Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2019-20: A Prison Officer at HMP Woodhill, currently in Safer Custody, Mick has built an outstanding reputation among prisoners and his peers, and is Commended for epitomising, in the words of his Governor, “what excellence looks like”.
Mick is a Band 3 Operational Prison Officer at HMP Woodhill, who has established an outstanding reputation, among both colleagues and prisoners, in a frontline career of more than a quarter of a century. For the last three years, as a Safer Custody Officer, his Governor has held him up to new staff as an example of “what excellence looks like.”
Initial nominator and Custodial Manager Mark Kupczyk describes Mick as “a highly thought of and experienced member of staff,” commanding “the respect and ears of all colleagues and prisoners.” He praises Mick as “a pro-social model for prisoners” who displays “all the positive attributes that are required of today’s operational band 3 Prison Officer.” Mick, says Mark, “possesses and displays “all of HMP Woodhill’s 5 family values: Culture of honour, Courageous attitude, Don’t complain – contribute, No fobbing off, & Get your hopes up.” He adds that Michael “has the ability to talk openly and honestly to anybody, regardless of their race, religion or gender and embraces all aspects of equality and diversity in his daily work.”
Butler Trust Local Champion and Business Administrator Bianca Watt reports that “both staff and prisoners speak very highly of Mick and admire the job he completes on a daily basis, and the care he demonstrates within his role to get the best out of everyone to help to change and improve lives.” She adds that “Mick bounds into work, always smartly turned out, ready to grasp the day ahead. His years of service has only increased his enthusiasm for his work.”
Mick’s current role in the Safety group includes carrying out assessments on those who are suicidal, investigating violent incidents, and working with the men to try and change their thinking. “Mick’s assessments are so good,” says Bianca, that “they are now used as good examples in the National Training.”
Bianca also mention’s Mick’s “instinct for when things are not right.” She recounts that recently he noticed “a new man who, in Mick’s eyes, ‘was not right’. Although he could have rushed off to lunch, Mick took the time to find out if there were any problems. It took some gentle probing but he heard his story and Mick continued to take time to go back to support him over the next number of days. That same man told Mick that he had prevented him from harming himself, and gave him hope.”
Bianca adds that:
“You see Mick in action so many times talking to the most frustrated prisoners and his calm manner always works. The men respect him, ‘Mr B’, and he shows everyone that talking and listening does work. Mick is not just here for the men in our care, he is a mentor, a friend, and colleague and loved by his peers. Resilience is a word that can be overused, but Mick has dug deep over the years, saving lives (cutting men down), managing violence, supporting assaulted staff. His good examples to staff ‘rub off’. He has a great sense of humour, when we are feeling down, making us laugh.”
Maura Mullen, Woodhill’s Head of Safety, agrees, saying “Unsung hero springs to mind when you first think of Michael Brigginshaw. Over 26 years of frontline service in HMPPS. If I had to pick out one trait of Mick’s – he cares. He is diligent in his job, cares about his peers and more especially cares about the men in prison.” Meanwhile Custodial Manager Chelsea Lee simply calls him “a great Officer.”
Two prisoners added their own testimonials. Khalid* wrote “He always helps to sort things out. He helped me get a job on the unit, and often checks on my welfare”, while Daniel* added that “Officer Brigginshaw helped me get onto an anger management course. He will always stop to talk when he is on the wing, he is a good listener and very approachable.”
Other colleagues added their own insights. Officer Magdalena Serej praised Mick for always ensuring his job is completed to a high standard, while Governor Nicola Marfleet said:
“As Governor, he is exactly the type of prison officer I hold up to new staff as ‘what does excellence look like’, and the ‘one to follow’…he lives out the sentence on the back of our ID badge that says ‘we will care for them with humanity’. It is always difficult to put a number on how many lives are saved through quiet, unofficial, face to face moments. Mick has certainly saved hundreds.”
Mick himself explains some of the impact of his work: “From getting someone to write a letter to a family member or a friend to regain contact, or in dealing with men who are experiencing their first time in custody. From young men who arrive in custody with lengthy sentences and need a friendly face to set them on the right path, to supporting a man’s mental health or demonstrating stability and the voice of reason to someone in crisis.”
He concludes with his motto and what it means to him:
“My motto is if I can’t deal with the issue immediately, at least try to point a man in the right direction to someone who can. Working in this way satisfies me and hopefully when other staff see this, it drives them to be as passionate about their work effort as I am. Knowing that I have done my best to help a person in our care and turn them around for the better is a great way to feel.”
* Names have been anonymised.
With thanks to HMP & YOI Woodhill, especially initial nominator and Custodial Manager Mark Kupczyk, Butler Trust Local Champion and Business Administrator Bianca Watts, Head of Safety Maura Mullen, Custodial Manager Chelsea Lee, Officer Magdalena Serej, offenders Khalid and Daniel, and Governor Nicola Marfleet, for their contributions.