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KERRY HIRST (Yorkshire Prisons Group)

KERRY HIRST (Yorkshire Prisons Group)

AWARD WINNER 2017-18: Kerry is the Safer Custody Lead for Yorkshire Prisons Group, and wins an Award for the outstanding guidance, training and support she has provided to frontline staff throughout the group. Her work has led to major reductions in suicide and self harm, as well as in violence towards both prisoners and staff. [This Award is supported by Seetec Justice.]

As Safer Custody Lead for Yorkshire Prisons Group (YPG), Kerry Hirst has brought her passion and commitment to over seventeen prisons in the North East & Yorkshire region, training and supporting over 2000 staff and, as its Director Paul Foweather says, “making a real and massive difference to the day to day lives of prisoners.” That difference has quickly become measurably discernible, with huge reductions in deaths in custody, self-harm, and assaults against staff and prisoners alike. In short, she’s a phenomenon.

In Kerry’s own words:

“My vision and drive is to stop people from taking their own lives, hurting themselves or hurting others. Every self-inflicted death is a tragedy and I was committed to reducing the number of self-inflicted deaths in prison. The impact on families, staff and other prisoners with every death was so heartbreaking to see. This teamed with the increase in violence within our prisons was unacceptable and I refused to let this become the norm.”

Kerry developed a ground-breaking support, training and delivery model that had not been attempted before in the service, and sold it to senior management and Governors at a Regional Safer Custody Summit to the tune of securing a £200,000 budget and a core team of six. Then she hit the road to deliver quite extraordinary results.

Over 2000 staff have been trained and supported, and Kerry and her team have worked throughout the region in ‘over 17 prisons’. The impact in raw numbers is striking, says Kerry’s Line Manager, Michael Mills: “Just by way of example: in the first 6 months of 2016 in Yorkshire prisons we had 11 self-inflicted deaths – in the first 6 months of 2017 we had only one – an 85% reduction. Across the wider prisons Kerry covers in the whole of 2016 we had 22 self-inflicted deaths; at the time of writing (July 2017) we have had only two so far this year.”

Additionally, there have been highly significant reductions in self-harm (11%), assaults on staff (25%) and assaults against prisoners (24%) – all building on earlier, significant improvements. The model Kerry developed, adds Michael, “is now being replicated in many other regions and I am sure will improve the outcomes for prisoners across the estate for years to come.”

Local Butler Trust Champion and Director of Yorkshire Prisons Group, Paul Foweather, adds his own praise for Kerry’s achievements: “Our staff are so much better equipped through the massive amount of training the team have both developed and delivered in such a short time…[it’s] phenomenal. Kerry will spend her evenings developing training and then attend a prison the following day with her team and train up to 100 staff in a single day in how to support and care for prisoners. Her enthusiasm and passion ensures that the staff buy in. She will then follow this up with ongoing support visits to ensure that the learning is captured and that the culture changes. They have delivered over 400 site visits where they sit down and do supervision with staff and managers to ensure they are the best they can be supporting vulnerable prisoners in our care.”

Paul adds that, as knowledge of the work and excellent results Kerry has delivered so quickly has spread, she has been in touch with other regions across the country “to brief them on the model and what a difference this can make as she understands that this can make a difference to thousands of others’ lives.”

Additionally, Kerry is helping shape national policy, “challenging areas of poor practice and making a real difference across the prison estate”. Paul concludes, “I have not seen another individual have this level of impact on improving safety for prisoners.”

At the core of her Kerry’s approach, explains one of her Team Members, Ryan Brewster, is “her number one message: care.” That care, driven by Kerry’s extraordinary resolve and endeavours, is translating directly into thousands of improved lives.

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