What’s in store for Wandsworth?

Tattoo Parlour for prison: Governor outlines radical reform agenda


Wandsworth prison in London

Source: Maureen Barlin on Flickr

Ian Bickers has an unusual amount of autonomy for a prison Governor. Here’s how he intends to use it.

Wandsworth was named as one of the government’s six ‘reform’ prisons in the last Queen’s speech, meaning Bickers has control over his budgets and can shape reform across the prison.

Speaking at the 2016 Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) conference last week, Bickers outlined what’s in store for HMP Wandsworth.

A tattoo parlour where inmates can learn practical skills to take into the community is the latest idea put forward by Bicker’s team.

“Anyone who’s been inside a prison will meet men who are excellent artists,” he said. “It makes sense to find a way to use and develop that skill. After all, you can earn more running a tattoo parlour than you do as a prison governor”.

Bickers is keen to put education at the centre of everything at Wandsworth. “We don’t want to do anything unless it directly improves peoples lives,” he said. “from helping them to manage their diabetes medication, if they’re only in for one night, to teaching them a skill which will increase their employment prospects”

Other ideas for the reform programme include installing a scaffold tower, opening a boxing academy and offering yoga classes.

His plans also include opening up access to IT and the Internet in his prison. To do this, he said he will follow the examples from mainstream education, looking at how schools use firewalls to limit and monitor what websites students have access to. “If schools can do it, why can’t prisons?” he said.

Bickers urged other governors to follow his radical approach. “Don’t wait for someone to knock on your door and say ‘Reforms are here” said. “Push forward, and a lot of times you’ll find you’re pushing against an open door.”

One Comment on “What’s in store for Wandsworth?”

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