I joined the Inspectorate in 2014. Previously I was the director of services for a charity supporting the children and families of prisoners. For more than 10 years I worked as a researcher in prisons, leading on national projects for the Home Office, Youth Justice Board and Ministry of Justice. Prior to this I was an academic teaching criminology.

I inspect prisons, police custody and immigration detention. When inspecting prisons, I am often the first inspector on site and will meet the governor immediately to talk them through the inspection process.

My research experience introduced me to the secure estate so I’ve always felt comfortable in that environment. As an inspector, you have to understand how places of detention work. There’s no point interviewing prisoners or detainees when they are behind their doors; it’s much easier to talk when they are more relaxed at work or moving around. You need to be confident in an environment where there can be challenging, but also incredibly vulnerable, people.

I’m used to talking to prisoners and detainees directly. It’s important to listen, be disciplined in how you structure questions, and build rapport while keeping alert. Inspecting requires the ability to relate to people who are experiencing difficult conditions while also obtaining important information from them.

Inspection is a craft that you have to learn. When I first started inspecting, I had to focus on time management as inspections move at a fast pace. As a researcher, I was used to presenting evidence in a neutral way. With inspection, it’s about collecting evidence, triangulating it and making a judgement based on that evidence.

I feel privileged to have access to places that many people don’t. I firmly believe what we say in our mission statement: everyone has the capacity to change. I want to encourage and empower prison staff, not make them feel that we’re judging them. Ultimately, I want to improve outcomes for prisoners.