Based in the south of Ripley, Surrey, HMP Send is one of the twelve women’s prisons in England. It is a public prison, operating as a closed Female Training Prison. Focused on education and skill development, HMP Send houses women who do not require restricted status but who are not trusted in an open prison. The population of the prison as of 2018 was 277, but the operational capacity is 282.
It was opened way back in 1962, originally as a Junior Detention Centre, and then in 1987 became a Category C Adult Male Training Prison. In 1998 it was completely demolished and rebuilt in 1999, becoming the closed Female Training Prison it is today. The current governor is Carlene Dixon, who has been serving as governor since January 2015.
This is a brief description of the housing units in the prison, provided by gov.org:
A wing: 40 single-occupancy cells over two floors, providing preparation PIPE and progression PIPE
B wing: 38 single-occupancy cells over two floors – general population
C wing: 40 single-occupancy cells over two floors – general population
D wing: 10 cells, each shared by two women during induction
E and F wings: 40 single occupancy cells on each wing – resettlement units
J wing: 64 cells over two floors. The ground floor is for the general population and the first floor houses a therapeutic community
- 75% of current inmates at Send are serving four or more years.
- Between 2014 and 2018, the cases of self-harm in Send jail almost doubled.
- In 2018, 50% of the women in the prison received support from the mental health team.
- Only 7% of females were held in shared cells in this prison as of 2018.
- In the UK, 60% of female prisoners have experienced domestic abuse.
An inspection from the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) last year found the prison to be “excellent” but there is concern in the increasing availability of drugs and a 68% rise in self-harm. However, the inspection confirmed that staff are working hard to support the women overcome these issues. Another note was that there were only 26 counts of violence between April 2018 and March 2019, highlighting that it is a rarity and staff reduce these numbers by treating inmates with kindness and respect.
Beforehand, HMPPS inspected the prison randomly in 2014 and 2018. Both reports were positive, with the prison receiving good results in almost all of categories. There appeared to be a decline in purposeful activity for prisoners, which may have contributed to the increase in mental health support necessary and the increased self-harm rates. However, the care management and support for prisoners was impressive, in terms of mental health support, employability skills, and overcoming substance abuse. Overall, it seems that the relationships between staff and women are the key to this prison’s success.
SCHEMES AND EDUCATION PROGRAMMES AT THE PRISON
The prison is extremely focused on preparing women for the world after prison. That’s why they have an array of facilities including a kitchen garden, hair salon, and barista training, all of which help the prisoners develop key skills to pursue jobs after their sentence. They also offer educational programmes, such as NVQs in business administration and floristry, as well as industrial workshops, college courses and work placements. This increases the chance of earning an income post-release, rather than being left without a job, or having to start a training course after their release.
The prison also holds a strong focus on mental health support, having the only “therapeutic community” in a UK female prison. This is a type of group therapy, which helps prisoners address their mental health problems and help each other understand them and cope better in the future. This also works on improving relationships between prisoners and staff, by allowing prisoners to express themselves and treating them with respect and allows prisoners to speak to one another about their issues, reducing the likeliness of violence.
This year, the staff team at HMP Send received one award and one nomination at the annual Women’s Estate Awards ceremony for their care and support of prisoners. This award is a great representation of the progress this prison has made in establishing a respectful relationship between staff and prisoners.
The prison also believes in creative rehabilitation, which is why they have established gardening, art, and creative writing schemes, all of which encourage prisoners to develop their creative minds and become more mindful. Earlier this month, the prison ran a creative writing project in partnership with Hatchlands Park and Guildford Book Fest. The stories written by the women in HMP Send are now displayed in Guildford tourism information centre. The prison also won the Best Neighbourhood Project award at Guildford in Bloom 2019, for the gardening rehabilitation schemes they have set up for both prisoners and staff to partake in.
Furthermore, last month a woman from HMP Send won a platinum award for her artwork in the fashion category of the Koestler Arts Awards, a charity which encourages and rewards prisoners for their artistic creativity.
Some of the prison’s most notable inmates include Jane Andrews, the former Royal dresser who killed her lover, and child sex offender, Vanessa George.
Jane Andrews was a former Royal dresser for The Duchess of York. Coming from a working-class background and experiencing many psychological issues from a young age, Andrews pursued a fashion course at Grimsby College and landed a job as a personal dresser for the Duchess at the age of 21. Ten years later, she met successful businessman Thomas Cressman. They were together for two years, but after a heated argument, Andrews waited until her partner was sleeping to then hit him with a cricket bat and stab him to death with a knife. In 2001, she was sentenced to life in prison, but was given early release on bail earlier this year.
Vanessa George, 49, was convicted in 2009 for child abuse and received a ten-year sentence at HMP Send. George was part of an online paedophile ring while she worked at a nursery in Plymouth. She was convicted of child abuse and of taking inappropriate photos of up to 64 children in her care. Her release was received with anger from the public, and this was worsened when a source revealed her apparent VIP treatment in prison, including her own television, food delivery, laundry services, and a nice job working in the prison library. Upon release, she is subject to strict licence conditions, including a ban from Devon and Cornwall and from owning or using devices with internet access.