In a word, extremely!

For those who don't know, HMPPS Insights brings people together from across the Criminal Justice System to learn, share, connect and celebrate the excellent and innovative work done. With over 500 events and over 14,000 tickets shared, here's a whistle-stop tour of my 2 week experience in May 2022. 

I'll start with my favourite and that's saying something as they were ALL highly informative and captivating in both detail and social importance.

How have city drugs found their way into small rural communities?

An extraordinary man called Luke Peters (aka Still Shadey who is now a spokesman for St Giles Trust charity and a musician) spoke with passion about 'County Lines'. This is the widespread operational procedure set up by drug dealers in highly organised crime networks to groom, recruit and exploit children as young as 13 to pass drugs from big cities into market towns and rural communities. His personal story and knowledge of young people was impressive, having lived experience of being exploited himself. 

He is part of the SOS+ award-winning Central London project delivering early intervention and de-glamorising gangs in the community. There is also an excellent film 'County Lines' that shows one boy's journey on BBC iPlayer.

How many men at HMP Leeds reported a brain injury?

Another enlightening talk was given by the Disabilities Trust about the high prevalence of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) in the prison population

As many as 47% of men at HMP Leeds reported a TBI. 

The most common causes are assaults (including childhood abuse), falls, sporting or car accidents. 

62% of TBIs in women are caused by domestic violence.

Symptoms of TBIs are memory loss, disorientation, impulsive and inappropriate behaviour, frustration, irritability, anxiety, confusion, depression. The charity is pushing for more understanding on this, often overlooked, serious issue.

What is The Corston Report?

'Working with Women who Offend' looked at how most women are in prison for short sentences which research has shown to be more harmful in every way than a long, settled one. Also that 60-80% of women in custody have experienced domestic violence and so have complex needs, "often the product of a life of abuse and trauma". 

The reason one prisoner gave for self-harm was: "What I can do to my own body is the only thing I have left to control." 

It's clear from research that custody for women needs to be gender responsive. Prisons have been traditionally developed by men, for men. Research shown in The Corston Report, also an astonishingly obvious piece of work, suggests they are unlikely to work for women. Why not take a look?

Can prisoners teach themselves to read?

The Shannon Trust showed us that rates of both reoffending and losing touch with family are higher if those in custody can't read. As a charity known for its outstanding work teaching people in prison to read, and being peer tutors for others. The charity has now created a motivational app that can be utilised by themselves to assist in reading offline. It's called 'Turning Pages' and could be a game-changer for people with literacy issues inside.

So much more…

To summarise the rest, without diminishing from their importance in any way, I learnt about lack of trust in residential care-experienced women; about the Mulberry Bush School trying to keep children in education and out of custody; how teaching philosophy to 'lifers' creates more meaningful relationships; and how psychological safety within teams is vital for any team to create good work.

There was also the history of the polygraph test (lie-detector - did you know the ability of the average person to catch a liar is only 60%!) and how it's being used to review risk assessments of UK sex offenders; a talk asking if we're really listening to the voices of pregnant women in prison; how the disproportionate exclusion from school of the Gypsy Roma Traveller (GRT) Community and existing daily racism (staff and prisoners) in prisons has forced the Traveller Movement charity to use creative ways to address these issues.

A talk about children in the justice system revealed them to be some of the most damaged and vulnerable in our society (under their multi-layered, bulletproof survival suits); a presentation about the time, effort and precision that's put into designing a new policy framework for safeguarding children was fascinating; and the chicken and egg problem of mental health problems and drugs - which comes first?

How I used my new knowledge

I took actions away from each talk and thought about how they could benefit the Content Hub. So much of this information has the potential to stop first offences and to understand the underlying illnesses behind why people offend, which when treated, can slow and stop re-offending. It has given me hope for the future of society. 

