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  Bedford Prison - Guy Baulf - Guy Baulf  


Bedford Prison has been hailed as the No 1 jail in the UK and been given a high performance award for its work in the past year. The facility was named as the best of 135 prisons in a recently released report

This interview appeared in the Summer 2005 edition (No 39) of Custodial Review.


  Governor Guy Baulf of HMP Bedford.  -- Keep reading….. the sting is in the tail!  


Mr Guy Baulf joined the Prison Service in 1984 from a military post in the Middle East. From the first he didn’t like the way the Service ‘warehoused’ human beings, and observed a lot of bullying by both staff and prisoners. As a result he didn’t think he would remain long. But, he says, the job seduced him into believing something better could be done and thus launched him into a career which has included a four year spell at Dover with youngsters and a two year period with Sir David Ramsbotham and Anne Owers while Chief Inspector of Prisons. He was the Deputy Governor at Lewes before arriving at Bedford in February 2004. This interview follows one printed in Custodial Review No 35 Autumn Edition 2004.

Steven Mitchell (SM)                I guess you were pleased to see the report about your award in the local newspaper, what have you to say about it?

Guy Baulf (GB)            Well, the first thing to say is that it is not all down to me. Basically what managers here have done is focus the staff on quality and business objectives. That started before I came here by the previous governor Mr Cross. He had a particularly difficult job to do in structuring officers’ expectations, informing them if they didn’t start to work in a better way the prison would have serious problems. All sorts of things could have happened had it not engaged in that process.

SM      Market testing for instance?

GB       Although the prison is quite small it’s a busy place. With Peterborough opening-up 35 miles away, and with quite a few prisons in this area, had this facility not improved it might have been too expensive to keep it going. I think the staff was given that message by Mr Cross to get them into gear, to change the existing culture and understand what was expected of them in the new climate. The Prison Service until recently had never been in the business of performance management but when I arrived we were on our way there. I think Mr Cross did an extremely good job of convincing prison staff it had to change the way it operated and get focused on proper business outcomes. It was not just about target setting, it needed this approach because there was a very good reason for it. If there is progressively less violence in a prison, that tells us we are supervising effectively. If there are fewer drugs in the prison then it is a safer prison. Targets are not set for silly reasons, they are set because we want to measure how the prison is performing. At one point 30% of prisoners were into drugs; that made a very unsafe environment and put both staff and prisoners at risk. What Mr Cross started was to set that agenda. He got the work going to meet these targets because the prison would become safer, more respectful and would be doing what the public want us to do, that is look after people properly and, hopefully, at the end of the process give them a chance to get back into society in a settled way and then not re-offend.

SM      That was all before you came here?

GB       Yes, the initial work had been done before I arrived. But the prison officers and managers were frightened, I use that word because they still feared for their jobs, they were also uneasy about the new methods evolving in the prison and working in an unsafe environment. There had been some real crash and bash tactics used, I use this term to describe some of the robust management techniques used at the time. I regard myself as fortunate because I came in to Bedford being able to develop a job already underway, yet it’s not been easy following on.

SM      So was this a ‘nasty’ governor ‘nice’ governor situation

GB       You could describe it like that a bit. Andrew Cross wasn’t nasty, he had a very difficult job to do and so did I to maintain the momentum and take the prison forward into the development stage. I had a good Inspectorate Report to work from….I’m not daft, I used my knowledge of the Inspectorate and also knew what needed to be done. I produced an action plan and a business plan to address the issues the Inspectorate had picked-up. The ‘decency agenda’ was already well entrenched in the prison, the relationships between prisoners and staff was, and is now, dignified and respectful. We look after some very damaged people and we do it well.

SM      What was the essential issue you were facing?

