Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice



COMMENDEES 2019-20: Steve and Mark are Commended for their work, as Physical Education Officers at HMP Humber, on the prison’s Personal Achievement and Development Scheme, which they designed and is now being rolled out more widely.

Inspired by his military background, Steve conceived and developed PADS, which he has delivered, with Mark as an integral partner, for the last eight years. Its profound impact has now attracted two other prisons to adopt it, while others in the estate are also exploring it.

Initial nominator and Head of Reducing Reoffending, Allison Watson, explains that the Personal Achievement & Development Scheme (PADS), was inspired by Steve’s personal experience in HM Armed Forces where “he went through the military process of de-constructing the individual to then build up a team… He had found the experience to be life changing and as a PE Officer wanted to offer the men an opportunity to take part in a similar powerful experience.” Together, Steve and Mark have taken the five-day course forward, using a combination of “physical activities, leadership and team building tasks, problem solving, education and life skills-based learning.”

The course, explains Allison, “takes men from a variety of starting points: some are repeat offenders, some have continued offence paralleling behaviours in custody and some have been compliant prisoners who lack self-confidence & hope. On a recent course one man had only just come off methadone and so was particularly vulnerable from a resilience perspective.”

Allison goes on to say that:

“The most exceptional aspect of the course is the role modelling provided to the men by Steve and Mark. In particular, how sensitive they are to helping men deal with failure. When men lose their determination and become upset or angry, Steve or Mark are alongside them offering encouragement and advice… Indeed, Steve’s philosophy is to teach the men that failure and adversity are better learning experiences than success.”

She describes Steve and Mark as “fantastic facilitators” who “challenge attitudes and behaviour in ways that never cease to amaze me. The way in which they take a truly disparate set of men on day 1 and by day 2 are delivering a team is inspiring.”

It is clear, she adds, that:

“the physical challenges teach a number of valuable cognitive skills that are relevant to rehabilitation including problem-solving, lateral thinking, persisting under pressure, giving and receiving support, accepting guidance, and goal setting. Additionally, each man is given the opportunity to discover leadership skills, with some graduates of the scheme coming back to subsequent courses in the role of a mentor. The men are motivated and encouraged to support each other in all of the physical and mental challenges presented with Steve & Mark’s support.”

To date, Steve and Mark have delivered 25 PADS courses, and “men at Humber see it as a real badge of honour talking about it as the highlight of their sentence.” In Spring 2019, the application for ‘Accredited Status’ under PSO 4350 was approved. Steve and Mark are now developing a post programme report that focusses on the successful resettlement of each individual, while participants continue to be monitored and mentored by Steve and Mark for the remainder of their sentence. Programme graduates report “a greater sense of direction and focus in their sentence afterwards, with those who had been problematic beforehand reducing or stopping anti-social tendencies within custody.”

Butler Trust Local Champion and Head of Business Assurance Bernie Hayes adds that the programme that is now seen as ‘best practice’ by PE Branch, and adds that “Steve’s approach is fantastic, he makes sure that the men on the course are supported but also that attitudes, thinking and behaviour are challenged in a pro-social and thought-provoking way. He is an excellent role model for the men and has also been an excellent role model for Mark Kendal to emulate.”

Mark in turn has supported Steve in the delivery of the programme throughout, and works collaboratively with Steve in the preparation and selection of men for the programme as well as acts as a mentor to men on the course. “The intensity of the programme requires Mark and Steve to work very closely with each other to make sure that the men are continuously challenged throughout the week.”

Men who graduate from the programme often call it “the toughest thing that they have ever done but one of the most enjoyable too”, adds Bernie, and quotes frequent remarks saying, in effect, “I’ve learnt so much about myself and what I can do”. Furthermore, wing staff managing men who have been problematic prior to the course “are often its strongest advocates as they see a real difference in the way these men behave following the programme.”

Governor Marcella Goligher is also full of praise, saying:

“I have personally met with men during their participation on the programme and on completion; the impact it has on their thinking and attitudes is powerful. The course provides huge challenges mentally and physically to men as individuals and the role and role of the group in supporting them is significant and helps them explore many issues whilst building skills as a team, developing personal resilience and leadership. One of the most powerful aspects for me has been the determination they have gained and a motivation to change their lives. I meet men who completed the course some time ago; they are still engaged; they still reflect on the importance of the course and how they are using the skills they have learned and gained personally, this stays with them.”