And finally…

Last but not least, I also 'won' a coffee and a chat with Clare Wilson, a Senior Policy Manager (Sentence Management) in the Probation Reform Programme. She talked about her work with Young Adults, I talked about the Content Hub, and we've been talking about HMPPS possibilities ever since. I have happily added Clare to my list of new 'insightful' colleagues. 

We're all busy, but it's important to stop and look around at all this incredible work happening in the wider community. Also, to meet new people who are working for the same thing in different ways. 

Thank you to the team and speakers who put on this festival -  it's the most educational 2 weeks of my year. 

Now I'm off to find a money-tree…

This session provides an insight into the use of polygraph with people on probation, including those convicted of sexual offences, terrorist or terrorist related offences, and the new domestic abuse pilot.

You will observe a live demonstration of a polygraph examination, and hear about how polygraph is used to support risk management of the highest risk cases we work with.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Evidence informed delivery of accredited programmes to women in custody or on probation.

HMPPS Intervention Services National Specialist Leads Cara Cunningham and Aubrey Van Zyl present the approach taken to developing effective interventions with women in the care of HMPPS.

This session:

Demonstrates the evidence of effective programme design and delivery of accredited programmes responsive to the needs of women.

Explores how a responsive and inclusive approach to rehabilitation can support women (and others!) and promote desistance from re-offending.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Beatrice Finch, HMPPS Sustainability Lead, explains what is happening across HMPPS and invites you to join a conservation day at a prison!

The HMPPS estate is one of the largest and most diverse in government, with a wealth of different priority species and habitats. As part of being an environmentally sustainable organisation, we are making sure that we protect and maintain the species we share our land with.

We understand why we should try to reduce our carbon footprint or conserve our water consumption – these feel like direct threats to our way of life. But apart from our moral duty to future generations, why should we care about biodiversity?

Everything we need to survive relies on biodiversity: without plants there would be no oxygen and without bees and other pollinators there would be no fruit or nuts. But did you know that coral reefs and mangrove swamps protect the coast from cyclones and tsunamis, while trees absorb air pollution, actually cleaning the air in urban areas?

Our biodiversity has been honed through millions of years of evolution. Nothing exists in isolation. If you remove one piece, just one species, it destroys the finely tuned balance which impacts us all. For example, if tropical tortoises and spider monkeys become extinct, you would think the impact on us would be minimal. But the tropical dense hardwood trees that are most effective in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, rely on them for seed dispersal: if they go, then it directly impacts climate change, which we know affects us all.

How HMPPS is conserving biodiversity

MoJ has committed to putting environmental sustainability at the heart of our operations and decision-making. We recognise that as the second largest estate in government, we have a responsibility to reduce our impacts on the environment and increase biodiversity – and we want to lead by example.

Across HMPPS staff, people in prison or on supervision and local communities, are  working hard to create and enhance spaces for nature including ponds, orchards, wildlife gardens, meditative outdoor areas, installing bat and bird boxes and much more. Re-connecting with nature through making our sites more environmentally sustainable can also help improve mental health and well-being and provide rewarding education and rehabilitation opportunities.

One example is the Children’s Butterfly Garden created at HMP Berwyn where a grassland area has been developed as a ‘Pollinator Garden’. It now provides a welcoming and positive entrance and a relaxing environment for visitors, whilst  significantly enhancing the current grassland area for wildlife and pollinators which are in serious decline. The Wildlife Trust funded the butterfly path and worked to build it.

What can you do to support biodiversity?

While most of us are not actively trying to harm biodiversity, modern daily life is rife with unintended consequences. However, with a few simple changes you can reduce your adverse impact on the environment and encourage biodiversity to flourish.

Or you could…

Sign up to one of our HMPPS Prison Insights conservation volunteering days. Sign up by clicking the links below:

23rd August – A day for wildlife @ HMP Thorn Cross.  We will be working with staff and prisoners to mow conservation paths, build wildlife habitats, do some pond dipping, and maybe even extract honey from their beehives! Book your ticket here: Get your ticket – A day for Wildlife: HMP / YOI Thorn Cross – HMP / YOI Thorn Cross, Tue 23 Aug 2022 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM ( Tickets close 16th August.