GB       The trouble then was that we were locking-up people all day, not giving them opportunities to do personal things out of their cells. There was very little work or education, it was a very impoverished regime. We went back to the drawing board to work out how best to allocate our resources, how we were to re-profile our staff to allow prisoners out of their cells to work and receive education all within existing resources. We found money from cutting staff evening work, that is when the supervisory task was low, and hauled all those hours back into the core day work. We can now give all prisoners an opportunity to do part-time work and education. Prisoners are locked-up at night with their TVs and kettles, they do what I do when I go home…sit down, relax, have a cup of tea and watch TV. The core day starts at 0800 and they get locked-up at around1830. For half the prisoners the day starts with work or education with down-time in the afternoon, the other half vice versa. We’ve had to create a new IT system called the Prisoner Activity Movement System (PAMS). The routine is that we all report to the ‘PAMS centre’ when we take prisoners to do something and there are a few basic rules to follow….prisoners can’t be taken out of work or out of education, that would be a loss of money because one minute you could (say) have eight prisoners doing basic education then some would disappear for a visit or some other diversion and the class would end up with two prisoners which still costs £39 an hour for the teacher. So we stopped interruptions and diversions that cause a waste of money and deliver less outcomes. We said to prisoners, “You have got to be responsible….if you were outside and wanted to do leisure activities you would have to do it in your free time”. So if prisoners want a visit they arrange it during their down-time, the same goes for general doctor appointments, visits to the library, leisure PE and so on. In scheduled working time prisoners go to work for the whole period. Of course there are prisoners who do not want to work or engage in education….. But I’m sorry, if that is the case they are locked-up the TV and kettle withdrawn while education and work is being offered them.

SM      How have the prisoners responded?

GB       I went round the prison when the new regime was first introduced and the inmates were pleased, some even shook my hand…others said it was fantastic because they were doing something meaningful. Of course there were some dissenters but the vast majority welcomed the change. They enjoyed being out of cells and sharing in doing something positive. The staff, managers and I have all benefited because behaviour is much better.  Just treat people with respect and mostly they respond.

SM      Withdrawal of privilege, the TV and the kettle, is that tactic effective?

GB       Very….even with the prisoners who don’t want to work at all. A man said to me yesterday, “I’m 50 effing years old and I’ve had to get-up have breakfast and get myself ready to go to school because if I don’t I have to sit in the cell and do nothing and I can’t do that”. The guy can neither read nor write and he needs to go to school. People at 50 have things to learn and can be developed.

SM      How do you define meaningful activity?

GB       Remember we are a local prison and as such we have people here for very short periods. I would like to put people through bricklaying and plastering courses, make prisoners into plumbers and such like. I can’t do that here because there is not sufficient time to train most prisoners nor the space. A twelve month sentence potentially carries six months remission and then perhaps released three months early with a detention curfew tag. That leaves 12 weeks custody of which four weeks may have been remand. There is very little we can do to give someone like that any trade training. So our aim is to get them out of the cell for education, which seems to me meaningful activity. We have a short duration drug course short termers have not had access to before and that has gone very well. That is also meaningful activity.

SM      So the definition of meaningful activity should include the constraints, that is what is possible and would vary from prison to prison?

GB       I would agree with that. The Inspectorate’s view is that they would like to see people qualified, having NVQs and going back into society with opportunities. They will not be altogether impressed with the work we are doing here because it is very sedentary….we are packing most of the headsets for Monarch Airways who are based in Luton and it is boring and repetitive work. But the prisoners get something from it…..they are working for probably the first time in their lives, getting a decent wage and socialising. It is only for a short time and the men are happy to do that since the alternatives are education or being locked-up. That’s all we can offer because of time and space constraints.

SM      But doesn’t every prison have to do a similar exercise to a greater or lesser degree?

GB       Yes, every prison has to look at its profile and Role and then decide what they can do with the facilities they have. Modern prisons are built with classrooms, workshop areas and interview rooms. This prison was built in 1801 to lock people up and we have had to optimise the use of the space we have. We managed to find space and develop it into offices and classrooms by ordering double glazing units made in another prison, we changed office areas into classrooms and interview rooms. I’m impressed with what we have done, the works department have worked particularly hard in keeping the accommodation serviceable and then doing so much more work in providing us with these facilities.

