From Prison to Palace

At the Forum’s meeting on the 8th of February the Speaker Finder John Spinner introduced our guest speaker Veronica Bird OBE whose talk was intriguingly titled From Prison to Palace.

Veronica spent 36 years serving in the prison service rising to the rank of Governor.  She trained in Holloway Women’s Prison before serving in a number of women’s institutions around the country and, after the introduction of equal opportunities legislation, she became Deputy Governor at Armley Prison, one of the first females to achieve this rank in a men’s prison.

She retired as Governor of New Hall Women’s Prison near Wakefield.   Veronica gave us a few statistics such as the fact that of the 86,000 or so prisoners in the UK around 36,000 cannot read or write.  She then related some incidents from her career and compared conditions in prisons from when her career started to the present day.

On her retirement from New Hall Veronica was awarded the OBE and she described the investiture and how the Queen bestows the medal.  Princess Anne is closely involved with the rehabilitation of prisoners and Veronica closed her talk with the amusing story of a visit the Princess made to New Hall whilst Veronica was the Governor.

After Forum members had posed a number of questions Chairman Mike Earle thanked Veronica for a fascinating talk about her interesting life and the people she had encountered.