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COMMENDEE 2012-13: Visits Co-ordinator: for dedication and skill in supporting prisoners and their families and helping maintain family relationships.
Vivienne Brown’s hard work and dedication as Visits Coordinator at HMPs Grendon and Springhill has been rewarded, not just with a Butler Trust Commendation, but also with the knowledge that she has made a huge difference to prisoners’ prospects of family life.
As Visits Coordinator since 2002, Vivienne comes into contact with every prisoner and makes sure their visitors receive a genuinely warm welcome. She has worked tirelessly to make sure that the visits not just run smoothly and safely, but that they also help to maintain and improve relationships between prisoners and their families. Through running prisoner inductions, wing meetings and visitor rep meetings, she is in touch with prisoners’ needs and progress, and is in a key position to help them strengthen their family ties.
Alongside this busy role, she coordinates many conference days, social events and fundraising initiatives, carol services – even a wedding – and her efforts well exceed her paid role.
Known throughout the two prisons as someone who ‘will always go that extra mile’, she throws herself into initiatives such as ‘Visits with a Difference’, an annual event that shows families how Grendon operates. With offenders on the steering group, she involves them in all aspects of organising and publicising an event, and in contributing to the programme through performing and presenting to show a day in the life of the prison. ‘Children’s Day’ is a similarly popular initiative, where she has arranged all kinds of activities to help fathers and children to bond.
A new visitors’ centre at Grendon has benefited from Vivienne’s research to find out how other prisons have set theirs up.
A driving force behind Vivienne’s work has been to make sure prisoners have the best chance of picking up family life outside the gates and her Marriage Course, coordinated with Grendon’s Chaplain, is available to all couples, whether they are married or not, heterosexual or same sex, and whatever religion they might practise.
Vivienne’s energetic and inclusive approach has won her many fans, not least among offenders and their families, who are deeply grateful for her efforts to enrich their lives.
‘I have never met a lady so dedicated to her work,’ said one. ‘Viv tirelessly makes every visit special and every visitor welcome.’
Another offender added: ‘The visits room has been turned into an environment that is warm and vibrant, a place that allows my six year old son to feel secure and relaxed enough to bond with a father who came to prison when he was just two months old. I do not have the words to describe my thanks and joy.’
For more information: contact HMP Grendon & Springhill