HMP & YOI Peterborough prison officer Lesley Stewart has been announced as a winner in the prestigious Prison Officer of the Year Awards 2012.

Lesley, a prison custody officer at the Sodexo Justice Services run prison, won the Safer Custody category of the awards in recognition of her commitment to keeping prisoners safe from self-harm and self-inflicted death while in custody.

She has worked at HMP & YOI Peterborough, the country's only dual purpose-built prison for men and women, who are kept separate at all times, for seven years. Her job is to meet with all new prisoners and give them advice on what to expect whilst in prison and to provide information on the support available to them during their stay.

The annual awards, organised by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), celebrate the outstanding work of Prison Service staff and are open to all prison officers in England and Wales.
Lesley, who was the only private sector prison officer winner in the awards, was presented with her certificate by Prisons Minister, Crispin Blunt MP, at a ceremony at Crewe Hall Hotel, Crewe.

The judging panel, made up of eight prison governors chaired by Steve Wagstaffe, director of public sector prisons, NOMS, described her as “in tune with her offenders, and they respond amazingly well.”
Lesley was highlighted as “a guardian for the anguished” who is “whole-heartedly committed to reducing incidents of selfharm across the population, and her methods have been proven to work.”

During her two years in the prison’s safer custody team, she successfully introduced a wide variety of craft related activities for vulnerable women to occupy their time and to enable them to support each other. Her efforts resulted in a decrease in self-harm. She is now replicating her success in the male prison, setting up model kit and matchstick building sessions.

Lesley said: “I was originally shocked at even being nominated by my line manager, senior prison custody officer Deborah Harrison, as I merely do the job that is asked of me to the best of my ability, and enjoy doing it. Winning the award means a lot to me, the safer custody department and the prison as it has hopefully put HMP & YOI Peterborough on the map and will give more private prisons the incentive to nominate more of their employees’ good work in the future.”

Nick Leader, director, HMP & YOI Peterborough, said: “I am delighted that an officer of Lesley’s calibre has received national recognition for her professionalism and commitment. She is an excellent ambassador for the safer custody department and the wider prison."

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