforming the prison’s industries.

As his Initial Nominator and colleague Sandy Watson, Oakwood’s Family & Interventions Manager, puts it pithily: “Every prison needs a ‘go-to’ person and at HMP Oakwood, this is Jim.” Sandy goes on: “If you need some cleaning products or some paint…phone Jim.  If you need to know how to do something…phone Jim. If you need technical advice on how to set up the Prison Radio…go to Jim. If you want someone to do all of the preparatory work for setting up pods (temporary accommodation units) during COVID-19…go to Jim. If you are struggling and need support…go to Jim!”

Sandy praises Jim’s “can-do, will-do attitude”, and says “he is always cheerful and smiling and makes the work environment a better place. Not only does Jim deliver, he also cares. He cares and supports the staff – no matter who you are or which department you are from. If he sees anyone who looks a little down, Jim will get alongside them to lift their mood, offer encouragement or tell them a joke.”

That same care and passion is evident with the residents. As well as working alongside local employers, Jim ensures his workshops run in a similar vein to the operations seen in the community. Residents take positions of responsibility in the work place, too. “Alongside the autonomy he gives his guys,” says Sandy, “he also expects a high level of accountability. The residents thrive on this style of working. Jim respects them and they hold him in high esteem because of it.”

Sandy concludes his nomination by calling Jim “a man of integrity, passion and is an all-round decent person.”

Resident feedback also gives a striking flavour of the impact of Jim’s work:

“This role provides me with a sense of normality and I am indebted to Jim for giving me an opportunity to prove myself and give me back my dignity. For the first time I have been presented with an opportunity to work as a person and not an inmate.”

“I owe Mr Jackson so much for giving me the chance to prove my worth and get back my integrity, trustworthiness and honesty. I want to take this time to also thank Jim Jackson for having the faith and belief in me to achieve what we have so far and how much more we are going to achieve going forward.”

“I have to give Jim Jackson full credit – whatever you need doing, he is always there, always helpful and always goes out of his way: nothing is too much for Mr Jackson.”

Colleagues, too, were keen to share praise for Jim. One wrote that “No prisoner could have gone on to achieve what he has achieved without the support of Jim Jackson. Jim gives his faith, trust and respect to his ‘lads’ and they in return go totally above and beyond what is expected of them. Eager to embrace any of Jim’s new ideas, which he has on a regular basis – at the time you think they are a bit out there, but once you run with them you realise how well it works, the benefits and the effect it has on other people.”

Another colleague concurs that while Jim’s fresh ideas may meet with some scepticism, the proof is in the pudding: “When I was told that there was going to be an under 30s Violence Reduction Workshop I was dubious. I mean on paper how can putting all the under 30 population together in one room work?  Fast forward 12 months and WOW – that is one workshop to be proud of!”

Jim has, colleagues agree, simply “transformed” Industries. He “streamlined all of the process, attracted new business into the prison and has given prisoners ‘proper jobs’, taking on an under 30s workshop to boot!”

Oakwood’s Director, John McLaughlin is another colleague who has learned that Jim delivers: “Jim told me that residents could be trusted to run the stores function and that the outcomes would be less waste, less cost and auditable records. I doubted him. He was right. He told me that his industries model would mirror community-based workshops. Resident foremen, quality leads, men with responsibility for distribution and collection of tools. I doubted him. He was right. He told me that if he could invest a small amount of money to buy poly-tunnels he would produce a wide variety of vegetables, flowers, hanging baskets and fruit that could be consumed by the residents or bought by staff. The outcomes are amazing. Never one to stand still, Jim went on to describe to me how he would like to recycle pallets and wood to make garden furniture. This furniture has been supplied free of charge to many primary schools in the region.”

John’s view is that Jim “has revolutionised prison industries. He is innovative and forward thinking. The Under 30s Violence Reduction Workshop is a clear example of innovation and a desire to tackle problems in different ways.” He describes how a young man arrived at Oakwood “with a horrendous record of violence towards other residents (x60) and towards staff. This young man was presented as a challenge to Jim Jackson. Jim turned the tables on him and asked him to be a mentor within the Under 30s workshop. Eighteen months later no adjudications, no violence, enhanced regime and category D status. Wow!”

John concludes by saying “you will be bowled over by this man’s passion, desire and achievement; he puts the resident at the centre of all that he does. He is remarkable. A one off.”

