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AWARD WINNER 2016-17: Prison Officer Karl, from HMP Risley, receives an Award for his ‘Room Ready’ programme, which has transformed prisoners’ experiences of their first night inside, helped further the decency agenda across the establishment, and provided his ‘Room Ready’ crews of offenders with transferable skills to help them find employment on release. [This Award is supported by Ingeus.]

For new prisoners at HMP Risley, Prison Officer Karl Brocklehurst’s ‘Room Ready’ initiative has transformed their experience for their first night inside, changed both the prison’s existing culture and attitudes about clean cells, and provided his ‘Room Ready’ crews of offenders taking part with transferable skills they can take outside.

HMP Risley’s former Governor, Carl Bailey MBE, takes up the story: ‘Room Ready’ is “a service whereby prisoners are employed to make rooms fit for new receptions in a way that is decent and ensures that they have full facilities from soap to decent bedding.”

Karl has extended this modest but dignity-driven project from his wing to other wings, having designed a ‘template’ for cell layout and content. He produced information leaflets for prisoners and staff, and ensured rooms were, if necessary, repainted, had graffiti removed and any faults fixed. Emergency bells and other equipment were tested, floors painted or fixed, and, in addition to a ‘deep clean’, a washbag – made in the workshop from spare materials – of toiletries was ready for the new occupant.

Prisoners working on the project wear bright yellow branded ‘Room Ready Service’ T shirts, and are also organised to repair cell furniture. All the wings now enjoy this standard, but, as Carl reports, “Karl has taken this further by organising the training for room ready prisoners – in hotel style standards. He has done this by working with Manchester College in delivering an accredited course for room ready prisoners.”

Karl has go on to develop ‘welcome folders’ for every room with basic information about the prison. Carl reports that both prisoners and staff acknowledge that ‘Room Ready” has made “a huge difference in terms of basic decency”, and adds, “Karl has used his drive, determination and belief in decency to introduce this and has done so against a certain amount of peer resistance… Prisoners’ lives have improved as they understand the value of looking after others and themselves, whilst staff feel the benefit from giving prisoners decent conditions to live in as they arrive.”

He is, Carl concludes in his nomination, “an exceptional man doing a demanding front line task at the very ‘coal face’ of the prison service.”

In further remarks, Carl says that Karl “carries out his tasks and duties way beyond the expectations of a Prison Officer. He has worked tirelessly on the room ready initiative and ensured all the wings within the prison have adopted the scheme, which is hugely important to basic decency and duty of care. He drives the prisoners to achieve the very best and cares for them whilst being demanding. His ethos has reflected on the prisoners he deals with, who in turn value the importance of working hard.”

It’s often remarked that one of the characteristics of those working in the Prison Service is that they see setbacks as challenges, and Karl is no different, bringing his motivation and dedication to bear on resolving problems. Highly valued by prisoners because “he will go the extra mile for them”, he is, says Carl, “a man of high integrity [who] always has a smile on his face.”

Karl himself believes “that if we treat prisoners with decency, then that is what we will get back.” He has ambitions to extend the scheme “to other prisons across the country and even to other prison services throughout the world.”

The proverb “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” may no longer be as fashionable or popular as it was in Victorian times, but Karl’s work has undoubtedly shown that cleanliness, at the very least, is next to both decency and human dignity.

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