31st August - A day for wildlife @ HMP Send.  We will be working with staff and prisoners to restore their pond. Work will involve taking out the old liner, re-contouring the hole so it is more wildlife friendly, installing a new liner and native plants.  Amphibian and Reptile Groups UK (ARGUK) will also be there to assist with the more technical side of establishing a new pond. Book your ticket here: Get your ticket – A day for Wildlife: HMP Send – HMP Send, Wed 31 Aug 2022 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM ( Tickets close 16th August.

8th September – A day for wildlife @ HMP Whitemoor.  We will be working with staff on their wildlife reserve outside the prison.  A real treat for the wildlife enthusiast – they have a bird hide where you can see kingfishers and maybe even a marsh harrier. We will be clearing the main pond at HMP Whitemoor. There is a boat and the tools to complete the tasks, you will need to bring spare clothes and wellies! Graham and Ben (the onsite team) would like to take you around the nature reserve in the afternoon. Book your ticket here: Get your ticket – A day for Wildlife: HMP Whitemoor – HMP Whitemoor, Thu 8 Sep 2022 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM ( Tickets close 1st September.

14th September - A day for wildlife @ HMP Channings Wood.  We will be working with staff and prisoners to prepare an area for wildflower seeding, creating wildlife habitats, and helping to restore their pond. Book your ticket here: Get your ticket – A day for Wildlife: HMP Channings Wood – HMP Channings Wood, Wed 14 Sep 2022 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM ( Tickets close 4th September.

Join Richard Vince (Executive Director of Security, HMPPS) and distinguished panel of academics: Professor Ben Crewe (University of Cambridge); Dr Susie Hulley (University of Cambridge); and Dr Serena Wright (Royal Holloway, University of London) in a discussion about life imprisonment.

The discussion draws on Richard’s operational and management experience, and the panel’s research involving interviews with almost 150 men and women serving long life sentences from an early age.

You will gain an advanced understanding of the experiences of life sentence prisoners including:

• the main problems that they encounter • the ways they seek to build a life in prison

• their sources of hope and meaning, and

• their feelings about the prison system and the legitimacy of their circumstances The discussion reflects on how we can best manage this growing cohort of men and women humanely and effectively.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

The joint Europris and Confederation of European Probation Domestic Violence Expert Group host a fascinating series of presentations and a discussion about domestic violence approaches across Europe.

The workshop features presentations and a Q&A session with panellists:

An introduction to the expert group- Sarah Henfrey (Insights Lead for behaviour change projects and open, learning culture, HMPPS) Investing in prevention and early intervention.

Domestic Abuse approaches with alleged perpetrators- Geraldine O’Hare (Director of Rehabilitation, Probation Board for Northern Ireland).

The added value of a multi-agency approach in Domestic Violence cases- Sabrina Reggers (Coordinator at the Family Justice Centre, Limburg: Belgium)

What we have learned so far about programmes for violent offenders- Vaclav Jiricka (Head Psychologist, Prison Service of the Czech Republic).

Working with Domestic Abuse: Victim considerations- Carmel Donnelly (Regional Manager, Probation Service in Ireland).

Please be aware of the sensitive nature of some of the content.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Listen to insights shared from around the world. Hosted by Dr Rob Watson on behalf of International Network for Criminal ‘In-CJ’, join Australia, India, Japan, Spain, Nigeria, Estonia, Bermuda and Trinidad & Tobago share professional practice, research and their own personal experiences of working in the criminal justice field.


Governor Paul Baker Governor of Parklea Prison, a MTC-Broadspectrum managed correction centre in Sydney Australia, will be discussing with Sarah Mallender Deputy Governor, and Ferry Lee Senior Psychologist, the differences between governing prisons in the UK and Australia, and the complexity of trying to start and develop a rehabilitative culture.


