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COMMENDEE 2018-19: Kevin is a Supervising Officer at HMP Grendon. He is granted a Commendation for being an outstanding and caring role model for both colleagues and offenders, who is noted in particular for his calm and authoritative leadership in challenging situations.
[Kevin also receives the POA Award for outstanding work by a prison officer, supported by the Prison Officers Association.]
Two prisoners at Grendon, Paul* and Michael*, were Kevin’s Initial Nominators. Paul says that ‘Because of Kevin, who is my group facilitator, I have been able to look into places of my life I would not have looked at. He asks the questions that some may not, he is consistent with everyone. For the past two and a half years I’ve seen prisoners come and go from Grendon, and all of those on my wing have been touched by his honesty and direct approach.’
Carole Roe is the Local Butler Trust Champion, a Company Director, and a Board Member of Friends of Grendon. In his 26 years in the Prison Service, she says, ‘Kevin has been consistently considered as a wonderful role model whose gentle, calm yet authoritative demeanour engenders trust and positivity amongst prisoners and colleagues alike.’
Additionally, there have been a number of serious incidents when ‘Kevin had a massive impact.’ These include a serious assault which had a strong influence on the community and morale. ‘Kevin continued to focus on the aims of the prison, brought staff and prisoners together, and helped everyone find a way through and move on positively.’ Another prisoner remarked, after a particularly serious incident, that Kevin ‘made us feel like we were all a team trying to find a way together, both staff and prisoners, like he really cared. I can’t believe I’m saying this about an officer… Bottom line is I’ve never met a more caring bloke.’
After working at Grendon, Kevin took the skills he had developed there to HMP Springhill, where both prisoners and staff speak of him as ‘a wonderful role model who always leads by example.’ At a particularly demotivating period of changes for many officers, Kevin’s steadfast commitment to staying positive rubbed off. One officer said ‘I was ready to throw the towel in, as were others, it was a difficult time, but Kevin was a rock to us all back then. He quietly and calmly reassured us all and his positivity never wavered. You can 100% rely on Kevin in any crisis.’
Kevin returned to Grendon five years ago and resumed his work as a group facilitator and, although due to retire several years ago, he asked to stay on. ‘This job has given me more than I could have wished for,’ he says. ‘I’m so lucky to work here’.
Another prisoner says he ‘never avoids asking the difficult questions, and after a session with Kevin I’m awake half the night because he makes me think so much. This is not always easy but he’s made me a better man, no doubt about it.’
One of Kevin’s colleagues says, ‘I look up to Kevin, we all do. He has a way about him that’s hard to copy. He makes prisoners feel safe and welcome and that he’s going to be with them throughout their journey at Grendon. Whatever the challenges he’ll find a way, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to learn from him.’
Governor Jamie Bennett says that ‘over more than 25 years, Kevin has been an outstanding public servant’, trusted by the residents and ‘a role model for colleagues’ who has offered ‘reassuring leadership in the most challenging of circumstances.’ Kevin, he says, ‘is an outstanding leader with a quiet authority gained through trust and respect.’
Kevin himself notes that the dual role an Officer has to play at HMP Grendon can often be a difficult one:
‘In the morning you can be listening to a resident divulging some extremely personal and hurtful experiences from their childhood and, in the afternoon, you may be having to reprimand the same resident for poor or inappropriate behaviour. This is why the relationship that you develop with a resident is so important… I have always strived to treat prisoners in a way that I like to be treated, with mutual respect. I believe that you can speak to a prisoner about pretty much anything as long as your delivery is respectful and appropriate.
I genuinely feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work at Grendon and Springhill. Both prisons are incredibly interesting and rewarding places to work in very different ways and give staff the opportunity to make a real difference to someone’s life. I also feel privileged to have worked with some incredibly talented and dedicated multi-disciplinary staff.’
Some unusually powerful testimony by Governor Jamie Bennett offers a suitable last word. ‘I feel privileged to be a colleague of Kevin. Even more than that, I would trust him with everything that is dear to me. If I was in the unfortunate position where a relative of mine was in prison, I would want them to be in a unit managed by Kevin.’
* Prisoners’ names have been anonymised.