In its embryonic stages the Prison Learning Network sought to address a very specific ‘problem’ – Governor churn. The idea was that the frequent movement of number one governor’s and senior staff prevented good work from becoming embedded in a particular prison. While the movement did mean that poor performance was prevented from taking root, it was the good stuff that needed to dominate the discussion; highlighting the wealth of innovation and great work that exists in a field too often shrouded with negativity.
Although this question remained part of discussions, wider consultation in the early stages broadened the project developer’s views of the issues or ‘problems’ that the project should seek to address. For me though this question remained extremely relevant. As a result of my work with the PLN a career with the prison service has become increasingly attractive and thanks to the encouragement and support of Roma Hooper I had the opportunity to meet and interrogate a long serving governor about the realities of the role. One of those realities is, unsurprisingly, the fact that churn at the top happens and in a lot of cases, for good reason.
Prisons and their regimes have changed dramatically in the last decade but no-one would disagree that there is still a long way to go. Today the role of the governor seems to be largely focussed on ensuring the culture within their prison is one conducive to rehabilitation. Undoubtedly this will involve making enemies along the way, those working to a different agenda, stuck in their ways and reluctant to engage with a direction a million miles away from the ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ mentality. Changing the culture of an organisation can be exhausting so perhaps it’s understandable that governors move on average every three years.
A change is as good as a rest after all.