Mitali Nikore: discussing domestic violence and the shadow pandemic (during covid) in India.

Spain, Catalonia

Post-Prison Follow-Up Service. This session is being run by INTRESS, an NGO that carries out social reintegration projects with different vulnerable groups amongst which, imprisoned people, in collaboration with the Secretariat of Criminal Sanctions, Rehabilitation and Victim Support, Ministry of Justice, Government of Catalonia. More information in Spanish here.


Dr Uju Agomoh: discussing how prisoner’s rehabilitation and welfare is developed and put into practice.


Laidi Surva Ministry of Justice in the Republic of Estonia: discussing how young people’s experience of criminal justice is understood and developed.


Keeva Joell-Benjamin Commissioner of Corrections – how probation and rehabilitation services are adjusting to the post-covid needs of criminal justice practice.

Trinidad & Tobago:

Blended Approaches to E-justice

What does criminal exploitation linked to county lines look like within HMPPS?

Hosted by HMPPS Effective Practice and Service Improvement Group (EPSIG) cross cutting team and Dr Kate Gooch.

County Lines is not just ‘drug dealing’, it has a significant impact on safety, security and reducing re-offending. County Lines as a “business model” will often involve the exploitation of children and vulnerable adults (both male and female), their wider family members, as well as attempts to exploit HMPPS staff to transfer and/or store drugs, weapons and money. Individuals often use coercion, intimidation, modern slavery, violence and sexual exploitation to secure compliance and the recovery of money and transported illicit items.

The event introduces collaborative work done between Dr Kate Gooch (University of Bath) and Mick McNally (EPSIG - HMPPS). Focusing on the academic research aimed at establishing a prison-based approach and methodology to identifying and tackling prison-formed networks linked to the County Line business model being used to facilitate the illicit economy within the prison estate.

Topics include:

Understanding the business model and networking

Who are the victims?

Organised crime groups versus gangs

What can be done.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Helen Wakeling and Kate Netten, HMPPS Evidence Based Practice Team discuss: what current evidence tells us about people who sexually re-offend whilst subject to supervision. some of the evidence gaps, and what good practice might look like for managing risk.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

This seminar draws on Sheffield Hallam’s research including recordings of 60 oral hearings (remote and in-person; pre-Covid and post-Covid), and interviews with 15 Parole Board panel members.

It discusses the: potential benefits of remote oral hearings drawbacks of using remote technology, and practice implications for working with prisoners and/or within the parole system Parole Board panel members contribute and, sharing their thoughts on the research findings.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required

The HMPPS Drugs Strategy Team discuss the impact of psychoactive substances (PS) on prisons.

The session includes: myth-busting around this ever-changing drug how testing is improving, and how intelligence and security practices can influence the presence and impact of PS in our prisons.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required

Victoria Knight and Steven Van De Steene at De Montfort University draw on De Montfort’s international research on digital maturity and suggested ethical principles.

They review and reflect on the unfolding digitisation programme within our prisons, and invite practitioners to understand how they can help develop a pathway of rehabilitation and desistance.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

This event:

• identifies the principles of effective assessment in the youth offending service, and

• explores examples of effective assessment practice from the 'Black and mixed heritage boys in the youth justice system' thematic inspection: out-of-court disposal assessments in Hackney and trauma informed, anti racist pre-sentence reports in Lewisham. Attendees will be able to

• identify HM Inspectorate of Probation’s expectations underpinning the assessment standards in youth justice services, and

• use real life examples to understand their application in pre-sentence reports and out-of-court-disposals.

Guest speakers include:

Hackney: Brendan Finegan, Service Manager, Youth Justice Shelli Green, Team Leader - Young Hackney Prevention & Diversion Team Francesca Fadda-Archibald, Practice Development Manager

Lewisham: Keith Cohen, Head of Youth Offending Service Jennifer Butler- Lewisham Operational Manager

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Can a machine read the Delius contact log better than a human? Hosted by MoJ Data Science Hub.