SM      When we spoke before we dwelt on the problems of resettlement and you said, “We should not be discharging people into poverty or homelessness because they will just come back. If we could give them protection for six to eight weeks then they stand a chance and we shall be serving society in a positive way”. How is that side of your work progressing?

GB       We invited people in to help us with resettlement issues and we have the Anglian Trust coming to assist who do debt counselling and other resettlement work. Job Centre Plus have been our biggest provider because they are looking to maintain prisoners house accommodation and money that comes from the state to pay for it. Also making sure they have a job interview. We work closely with the Probation Service…...there are so many who help us. The resettlement part of our work has really taken-off. We have contracts with 12 different suppliers for things we are doing with prisoners regarding their resettlement.

SM      By any chance are the results quantifiable?

GB       Yes, we are measured on resettlement now. With the National Offender Management Service coming on-line resettlement will improve. The Carter Report made it quite clear that what we had been doing was not reducing re-offending so things have got to get better. But the factors are numerous both in the prison and when people are released, there is the education and training within and housing and work opportunities outside to think about. There is alcoholism and drugs to deal with and then protection and support needed soon after release wherever they go to help them remain drug free. The biggest problem we have at the moment is HMP Peterborough, they take quite a lot of my prisoners and we are being used as an overspill for London. That does hamper some of our resettlement initiatives but I would say that, at the moment, a good third of our prisoners come from Bedfordshire and we are doing good work in those areas. The other two thirds come from London and Reading and for them it is not so good. That will change in time and we shall get the local population back again.

SM      When we spoke before you explained the setting-up of an induction course to ease prisoners into the reality of prison life and to reduce the incidence, among other things, of self-harm. How has that gone?

GB       Sadly we’ve had one death in custody since that time and we believe it was a tragic accident. The report has just recently been published and does not go this far, in fact it says it can’t be proved that it was an accident, but our feelings are that the young man who was very well known to us was tragically involved in certain behaviour to get things from the system and we believe he made a mistake. Every day we look after between 15 and 25 high risk people who are seriously disturbed with mental health or drug problems and, if we didn’t have the systems we’ve got in now, we would lose more people. We call this the First Night Centre Induction and Reception System. It covers the arrival, the first night and the induction of prisoners to Bedford.

Prisoners on arrival are not always well or firing on all cylinders, 90% of our population entering Bedford Prison have drug problems and 70% of these have mental health problems. We can’t do very much with them apart from being kind and giving them some structure. We have mental health support through the Primary Care Trust (PCT) but not nearly enough. Those with drug problems are detoxed and that takes around 10 days. They will stay in C wing for that period and then take the induction programme which takes a week to deliver and sets them up for long or short sentences. It tells them what’s available here and at other training prisons they might go to. We assess them to make sure we have the risks right, record their needs and hopefully set them off on the right lines. We would probably start with education, they are not allowed in a workshop where they can earn enhanced wages until they have tackled their education problems. The system is that they have to tackle their drug and/or mental health problems first, then get educated and then they can get into a workshop. Long termers would go on to a training prison. There may be extra courses to be fitted in such as offending behaviour programmes and more education until they can get into a workshop and earn any enhanced wages, this is a real driver to prisoners. The short termers will do a skills based course if they have drug problems as well as doing education. We are trying to make everything progressive. We are doing industrial cleaning courses which is a new thing here…..this is the cleanest prison that I have ever been in! Those sorts of skills can be used to get a job outside and it doesn’t take a lot of training to make a start. A training prison will take any work we do to a higher level. It’s the same system with education, we do levels 1 and 2 here, 14 year old stuff, but medium and long termers could go on from there even to get a degree. It’s been done.

SM      You do resettlement work, as you say, for short term prisoners but for long termers that need could be far into the future. What duration of sentence do you take as the cut-off?

