On the face of it, Shepton and Erlestoke are the same - both are category C training prisons, both lying about how much attention they pay to our welfare and rehabilitation.
Yet here I sit in my cell on a sunny Saturday, bored. At Shepton I'd be able to take myself off to the yard or pay a social visit to other wings. Here, though, such freedoms are controlled far more pettily.
What factors determine the differences between two seemingly similar prisons? Both rest on the bedrock that is the national core regime. Both labour under national profiles and performance targets. And yet both prisons seem to have a completely different ethos and culture, which often expresses itself in ways that our keepers fail to appreciate.
Shepton, for all it varied problems, is actually ranked as the second best performing prison in the country. Erlestoke is so far down the performance table that only miners have seen that depth. Managerially merging these prisons with Erlestoke in charge may seem a tad stupid then. But that's what they are doing.
BEN'S PRISON BLOG