Andrew Craik, Lead Data Scientist explains how this proof of concept automatically extracts ‘events’ from the Delius contact log using ‘natural language processing’ (NLP) and demonstrate how the MoJ can benefit from novel statistical (or machine learning) techniques to improve services.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Hosted by the Legal Aid Agency this session will help you to understand your own personality and preferences, how and why you like to do things the way you do.

This can help identify career roles that will appeal to you and highlight areas for development.

MBTI can also help you understand the preferences of others, enabling you to be better at engaging and involving others, improve teamwork and collaboration and reduce conflict.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

MoJ’s Female Offender Minority Ethnic Working Group (FOME) showcase work led by specialist voluntary sector organisations and explores the perspectives of women from diverse ethnic communities with lived experience of the criminal justice system.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Dr Claire Fitzpatrick, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Lancaster University presents new findings from interviews with care-experienced women from across three prisons in England and interviews with professionals, including prison service staff, to explore the challenges and possibilities in supporting care-experienced women in prison and beyond.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Hear first hand from HMPPS staff who have completed projects in UK overseas territories explain what it was like:

Their expectations; the conditions they experienced; and how they supported services to help make effective and sustainable changes.

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This event provides an opportunity to hear from real life people currently involved in the delivery of services.

Find out about the range of interesting careers available, and and identify career development pathways following a user journey through the criminal Justice system, from Court, through to sentencing and delivery of the sentence.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Hazel provides an overview of the key issues involved in making risk decisions, including: the challenges of bias and error best practice tips to improve decision making, and a brief introduction to the role of risk management in desistance.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

How Virtual Reality and 360 immersive technology can improve risk judgements in probation training Hosted by Michelle McDermott, Senior Lecturer Community Justice and colleagues Laura Haggar and Amy Meenaghan from The University of Portsmouth.

This webinar provides indicative findings and insights from University of Portsmouth research on using different immersive technologies in Probation training. See how immersive technology can support online learning with a specific focus on risk assessment practice.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Age is just a number? How can probation support and work with people in an ageing caseload? Hosted by Nichola Cadet at The Department of Law and Criminology, Sheffield Hallam University.

This event explores how the increase of older people on probation caseloads across community orders, suspended sentences and supervision on license, will affect probation practice, alongside an ageing staff population. ‘Older’ service users are defined by HMPPS as those aged 50 and over.

The increase in the ageing probation caseload is set against a backdrop of an ageing society which also includes probation staff. The increase is partly exacerbated increasing numbers of over 50s in the prison population, and changes to legislation under the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014.

Drawing on research, policy and practice from gerontology, this seminar: identifies links between criminological and gerontological perspectives, including lived experience and strengths based approaches facilitate debate about how ageist attitudes in society can lead to double discrimination of those on probation caseloads, like attitudes towards employment for older people looks at the suitability of reducing re-offending pathways, supporting individualised approaches to sentence planning and engagement, and national and local responses including training and support for probation staff.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Sharon White, National Specialist Lead for Violence, HMPPS Interventions Services, explores the bio-psycho-social underpinnings of violent offending.

This event looks at the potential role of trauma, and how practitioners can use this understanding to support people to desist from violent behaviour.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required.

Vikki Gill, HMPPS’s Interventions Services National Specialist Lead for Group Affiliation.

Vikki explores: current evidence about why people join gangs and what works to support their disengagement from gangs; and conversations practitioners can have to enable people review their relationship with their gang.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required

Hosted by the HMPPS Women's Team this event showcases the new 1:1 toolkit – First Steps to Change - for working with women for Probation Practitioners.

Staff will gain an understanding into the journey of its development, its intended purpose and benefits alongside hearing about experiences of using the toolkit from those involved in its creation.

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required

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