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AWARD WINNER 2015-16: Peter, a Prison Officer at HMP Full Sutton, was nominated by more than 60 prisoners. Described as “an outstanding, inspirational and exemplary member of staff” by one of his nominators, and a “role model” by his Governor, Peter receives an Award for his exceptional skill and dedication in every aspect of his role, over more than 25 years. [This Award is sponsored by the Prison Officers Association.]

Peter Jarvis has worked for over a quarter of a century as a Prison Officer at HMP Full Sutton – which holds some of the most difficult and dangerous criminals in the country – and received an extraordinary eight nominations for his work, including one, from the wing where he works, signed by no less than sixty offenders.

His lead nominator, a prisoner called Ahmed*, calls Peter “an outstanding, inspirational and exemplary member of the staff here at HMP Full Sutton and he has a long standing and well-deserved reputation as such.” Ahmed adds that “whatever their race, their religion or the nature of their offence, prisoners are treated impartially and honestly.  In addition to his friendly, inclusive and un-judgmental approach to us, his patient, good-humoured and thoughtful interactions with inmates are legendary, all prompted by a genuine concern for their welfare. This has earned him the respect of those of us who do not have much regard for authority figures and it is in turn helping to change inmates’ negative attitudes to prison staff in general.”

Ahmed praises Peter for “encouraging a more positive and nurturing approach to dealing with prisoners – which has to be the way forward”, calling him “such an inspirational example to both staff and inmates alike” and commending him “for his quiet professionalism; his personal integrity; unfailing good humour whatever the circumstances; his common humanity and his old-fashioned decency.”

Janice Yarham, the Butler Trust Local Champion and People Hub Manager at HMP Full Sutton, describes Peter as showing “commitment, sincerity, humanity, tolerance and good humour in all his work”, adding that “he has the respect of everyone, from the Governor to the offenders in his care” and describing him as “an inspiration to both offenders and officers, indeed everyone who comes into contact with him.”

Peter’s key strength, Janice believes, is his interpersonal skills with prisoners, “which have a huge impact on the smooth running of any residential area. His work particularly in the Personal Officer role is where he excels, having developed an effective working relationship with not only those prisoners assigned to him, but any of those who are in his care.” She notes that his “pro-social modelling skills have a significant benefit to the residential function, and many of his peers have learnt from his best practice in building these important relationships over the years.”

She describes Peter as “a quiet, private and unassuming person [who] listens to everyone no matter how busy he is and always try to help where possible”, and “is well respected by everyone for delivering an outstanding service to all.” She notes that “Peter’s passion, commitment and belief in his work is tangible.”      ·

Fiona Mulloy-Pearson, Head of Psychology/Interventions and a Principal Forensic Psychologist, agrees: “Peter models NOMS principles of working respectfully with others and in encouraging prisoners to use their time constructively and engage with activities to reduce their risk and to lead them away from an offending path. A number of prisoners have spoken of how his decency as a personal officer and the messages he has conveyed have contributed to them choosing to follow a rehabilitative trajectory when they have found themselves at a crossroads in their sentence.”

As ever, there’s a poignant eloquence in nominations by prisoners themselves which speaks for itself. Aziz wrote that “Mr Jarvis is liked and respected by Prisoners and Prison Staff. He treats prisoners like people”. Steve wrote that “Officer Jarvis deserves recognition for the job he has done on A Wing. He is probably the most helpful officer we have and is consistent in his attitude towards us inmates which is more than commendable in this environment.” Another inmate, Mike, wrote that “since my arrival at Full Sutton Mr Jarvis has shown complete empathy towards me, which is reassuring.  He is also prepared to show great character in the way he assists me to resolve any issues that present problems for me.  Mr Jarvis is fully committed to his work here at Full Sutton and always has time to listen. His demeanour reflects this. Mr Jarvis does not show favourites to any individual he treats all inmates with the same respect.”

Kevin wrote “There is one thing you can rely on with Mr Jarvis, which is worth its weight in gold in this environment, and that is a consistency of approachability. He finds the time to pass the time of day with anyone. He breaks the mould in always having a smile and a pleasant word to say, and he does his best to sort out the little problems. There is the refreshing persona of mellowness and unflappability about him.”

Geoff had this to say: “There has rarely been, if ever, a time that I’ve turned to Mr Jarvis for any reason, that I come away feeling dissatisfied or the belief that he hasn’t done his professional best to assist me in the circumstances.  That may not seem like much but in this unique environment… to find someone who ‘plays fair’, stays true and treats me with both humanity and neutrality while remaining upbeat, humorous and authoritative – that is rare indeed.”  Finally, Stewart wrote “His contribution has helped me and encouraged me to move forward and make the right choices. I have been in prison now for 20 years and in my opinion Mr Jarvis is a genuine fella who does his job to the best of his ability, he gives respect and therefore gains respect back because of the way he conducts himself.”

As Ed Cornmell, Governing Governor at Full Sutton, put it: “The nomination itself speaks volumes. The respect generated by Officer Jarvis has led to this nomination. Prisoners have been keen to recognise the prosocial and engaged approach that he has to his duties.  He is a role model for what prisoners want and need from a Prison Officer,” concluding “a case of ordinary work done extraordinarily well.”

Peter himself reports that “these prisoners felt that I had made a difference in their lives and that I was someone they felt was a positive role model. This was a bit embarrassing initially but also quite humbling as most of the men who contributed are Category A offenders serving life sentences.” He adds: “I do feel strongly about the impact that officers can have on prisoners and make it my business to treat people with fairness and humanity. Hopefully my nomination will show staff that being fair is not a soft option and hopefully by building an environment of trust there are benefits to all.”

There are, of course, wider benefits from this level and quality of work, for both colleagues and society in general. As Peter says, “good interpersonal relationships assist me in getting good intelligence and pre-empting issues before they arise. This includes bullying, self-harm, and general concerns. By addressing these issues and building relationships, I know that I am doing the right thing for both staff and prisoners in creating an environment which is ‘safe for all.’ I have seen improvements in the behaviour of some prisoners. One, who has contributed to my nomination, is actually an offender convicted under the Terrorism Act. I believe by acting in the way I have, I have been able to undermine his beliefs and hopefully impact by reducing his risk. This individual now sits on the Prisoner Diversity Forum making positive contributions to the Full Sutton community.”

Peter’s concluding remark sums it up: “I believe I have made a difference to both prisoners and environment: the fact that prisoners feel safe to submit nominations – which is totally alien to how some of their peers would think – is testimony to contributing to reducing reoffending and changing the lives some of the men have led.”

[* Names of offenders have been changed to protect their privacy.]

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