GB       We do not look at resettlement issues for sentences over 18 months, which will be done later at a training prison. Nor shall we teach beyond education level 2, we just do the basics, having said this we have explored and helped prisoners to start degree level courses who are going to be in the prison system awhile.

SM      The last time we spoke you commented that Bedford had a high employment rate and the prison had staff recruiting problems. What is the situation now?

GB       There are still staff shortages but the situation is significantly better than it was: we are six Officers short at the moment. We used to run a system called TOIL which means time off in lieu. When extra duty time was required time off in lieu was taken when the opportunity arose which it hardly ever did this was paid back. On average we owed each member of staff 17 hours and could never get it down. We are now averaging 6 hours per person because of successful recruitment. If people work long hours, in some cases previously 16 even 18 hour days, they become tired and non-effective. We went through a really bad patch where people were physically drained. The previous governor put a case forward claiming recruitment difficulties and we were given a special allowance added on to the salary of £2,600…..London establishments get £3,500.

SM      Near to London weighting allowance?

GB       Outer London Weighting….it is really an added incentive to come here to work because the area is expensive.

SM      Working in a prison, on the face of it, is not the most glamorous of occupations, what do you do attract recruits?

GB       We are tackling it by going out to schools and colleges and saying that it’s a job worth considering. There are caring people in the community who will never be doctors but might make a good prison officer and it is not as dreadful as commonly perceived. It is about looking after people, offering care. We are like nurses one day, disciplinarians another, trainers in between. It is a varied, challenging and interesting occupation. In the most punitive area of the prison we have our most caring staff. It never used to be, but that is how it is now. The most disruptive and difficult prisoners need more care and they do respond to it. We are thinking of having an open day to attract recruits and reverse a few preconceived notions. We try to reflect society here as far as we can and there is a problem because we’ve only 6% of staff from the ethnic minorities though we have 30% foreign national prisoners and a highly diverse area in Bedford. There are 52 different nationalities represented here. However as reported by a few of my current Asian staff,  Asian communities don’t seem to like this kind of work….we’ve really tried and still do.

SM      What’s still to be done, what else are you focussing on?

GB       We’re all proud of what we’ve done here, I believe the staff have worked hard and been conscientious in all we have done. Earning a high performance award is encouragement to further improvement and we are on the way to that. There is work outstanding in the resettlement area, also on prolific offenders and working with the police and criminal justice system about released prisoners who might still pose a treat to the general public. The way forward is to maintain what we are doing and make it second nature, standard operating procedure….cause it to become imbedded as a culture of care.

SM      I know you came from the Army twenty years ago to join the Prison Service, what is the most dramatic change you have seen in that time?

GB       The way we treat people, not just the prisoners but the way staff treat each other. When I joined the Service in Manchester I was not allowed to talk to another officer on the landing, I was often told to f*** off and find out for myself how to do the job. It was unhelpful, unfriendly and disrespectful. Manchester was just a warehouse of misery for both staff and prisoners. The journey from there to where we are now is the most dramatic change I have experienced.

SM      We all know you are leaving HMP Bedford in the near future, where are you off to?

GB       I have been offered an opportunity to run a prison in the private sector and I see it as another challenge and opportunity to broaden my experience. To be honest I do get frustrated with Prison Service processes….once I know the objective I like to get there in my own way and not be constrained by hundreds of Prison Service Orders and Instructions. Government, Home Office and the Prison Service are hampered by regulations and stifling bureaucracy that prevent managers from being creative and Accountable Managers. We are analy retentive with the processes of getting where we want to go. It feels as if I am not trusted to manage my prison, but must follow prescriptive dictat. I believe I could run this prison significantly cheaper if I could do it in my own but accountable way and also deliver more, but I’m not allowed to do that. I will however miss the Service as it is an honourable one and who knows these days with my transferable skills I could come back. I could explain, but to do justice to the subject it would take a long time, perhaps we could have another chat some other time.

SM      Any question I might ask after that very bold statement could be regarded as superfluous. Thank you Governor Baulf for speaking with the Review.





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