Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2020-21: Kenny Beaton, who works as part of the Environmental Group responsible for HMP Woodhill’s upkeep, has a strikingly positive impact on those around him, and a rare set of personal gifts that is clear to all his colleagues and those he works with: in short, he is someone people would really like to be able “to bottle”. Or as his Initial Nominator Will Lilford, Head of Special Units at Woodhill puts it simply: “Kenny is a member of staff who everyone loves.”
Will says Kenny’s “huge personality can be described as enthusiasm that never wanes”, and adds that “this is true even when his entire shift is collecting smelly bags of rubbish from around the campus, or when his tractor is waiting in the boiling heat in a queue of lorries to gain access into the main prison. His smile never fades and his energy is infectious. I often remark that if we could bottle whatever ‘it’ is that Kenny has within him to be so positive, then the world would be a better place.”
Kenny works within Woodhill’s Environmental and Waste Management team and is to be found “all over the prison” during his working day. “There isn’t a member of staff at Woodhill who doesn’t know Kenny by name, or noise”, says Will, “as his thick Scottish accent bellows across the muster point when he greets people in his usual exuberant manner. It is hard to quantify what he does to help people through their day; but he always has time for a friendly word, asking after friends and family, just taking the time to find out if you’re okay. He is the positive culture that Woodhill is known for. It makes a difference to know, and you do ‘just know’ that he isn’t asking because that’s the polite thing to do, he is asking because he GENUINELY cares about people.”
Will adds that “a lesser practiced skill these days is to listen. Kenny not only practices listening, but will recall important details weeks later naturally demonstrating his attentive nature. He ‘sees’ people and colleagues and prisoners feel seen and feel noticed. He is the teammate everyone wants to work with, and when his cheerful request to move across the prison campus comes over the prison radio, and he gets the answer to go, he then responds again with an unnecessary but equally enthusiastic vote of thanks. You can find yourself smiling as his positivity pervades whatever it is you are currently doing within earshot of the radio transmission.”
In addition to his working skills, as “a vociferous and gifted sportsman”, Kenny can often be found “dishing out lessons in various sports during the staff lunch hour where he encourages participation from all and accepts all challengers (particularly governors!) with good grace and humour.”
Will concludes that “truly, if he so chose, Kenny could turn his hand to the role of Officer, PEI or Chaplain, but he surpasses all roles, all grades, by showing caring, kindness and faith to everyone. Kenny really is a hidden hero that we want the world to know about.”
Bianca Watts, Woodhill’s Business Administrator and Butler Trust Local Champion, shared numerous testimonials that show Will’s feelings are widespread throughout the prison.
Olivia Kerr, Head of Reducing Re-offending, for example, calls Kenny “without doubt one of the most positive, proud and helpful members of staff working at Woodhill. He will always go over and above to assist all grades of staff and he does so with a laugh and a smile. Personally, he will always pop his head into my office when he is passing to see if I need anything doing and whenever I see him round the site, he will go out of his way to be super friendly. Nothing is too much trouble for him. He is very loyal to his colleagues… everyone really bonds with him, and in the absence of a manager, he will raise any welfare issues discreetly if for example someone hasn’t arrived at work, or is upset. He has an extremely caring nature which extends to managers, staff and prisoners alike.”
Pete Chalker, Environment & Industries Group Manager at Woodhill agrees, calling Kenny “a kind and thoughtful man; he has a care for those around him that is so natural and compelling that you cannot fail to enjoy his company.” Pete adds that Kenny’s “positive outlook is infectious and I have never heard him comment in a negative manner about anyone or anything.”
Colleagues aren’t the only ones who wanted to express their appreciation; prisoners added their own testimonials. Mohammed* says “Kenny is not judgemental, I have seen him speaking with prisoners and governors with the same enthusiasm, always on a positive note”, while Ladislav* added “I don’t know anyone who has a bad word to say about him, eternally cheerful and a joy to know.”
Bianca adds that Kenny will do “whatever he can to help his colleagues and ensure that the delivery of his work is of an exceptional standard, he never lets obstacles get in the way of his work. It is clear that Kenny completes his work to a high standard for the love of his role, and not for any praise or recognition.”
Bianca notes that the impressive work he completes “is obvious to everyone, except himself. He just attends HMP Woodhill to do his job, and is unaware of the positive impact he has on every around him. When the residents were approached to give their viewpoints on Kenny, they all smiled, which is a common reaction when his name is mentioned. It will be very difficult if not impossible to find a staff member who has a negative viewpoint,” and she concludes “Kenny is the colleague that others strive to be.”
Woodhill’s Governor, Nicola Marfleet, calls Kenny, who has worked at Woodhill for over a dozen years, “a rare find and is someone so unbelievably kind and enthusiastic about his role which others might see as a low ranking, poorly paid job. The contribution he makes to the environment for the men in our care is equal to the contribution he makes to staff.
Kenny’s enthusiasm for his work comes across in his own words: “I truly love my job,” he says. “The job is wonderful because I have jobs I need to do but there are also lots of other jobs we get involved with… I can come to work and there will be a new challenge every day and I love that. It is also great to be able to be a listening ear to some of the prisoners when they need someone off the wing to chat to.”
* Names have been anonymised.