HMP Bedford’s new governor to feature in ‘first-of-its-kind’ prison podcast

Ali Barker, governor at HMP Bedford, is featured in the new podcast (image: Ministry of Justice)

The new governor of HMP Bedford is featured in a podcast series launched yesterday (10 January) which aims to break the media stereotype of life behind prison walls – for those on both sides of the bars.

Ali Barker, 44, was born in Bedford, and said that beginning her new job as governor at the prison was “like coming home”.

She joins other prison staff from across the country in ‘A prison’s guide to…’, a first-of-its-kind podcast narrated by actor Ben Bailey-Smith (aka Doc Brown).

Most people never get the chance to see inside a prison and the four-part series will give the public the chance to hear first-hand from the staff working every day to give prisoners a second chance to help break the cycle of crime and change lives.

“It’s definitely the case that for most of us, our only experience of prison comes from what we see in the media,” said Ben.

“Hopefully, we’re going to be offering a more realistic portrayal – one that acknowledges the realities of how tough it can be behind prison walls, whilst also showing the public how hard the staff are working, as a unit, to help offenders turn their lives around.

“Staff like Ali, who are in there every day, supporting the growth of the prisoners in her care.”

Following the launch yesterday, Ali told the Bedford Independent why she thinks it’s important to show the reality of life behind bars.

“So many people are completely unaware of what happens in prison and their impressions are based on TV or films,” she said.

“Just like the NHS and police officers, we are key workers but the public rarely hear about us. That’s why it’s so great to celebrate all the fantastic staff across the country via this podcast.”

In the podcast, Ali says that it’s important to remember that anyone can find themselves in prison and one of the most important lessons she learnt was to be non-judgemental.

“Most prisoners are individuals who made a wrong choice, often in a split second, often without any positive support or protective factors to guide them through life in challenging circumstances.

“Prisoners in my establishment are all someone’s son or brother or dad or uncle or neighbour, so it’s in our interest to help them fulfil their potential so they can positively contribute to society.

“Ultimately as staff, we want to protect the public while breaking the cycle of crime and reducing reoffending which is better for everyone.

Bedford prison
HMP Bedford

Ali joined the prison service as a prison officer when she was 21 years old. She shares the highs and lows of her vital work in ‘A prison’s guide to’ to keep prisoners and communities safe while reducing reoffending – giving prisoners the skills and support they need to live crime-free lives on the outside.

She said that being a woman has never been a setback in her career and that although the job – being responsible for 400 prisoners and hundreds of staff – is hard, “being a mum of two is harder”.

“I moved to be governor of HMP Bedford at the start of the year and am delighted to be part of the Bedford community,” said Ali.

“I was born in Bedford, my first home as a baby was in Risley, and I took my driving test in Bedford, so it is just like coming home.

“We have hundreds of staff working in the establishment every day from the local area and they’ve made me feel very welcome.”

You can listen to the podcast series here.

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