Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2011-12: Maureen is granted a Commendation for her “exceptional service”, from landing officer to senior manager, over more than 30 years in the Scottish Prison Service.
[Maureen Ritchie gives her account of the work for which she was awarded a Commendation]
In 2012 I received a Butler Trust Commendation for over 30 years exceptional service within the Scottish Prison Service. As a manager in a custodial setting I have always carried out my role with enthusiasm and a passion for caring and supporting both staff and prisoners, all tasks I carry out are done so to the highest of standards setting a good example as a role model to both groups. My main motivator is to ensure I understand the individual needs of both staff and prisoners. Through my positive actions and attitude in my current role as an Industries manager I have successfully ensured that both staff and prisoners have a safe and productive working environment and I have achieved a massive reduction in risk for those working within this area .I offer all the practical support possible and I am passionate about carrying out my role and achieving results. Over a period of many years I have carried out good practice in various projects which have related to both staff and prisoner groups.
Prisoner training has developed since I have become involved in this area and this has been a great initiative with prisoners responding positively and providing me with good feedback. The emphasis on the training is to enhance their skills and provide them with the necessary tools to assist in seeking employment when they leave the custodial setting. As most of these men have no recognised skills it is rewarding to see the confidence instilled in them as a result of training and a structured working day. I have been fortunate enough to have employers follow up with me regarding prisoners who have been able to secure employment with them, this in itself is rewarding to hear I was instrumental in the introduction of a city & guilds qualification for prisoners to enable them to increase their employment possibilities on release from prison. This and other qualifications now available to prisoners includes forklift training, woodworking machinery, performing manufacturing operations which is now extremely well attended and sought after. As my role sits within the Offender Outcomes and I run enhanced workshops I would aim to take prisoners into my area, provide them with quality training and qualifications in readiness for their release and return to the community.
The enhanced staff work hand in hand with their colleagues to provide materials for recycling, this then produces charity items and allows prisoners to participate in some form of restorative justice. By carrying out induction with prisoners when they take up employment we are able to identify their needs in relation to employment, this in turn allows us to address these and return them to communities better equipped to cope.
In addition to this I ensure my staff group submit all case management documentation within time scales, this allows the risk management/programmes/psychology departments to have accurate information available to them. I have always been caring and supportive towards the prisoner group throughout my career.
I believe my own high standards have influenced a change in some individuals which has resulted in them reacting in a more positive manner when dealing with imprisonment. I have always been firm but fair, and I believe this is respected by the prisoner group. At an early stage of my career I recognised the value of involving prisoner’s family members and the need of a support network out with the prison setting to ensure any work carried out within the prison could continue within the community. Within the young female environment not only did I deal with the prison population, I also was involved in dealing with babies in custody, which was a fairly new concept and required a lot of support dealing with the emotions involved in this
When dealing with my colleagues I have a duty to be a positive role model and I have aimed to achieve this throughout my service. I ensure that staff have any of their skills identified and developed to allow them to progress in a positive manner in their career path. I am genuinely interested in staff and will always go that extra mile to support and care for them, this is not exclusive to the staff I line manage I am always available to be a confidante to any staff, many young female staff seek my advice on a regular basis. I make it my business to welcome new recruits into what can be a daunting environment, I establish positive relationships with staff and have responded to a number of them who have encountered personal hardships. In cases like this I support them as much as possible and encourage them to move forward and try to resume some kind of normality in their lives, this has been a difficult time for some but with mentoring and advice they are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
On a daily basis in the work environment I motivate staff to achieve results in what can prove to be a very challenging area, with the necessary direction and inclusion in working practices they complete their objectives both timeously and to a high standard. During my time as a manager I have dealt with numerous crisis involving staff and their families. My role has always been to offer the maximum support possible and monitor the situation to satisfactory conclusion. This has involved staff who have been injured or traumatised as a result of incidents within the prison. Personally I have dealt with a number of staff who have endured critical illness within their family. To this end my role has been that of a supporter and confidante. During difficult times within the prison there was an escalation of our absence figures, this involved me encouraging my staff to seek advice from professional agencies where it was deemed appropriate. I ensured that all staff received a local de-brief after each incident and ensured that any issues raised were appropriately followed through in time of need. The health and welfare of our most valuable resource is paramount.
My work is very rewarding and I get job satisfaction – my wish would be for others to have these great opportunities and development as individuals to achieve any set goals.
[The following article appeared in issue 4 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
‘Through the actions and attitudes of people like Maureen Ritchie, the Scottish Prison Service, and HMP Shotts in particular, is a far more positive and productive environment now than it has ever been.’ This comment from HMP Shotts’ acting governor is typical of praise for Maureen, resulting in her commendation.
Maureen’s 32-year career in the Prison Service has given her experience of many difficult environments, including working with borstal inmates, vulnerable female prisoners and managing high security male prisoners as their residential manager. As production manager in prison industries at Shotts, she ensures staff and prisoners have a safe and productive working environment and has achieved a massive reduction in risk for prisoners working in wood machining.
Apart from her inspirational work with prisoners, Maureen is much valued for her support to other female officers throughout the establishment. She is known as absolutely firm but fair, a friend and highly respected support to colleagues, and always dependable in a crisis.
Throughout her career, Maureen has been caring and supportive of prisoners, which has earned their respect and brought out the best in them. She has always advocated involving prisoners’ family members and created support networks to make sure work carried out in the prison could continue in the community. In her current role she ensures prisoners are provided with quality training and qualifications ready for release and dedicates herself to providing meaningful opportunities.
The ‘consistent high level of drive, determination and the positive outcomes she has achieved in many different disciplines’, highlighted by Shotts’ offender outcomes manager, were among the many reasons Maureen received her commendation.
For more information: contact HMP Shotts