Criminal psychologist delves into minds of Britain’s most dangerous inmates

Professor Michael Brookes, who has received the OBE for his work as clinical director at Grendon Prison
Professor Michael Brookes, who has received the OBE for his work as clinical director at Grendon Prison

A criminal psychologist who has assessed some of the most dangerous British criminal’s minds has been awarded an OBE for his outstanding work in prison.

Director of therapeutic communities at HMP Grendon, Professor Michael Brookes controls psychological procedures staff use to help rehabilitate criminals and has also previously helped in developing hostage negotiation strategies for prison officers throughout the UK.

Rehabilitation is an unusual method that Grendon adopts and the director is astonished to receive such a high honour.

“It’s a unique career at a unique establishment,” said Mr Brookes.

“It’s surprising, it’s not normally expected for a clinician working in a prison establishment to receive an honour like this.” Grendon, a category B prison, sets itself apart from others in Europe by attempting to rehabilitate its ‘residents’, as they are called, through group therapy.

Prof Brookes said: “It is difficult – you work with people who have offended and you are working with people who are challenging.

“The aim is to reduce their offending behaviour and to return them to society as good individuals.

“You deal with both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes there are those who are very aggressive and violent and have difficulties with managing their temper.

“Then there are those who are very submissive. They don’t have a lot of self confidence.”

Key to Prof Brookes’ work is being able to separate the issues and look past crimes such as rape, paedophilia and murder while also helping staff to do likewise. It is not something that is easy to achieve as was shown by former officer Steven Heaven receiving a six figure sum in damages last year.

Mr Heaven said he had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from hearing sex offenders’ crimes.

However, Professor Brookes said it is imperative 
for officers to manage.

He added: “ We are always looking for staff who can deal with challenging material. There have been occasions in the past where members of staff have found it difficult.”

Discussing their problems publicly is something the criminals also struggle to do.

“Some prisoners say it’s the hardest time they have done in prison.

“When they’re behind a cell door they don’t always have to think about the impact of what they have done.”