Jim’s own words are both inspirational and convey an approach and thinking that is undoubtedly notable good practice. He admits to ‘loving his work’ and adds that “Work should be enjoyable and no-one should be alone and not feel supported. Just say thank you once a day and you will make someone feel good!” As a senior manager over Oakwood Industries, employing around 500 men and with a customer base of 20 clients, he sees his role as “to attract, develop and build working partnerships with new businesses to create purposeful activity. We don’t have lots of money to spend and invest but that does not mean we cannot make attending industries interesting and enjoyable.”

Jim adds that he is “passionate about recreating workshop structures that reflect external business and give the men responsibility and the ability to be promoted and give them some self-esteem. Over time we have developed internal training courses that focus on soft skills and are linked to each different job description within Industries.”

He explains that “In order to be promoted each worker needs to engage with some form of education. There is no time limit to this and no pass or fail, just take part and complete the work to the best of their ability. We encourage recognising the skills they have and developing these to help them to progress. In order to support this, we have created quiet rooms in industries specifically for learning where the worker is mentored by another resident (who has been trained) in supporting them through the different learning modules.”

He reports that the feedback from the men who have been a part of this “has been really positive and the credit for this should sit with the men who have invested in helping others, I just give them the time and space to excel. Residents take on roles such as workshop foreman and chargehand. Part of these roles is to engage with customers either over the phone or face to face when customers visit. This engagement gives the men a sense of involvement and being part of a team. The staff who work in industries welcome the support that the men give them on a day-to-day business in running the workshops and achieving customer’s orders.”

Further, says Jim, “The men in trusted positions have an input into productivity, quality, health and safety and will carry out inductions for new starters explaining the culture of industries and encouraging new workers to engage. From this approach in industries other projects led by the men have grown and developed. Residential stores items which were held externally have now been moved into a secure store internally which is totally resident led. Our Lead Storeman, Dave, helped set up stock kanbans (“a lean method to manage and improve work across human systems”), ordering process, picking/delivery etc which has proved to be effective and has stood up to external scrutiny from auditors. There is currently in excess of £100,000 worth of stock controlled by the men and they can proudly say that every single cell in Oakwood is kitted out and this has been done with a reduction of cost through measuring trends and providing weekly reports. Decency for all and job satisfaction.”

Jim described another new venture, Oakwood Projects: “Based in one of the workshops, we have utilised the skills of some of the residents who had trade skills in the community. Need a washing machine plumbed in, a notice board put up, an office built? Oakwood Projects will visit to discuss, measure, design and cost out the materials. The men have helped with risk assessments, SSOW (Safe Systems of Work), training manuals and take great pride in their work. There are other projects which we have helped develop: the music room, Landscaping team, TRC furniture manufacture – all resident-led, all of which I take pride in being involved in and help promote but something that gives me added pleasure is watching the behaviour in some of the men when you give them the opportunity and responsibility.”

Jim describes how he has seen men who have grasped these opportunities “go from Basic to getting their Enhanced, going Adjudication Free and gaining Cat D status,” and reports “writing a reference for an indeterminate sentence resident that helps with their parole because they have earned it and deserve it.”

Jim is realistic, too, noting that “not everyone we give a chance to manages to stay on the straight and narrow for the whole journey. Sometimes behaviour on the Wing is not as good as in workshops, lads fail MDT’s, IEP’s accumulate etc.” But his dedication shines through in his next words:

“We never give up though, why would you? The residents will often get adjudication awards, lose their IEP status and their job. We go and see them and talk. Why? What happened? Try again? We will offer the opportunity to start again. There is no free ticket or easy journey the men have to put the effort in and the positive thing most men will respond and are grateful for the opportunity. As long as they show willingness to try and change and keep working at this. The workshop instructors are totally on board with this and work with residents to encourage positive outcomes.”

Jim reports seeing some great success stories where, over the years, men have been on “roller coast rides fighting addiction but have eventually gained Cat D status. We just give them the opportunity and support; they have to put the effort in.” He says that “we now often receive e-mails from Residence staff asking us to give a ‘try out’ to a resident that is struggling and needs something to do.” He adds, in conclusion, those powerful words again: “We are always willing to try. Why wouldn’t you?”

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