Steve and Mark have put together a brief but detailed description of the course design, and it’s quoted in full here for those who might wish to explore its evident benefits further:

“It’s a Development Course loosely based on military training. The ethos is to tap into unidentified potential skill sets. The course is advertised two months ahead of delivery so that men can start to prepare for the physical and mental content. They attend the gym for one hour a week as a collective of potential PADS course members. Physically they are offered fitness programmes to prepare themselves but, more importantly, they are asked to consider how they will: visualise scenarios in which they will feel compromised (e.g. when they are fatigued, angry, over emotional, can’t communicate what they want to say), how will they develop their coping strategies, lay out expectations, how they will be measured, and basically give them enough information to make good choices and how to keep on going when things are tough, how to find reserves deep inside themselves.

“The final selection is done via an interview process that determines the individual’s motivation to take part. On Day 1 of the course the participants undertake a roll check and stand on parade with a test of discipline. They undertake a full introduction to the course and expectations are reinforced, which sets the tone for the full week ahead.

“Men are then given 60 seconds to change into the PPE that is provided, the change in clothing acts as a catalyst for a change in mindset. The men are split into two groups and each man is nominated to a leadership role on a rotational basis throughout the week. After a warm up a basic fitness test is completed. This activity also incorporates an integrity test, as they have to complete the full course and count laps but also work as a team to support each other over the line.

“Team exercises commence where men in leadership roles are tasked with specific exercises that test their ability to work as part of and lead a team. Communication skills and learning are monitored and supported throughout so that the learning is more effective. We don’t measure success as the exercise going well: we reflect at the end of each exercise and learn from the feedback and reflection, so that individuals can do it better next time.

“We use phrases like ‘How did it make you feel?’, ‘In your opinion, how did the task go?’, ‘Why didn’t team members x and y engage?’, ‘Did you meet the initial brief?’, ‘How did you manage to keep your temper?’ These questions coach the individual – but the whole group hears. We capitalise on positives also reinforcing elements of the course that are done well.

“Unlike the normal regime, men on PADS stay unlocked across the lunch period so that they can ‘break bread’ together as a team, and have a broader opportunity to reflect on what has gone on during the morning session. The lunchtime session also includes a safe environment in which men are encouraged to talk about the life choices that they made that led them to being in custody. This builds rapport between the men and builds respect for their diverse backgrounds. This segment also gives the men an opportunity to self-police and maintain motivation as a team.

“This pattern of physical and leadership tasks continues across the week with the associated emotional highs and lows as the men face difficult and demanding tasks. As course leaders we are monitoring the progress and participation of the men so that at the end of the course we can deliver a ‘strengths based’ post-course report that can be used by Prison Offender Managers and Probation Officers to inform decision making in relation to risk management. This has been introduced as a result of gaining accreditation via PSO4350 and as part of our target for continuous improvement.

“At the end of each course we hold a celebration event where family members can come to see the course and understand what the men have been through and how they can support them in sustaining the change. On most courses we have a guest speaker who has overcome adversity or trauma in their lives and who have gone on to achieve great things. On occasion we invite staff members or staff from other organisations to participate in the course. This works well in breaking down barriers and offers different perspectives and insights. In the week after the course we gather all the men together for another week and we reflect on what happened, gather feedback, receive constructive criticism and develop an action plan for each man.

“In the second week the men put together a portfolio of evidence so that they can achieve a Level 1 qualification in Personal Development. For someone who has been around a long time and seen a lot of different programmes to address offending behaviour the PADS course never fails to surprise me in the power that it has to influence change in the men. It provides a platform to develop themselves. It gives them the opportunity to reflect on their past, see what they can achieve and change how they can be in the future.”

They conclude by noting that they always say that:

“PADS was the easy part and that the real challenge starts at the end of the course, planning for the future and being a normal law-abiding member of the community with a family, a job and the self-satisfaction of having earned it.”


With thanks to HMP Humber, especially initial nominator and Head of Reducing Reoffending Allison Watson, Butler Trust Local Champion and Head of Business Assurance Bernie Hayes, and Governor Marcella Goligher, for their contributions.

Top of the page