"How the prison has helped me with my disability"

About: HMP Whatton

(as a staff member posting for a patient/service user),

(Posted on behalf of a service user)

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and appreciation in the way I, as a registered disabled inmate with various disabilities, have been treated from the day I arrived here at Whatton in July. I have been in prison for six years now and in all that time and before I arrived at HMP Whatton I have experienced difficulties in discrimination on many occasions because of my disabilities.

HMP Whatton is totally the opposite in the way your Health Care Dept and Prison Officers address disabled inmate's issues and difficulties, let me try and explain what I am trying to express.

1/ Within minutes of arrive in reception the reception staff quickly made themselves aware of my disability status (I had quite a lot of medical supplies) and they took me to one side where they were extremley helpful and discreet in explaining everything I needed to know relating to disability matters here at Whatton. My first impression of HMP Whatton was very positive (first time in six years).

2/ Again, within one hour of arriving at Whatton I had a visit from a nurse in health care who took the time going through all my medical and disability needs, she even had an appointment for me to see the prison Doctor for two days later, (up to this point I have always had to wait up to four weeks to see somebody from health care). The nurse was very reassuring.

When I arrived at Unit A4 I was greeted by a prison officer took who me into the office (reception had already been on the phone to her to explain about my disabilities) and again she was very helpful and explained that I would be in a single room for dignity and hygiene and that I should approach her or any member of the unit staff if ever I had any issues. I was also told that I could use the disabled shower for dignity (apart from the two years I spent at in Therapy at Dovegate Theraputic Community, I have always had to use the showers as other inmates. This was times very humiliating and embarrassing).

I also had a visit from an insider and diversity and disability reps (all of them trained inmates) and again they went through everything with me. (They were and are still unaware of my disabilities which I feel is right), I just wasn't used to all this help and supporting relating to my medical/disability problems. I must mention the A4 Unit Orderly, inmate who was the only inmate who knew of my disabilities, who was extremely helpful and discreet and continues to be since I left Unit a4.

4/ For the next week I went through the prison induction programme where I met and talked to the various departments, (in my previous prisons I was lucky if I was given a 30 minute induction) I found the Whatton induction programme was so helpful and in-depth and because it was spread over seven days I was able to learn and take on board more that if was all crammed into a shorter space of time. The only concern I learnt from the induction was the; length of time I would have to wait to continue with my offending behaviour programmes.

5/ My first initial appointment with the prison doctor went extremeley well. I was with the doctor for 45 minutes (unheard of in my previous prisons) and he was so precise in going through all my medical and disability needs even changing some of my medication and medical supplies for the better. I was given a full medical and various tests where carried out due to my age and disabilities. (the first time these tests have ever been carried out) I also had a meeting with the continence coordinator who made me feel at ease and comfortable when we where discussing my disabilities. She is very discreet when I have to attend the health care to pick up further continence supplies. (in my previous prisons, these supplies where brought to my cell in the presence of staff and inmates, so undignified and humiliating).

6/ After spending only 10 days on Unit A4 I was moved onto Unit A8 and into a fully equipped disabled room. Officers introduced themselves to me and they spent time letting me know who the regime on Unit 8 worked. They were also aware of my disabilities and told me to approach any member of staff if ever I needed help. I was also introduced to the Unit's disability awareness co-ordinator who I have to admit has been a Godsends in the help and assistance he has given me and all other disabled residents here on Unit A8. In the nine weeks that I have been on Unit A8 I have had no issues and the staff on the unit are constantly asking if I am ok and if I need anything, some of the staff regularly visit the rooms/cells to make sure that all is well.

7/ Everything at Whatton has been positive but the biggest event for me since I arrived here is the gymnasium and the attitude from the gym staff towards disabled inmates. When I went to the gym for my introduction the first thing the gym officer said was it does not matter how unfit or disabled you are, we can help with some sort of gym activity and he and his staff want to see us down using the gym.

Before I came into prison I was fairly fit but the past six years and before I arrived at HMP Whatton, I found it very difficult accessing gym facilities due to my medical and disability problems and I was never encouraged to do so. During my gym induction the gym officer took me aside and we discussed my disabilities. He informed me that they were not an issue for him and his staff and soon as I got clearance from Health Care I could start using the gym. Health Care cleared me for modified gym but no heavy lifting or contact sport due to medical equipment I have to wear.

In the nine weeks that I have been using the gym, the staff have involved me in various activities including involving me in a Football Course every Tuesday asking me to officiate (Linesman) in the football and rugby matches. I have even lost about 10 Kilos in weight and the gym has helped me with my self-esteem.

8/ I am still waiting to start work but hope to be working in the gardens doing light duties. I have to wait until I am at Whatton three months before I am considered.

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Responses

Response from Jane Danforth, Involvement Team , Involvement & Experience, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

picture of Jane Danforth

Thank you so much for feeding back to us about HMP Whatton. We appreciate all feedback as it really helps us to make sure that Whatton is providing a responsive service and that all your needs and disability were acknowledged from the start.

It sounds like staff have really taken the time to address these needs. I'm pleased to hear that you have lost weight and feel better.

It's good to hear that your have not encountered any discrimination at Whatton. The Trust is proud of its anti stigma approach to the services we look after and I know the staff team at Whatton will be delighted to read your praise for their work with you. I will pass this onto them as it is always good for staff teams to hear that they are doing a good job as it motivates them knowing they are appreciated and valued for the work they do.

I wish you continued success at Whatton and I hope you are able to work in the gardens at some point in the future

Jane

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