Over the past few months, we have been continuing to develop the strategy for a trauma informed approach in dealing with women in custody. A number of initiatives have been taken forward.
• Within the strategy, establishments have carried out self evaluations to consider how trauma informed their establishments are, as a result of this action plans are in the process of being developed in order to inform practice and make small changes.
• We are also looking to develop training for staff specifically in this field and HMP YOI Cornton Vale in particular are developing a range of ‘toolbox talks’ with a focus on trauma and associated difficulties that women experience whilst in custody.
• One of the areas we are really keen to develop moving forward is support and supervision for all staff but in particular with staff working with some of our more distressed women.
• Feedback from the estate indicates that trauma appears to be higher on the agenda with some evidence to suggest that trauma informed practice is beginning to embed within the culture of individual establishments.
• One of the new initiatives within the female estate is the roll out of the Freedom course, this was a course developed in SAJE Ltd which seeks to support women who have experienced trauma and domestic violence. We are currently running a pilot of the course which will be fully evaluated and at the conclusion all relevant learning will be taken forward.
Women’ National Facility
In relation to the new Women’s National Facility we are designing the facility around the following brief:
The brief given to the team was to build something different, something that would reflect the assets, needs and risks presented by the majority of women in custody. It was recognised that the challenges posed by women did not require the same levels of security provided for men. An example of this being the recommendation of a single fence. This is different from the current security standards for an equivalent male establishment. HMP YOI Cornton Vale only has a single fence arrangement and there has never been an attempt to breach the fence.
The facility will be designed with a ‘trauma informed’ approach. As a result we have included areas such as the Retreat. This will be a quiet contemplative space with associated gardens that women will be able to access at times of distress. We are keen to keep this space for women with no access for families so that this can be seen as a safe space.
The Retreat area will also be accessed by counselling services with purpose built rooms designed to meet the needs of women accessing these services, with associated.
Safety is one of the main pillars of trauma and whilst designing the accommodation areas in particular we ensured that we had appropriate sight lines for staff and also for the women to see the staff. With the use of flexible separation, which can respond to changes in population demography. Inclusion of large windows within each room and also communal areas which will generate lots of natural light, to support positive health and well-being.
Research has shown us that animal therapy is useful for those who have experienced trauma and the effect it has on lessening symptoms of trauma. With this in mind we have designed an animal care facility where women will have access to small animals to care for as a work opportunity and also to visit for therapy purposes.
The majority of buildings will be of single storey design again to support the feeling of being part of the environment and creating a relax campus style feel, this has been evidenced through recent new build mental health facilities.
The WNF will have no bars on the windows all rooms in the accommodation areas will have bigger windows to allow for natural light. The design will allow for importance to be placed on the external space with good views from accommodation areas to the establishment and beyond. The meandering pathways and garden spaces will allow women to ‘go on a journey’ when travelling around the establishment. The use of materials for the construction will enhance the therapeutic environment.
Some work will be undertaken to consider a ‘therapeutic community’ approach to encourage women to take responsibility for their area and their well-being within the Women’s National Facility environment.
Our focus for the national facility will be very person centred with case management very much at the centre of what we do. We will ensure women are appropriately assessed to ensure their individual needs are met as well as addressing presenting risks. As well as generating individualised plans for learning & skills, opportunities and interventions to support the women whilst in custody to positively engage with the regime to support a successful reintegration back into the community.
Through the risk assessment process we will ensure that women are located in accommodation appropriate to meet their needs and if possible near to their communities to aid reintegration on release, as well as identifying individualised plans for learning & skills, opportunities and interventions.
Trauma Awareness Weeks
Trauma awareness weeks were held in establishments and were extremely successful. The concept of the week was to raise awareness with women and staff about trauma and how this could affect people and to provide each group with techniques for coping with stress and anxiety.
HMP YOI Cornton Vale
A range of activities were offered throughout the week which were enjoyed by all who attended. One popular choice in the week was the ‘Singalong’ with comments of ‘more entertaining than I could possibly imagine’ and ‘it was great to see staff joining in a great night’.
Another popular choice was the Petting Zoo and Paws for Progress, by recognising the therapeutic value of animals we held these 2 events with women commenting ‘the enjoyment with the dogs goes a long way and brings people together who don’t really talk or get on with in the block’.
Other events held ranged from the nail bar and mocktails to the gardens exploring the health benefits of plants with staff and the women from the work party demonstrating how to make hard and soft wood cuttings of lavender.
Our colleagues in the education department assisted throughout the week supporting the trauma week and prisoner’s week as well as running their standard timetable the highlight of the week being the opening of the Wellbeing Room.
As the week coincided with prisoner’s week a presentation was given on trauma to the multi faith group with a meal cooked by visiting Chef Malik Hafwez assisted by Inman Mohammed Ajmal and staff and women from the establishment. A meal was served in the halls with interfaith representatives enjoying a menu of 4 different curries with naan bread, bhajis and salad.
The week was an all-round success with staff having the opportunity to attend information sessions provided jointly by the health care and psychology teams in the establishment.
Our colleagues in Ratho Hall held a similar week with events such as hand massage from the Aroma therapist and basic tapping techniques to reduce anxiety. Other events were education based with the women making a range of items from bookmarks to dreamcatchers as well as discussing a variety of topics in the ‘brew and blether’ as well as ‘living life to the full’ sessions and yoga.
The reported highlight of the week was the interactive quiz held during recreation when staff from Willow, Shine and NHS took part in the quiz together with the women. This allowed staff to engage with the women in a more relaxed atmosphere.
The trauma advocates would have loved to have extended this event throughout the establishment due to its success and reception amongst the wider population within Edinburgh.
Survive and Thrive
Survive and Thrive became an approved intervention in March 2014 and since then has been run successfully throughout the female prison estate including HMP YOI Cornton Vale, HMP Greenock and HMP Edinburgh. Survive & Thrive has been delivered in the community for many years before it was being adapted to ensure its effectiveness within a prison context. This work carried out by the Psychology Department at HMP YOI Cornton Vale has also enabled close collaborative working relationships to have been established between colleagues in the NHS and SPS and these are a fundamental part of its continuing success.
As a phase one trauma intervention Survive & Thrive has sought to help participants establish a greater stabilisation and understanding of the long lasting impact that interpersonal abuse and trauma can have. To date the feedback both from staff and participants involved in Survive & Thrive has been very positive. An internationally registered randomised control trial has also sought to ensure that Survive & Thrive is evaluated appropriately so that we can be assured of delivering the highest quality evidence based interventions possible. Results from this trial will be available later this year. Other exciting developments include further modifications to the Survive & Thrive manual to ensure that that there is now a version which is responsive to the needs of male offenders. This will be piloted at HMP Edinburgh this year and again will ensure that the SPS is at the forefront of delivering high quality evidence based trauma interventions to all prisoners.