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Ian Dickens, Inspector

Photograph of Ian Dickens.

I have worked with the Inspectorate since January 2016. Before that, my background was as an operational prison manager in roles across both the private and public sector for 23 years. Much of my experience had been within the high-security estate. Having gained accreditation for a deputy governor/governor role, I needed to decide which direction my career should take.

At this point I became aware of the recruitment campaign for the Inspectorate. The recruitment process was not easy but I was overjoyed when I was informed that I had been successful.

While I am comfortable in a custodial environment, I am also conscious that inspecting is very different to day-to-day prison management and I had much learning and development ahead of me.

I used my previous experience to my advantage – I am acutely aware of the pressures faced by staff in prison environments from both security and resource perspectives. I respect their position when I am inspecting, particularly if I have to give critical feedback. However, these pressures should never detract from the need to ensure that prisons are safe and respectful and that positive, decent outcomes for prisoners remain the top priority for all. For that reason, I always make sure my feedback is constructive and helpful to support improvement.

I have received excellent support from my colleagues, who have a whole host of experiences from many different sectors. Learning from them has been the thing I have enjoyed most. Not only has it helped me develop as an inspector but it has provided me with a broader, more holistic understanding of criminal justice and independent inspection. More recently, I have also been given the opportunity to lead full inspections and progress review visits, providing more detailed feedback to governors and prison group directors following our work.

I find it extremely satisfying to share good practice and firmly believe that the work of the Inspectorate and the areas I contribute to make a positive difference to people’s lives, supporting improvement in prison conditions for both prisoners and staff.