"A prison is about people," says Jim Heavens, governor of HMP Wandsworth in South London. "We don't have a tangible product so we are about managing people - whether they are officers or prisoners.
"It can be quite difficult for me to disengage the management of both the prisoners and staff because you manage the prisoners through the staff. There is a close relationship between what they do and what happens to the prisoners," he says.
With more than 1,400 prisoners and 700 personnel – roughly two-thirds officers and one-third administration, medical and works staff – the prison is a unique environment in which to work.
Heavens and head of HR, Anne Barry, are challenged with managing a discrete community. By its nature, the prison is cut off from the outside world, but staff must also work towards the integration of prisoners into that outside world.
As if that wasn't challenging enough, Wandsworth is a local prison serving London. There's a separate vulnerable prisoners unit, where prisoners may stay for two or three years, but the majority of prisoners are waiting to be sent on to other establishments, giving the building a turnover of around 70 prisoners a day.
In numerical terms, this is comparable to changing the entire population of the prison twice every month. This makes the creation of a stable and progressive regime complicated, as does the pressure on personnel resources available to the prison.
In recent years, recruitment of prison officers has been a concern throughout the service, with Wandsworth particularly suffering up until 12 months ago.
An inspector calls
The ultimate challenge comes with the regular inspection of the prison by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector. The results of an inspection carried out in May this year hit the headlines when it recorded a deterioration in the prison regime since an inspection 16 months previously.
"I was disappointed with the inspection," admits Heavens. "Not because I thought it was necessarily wrong, but because I didn't think it engaged with an organisation that was trying to change what we had done in the past year."
Faced with staff shortages, the prison was hit by a number of crises, including one case of a prisoner setting his cell on fire that led to fallout in terms of staff sickness absence and poor staff morale.
"We managed to pick ourselves up from there. We hired new staff and the prison relaxed agai