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INTERVIEW By the Dart INTERVIEW


LORI CHILTON


REDEMPTION FROM PUNISHMENT: THREE DECADES IN THE PRISON SERVICE


By Phil Scoble “I


love Dartmouth: it replenishes the soul,” Lori Chilton says, smiling. “I’ve always had a love


of travelling and one day more than 20 years ago I came across on the ferry and just fell in love with the place. I knew I would love to live here one day.” it’s an ambition she fulfilled in 2012, when she bought and renovated a large flat in the town - the pictures of its transformation are remarkable, sitting in the beautifully appointed living room over looking Lori’s new hometown. It’s not a bad illustration of her


determination: many people looking for a place to settle after retirement would have turned away from what was, essentially, a shell of a home – but Lori could see the potential of the place and enjoyed the work needed to realise it. One of three children, Lori was


born in India in the 1950s, her father worked in the textiles industry and also loved to travel, taking his family along for the ride! “He only stopped a few months


ago, at the age of 83!” Lori laughs. “He always loved to see new places and I’ve got the same bug.” Sadly, her mother became ill when


Lori was 10 and died when she was 12. The family returned to Britain for her treatment and Lori was educated at a grammar school in Manchester. “When I left school I was not sure what to do,” she said. “Dad wanted me to become an air hostess, as he


thought this could allow me to follow my urge to travel but I never found that attractive. I went into retail, and was one of the first women to be trained by Tesco as a manager. I hated it! I left after a year. Then I saw an advert for the Prison Service. I don’t know why but it fascinated me. I suppose I saw an opportunity to help others.” It was 1977, and at the time the


Service was crying out for female officers - where many were the wives of male officers on temporary contracts and only women could


“The aim was to not just to occupy the offenders but help them to change the way they thought and acted”


work with women prisoners. “It seemed if you could walk and talk and weren’t pregnant, you were in,” Lori observes, wryly. Lori started working at Risley


Remand Centre and it was an eye- opening experience. “I’d had a privileged colonial


upbringing and, frankly, I was shocked,” she said. “To go to work in a prison with women who had a history of mental health issues, alcoholism, or had been victims of domestic violence was a massive jolt to the system.” After spending three years at the remand centre, Lori received a


promotion: becoming first senior officer, then Principal officer and finally a Prison Governor at brinsford. She then continued her career development, moving up the ‘grades’ of Governor until she became one of the most respected in the field. By this time she had been in the


prison service for two distinguished decades and had worked with some of the country’s most notorious offenders – from the Brighton Bombers to Myra Hindley. She felt she was ready for a new challenge. She started working for the


Ministry of Justice on a special project to assess scientifically the factors behind reoffending and create programmes to reduce it as much as possible, thereby saving the taxpayer money and reducing overall crime. “We created courses for offenders which looked at a whole host of issues,” she tells me. “The aim was not just to occupy the offenders but help them to change the way they thought and acted, hopefully breaking the cycle of offending. “Prisoners face many more


problems than just the fact they have lost their liberty. They often have mental health problems, drug problems and more. The average reading age of the prison population in Britain is 9 years old – so basic literacy is also a concern and an obstacle to their being a positive part of society.” During her years implementing this nationwide policy, Lori faced every


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