In our latest interview, we had the privilege of sitting down with Pact Trustee, Phil Taylor OBE, a prominent figure in the realm of criminal justice and prison reform. Our discussion delved into the critical issues surrounding these subjects and, notably, the profound impact on prisoners' families. See below as we explore his insights, expertise, and unwavering commitment to addressing the challenges faced by those within the criminal justice system and their loved ones:

Can you give us a flavour of your journey through working in the prison service to becoming a Trustee at Pact?

I joined the Prison Service in 1978 as a Prison Officer and trained at Leyhill Prison Service College and HMP Manchester. I worked in twelve establishments throughout my career, working with every category of prisoner. I governed four prisons (Swansea, Bullingdon, Latchmere House and Wormwood Scrubs) before retiring in 2013. While governor at Wormwood Scrubs, I worked with Pact and the Tudor Trust to create a model family & visitor centre, focused around the needs of visitors and children. When I retired from the Prison service, Pact’s CEO Andy Keen-Downs invited me to consider becoming a trustee of the charity. I’d been very impressed by what I’d seen of Pact, so I was delighted to be elected to the Board, and later became Chair of the Board.

What are the values that have guided you on that journey?

As a leader within the Prison Service, I judged myself by the quality of my actions and the integrity of my intent. The values that have driven me are fairness, honesty, decency, and moral courage. Valuing all those who I came into contact with; building and maintaining positive relationships as the anchor that holds everything together.

As trustees, we oversee Pact’s finances and strategic direction, so we see lots of figures and detailed business information, all of which is vitally important. But we can never lose sight of the human aspect of Pact’s work - the difference we make to the lives of those we serve, and the wellbeing of our staff and volunteers in what is a difficult working environment.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about stepping forward to become a Trustee at Pact?

If you value people, see good relationships as a driver for excellence and have a passion to help the vulnerable then you should certainly consider becoming a trustee with Pact. A lack of experience within the criminal justice world should not put you off at all; our board is diverse in many ways, including life experiences, skills, knowledge, and occupations. This diversity enables it to function more effectively in its governance role. If you do become a trustee with Pact, you will find it challenging and rewarding. It’s a fascinating and vibrant charity.

Having been close to the Pact leadership team for ten years, what are the things you think Pact does well?

I am biased but I think Pact does everything it turns its attention to exceedingly well. I believe that the key to that success lies in maintaining its values, grounded in its faith roots. It jealously guards these values to ensure its direction is not driven by “business at any cost”. Combined with the passion and dedication that permeate from the senior leadership team, and all the staff and volunteers, these values have enabled Pact to be hugely successful. It is highly regarded by professionals, academics, practitioners and politicians, but most importantly and never to be forgotten by those who access and benefit from our services. These are the people for whom the charity has been working since 1898.

If you could wave a magic wand, what would you like to fix for prisoners' families right now?

Greater access for families to their loved ones held in custody, in an environment that fosters and nurtures proper family relationships. I would like to see action to tackle mental health issues among prisoners in a more meaningful way, using the support of their families.

I would really like to see a societal shift in determining why we lock people up and for how long – ultimately, we should be sending fewer people to prison.

You are going to need a big magic wand, but with organisations like Pact calling for and working to implement positive change, things can be turned around. This is not about being soft on crime but is about having a Criminal Justice system that works for the whole of society; that makes sense for prisoners, their families, prison staff and society as a whole.

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*Photography by Andy Aitchison