“Treat people badly and you’re not going to get good results,” says Mick Winn, the governor in charge of the unit who is escorting me along the gently winding paths.Oh, I dunno, Mick. It seems to have worked pretty well for these women, doesn't it?
Winn opens a cell door and I see it is exactly like any prison cell, except it has an ensuite toilet and shower room.
“A lot of our women have body image issues. Having their own space to shower in private is really important to them.” He leads me to what he describes as “the quiet area”. There are easy chairs and a sofa, books and magazines, and a fish tank full of brightly coloured fish (paid for by the sale of the eggs from the chickens). By now the women on the unit have been let out of their cells and a number are waiting to speak to me in a communal room used for creative pursuits such as art, crafts and baking.How cosy. Many old people's centres would love to be so well appointed.
Winn says: “You get really protective about the women, especially when you get to know their backgrounds. It doesn’t take away the seriousness of their criminality, but when you see where they have come from and you hear the stories of what they’ve suffered, you can understand how they get into drugs, alcohol, violence.”Do you ever wonder why thousands of others brought up in the exact same circumstances manage to stay out of prison, Mick? Does that question ever flit briefly across your progressive brain?