Vicky’s inspirational justice journey

Published on : 3/8/22
  • Vicky Robinson, Deputy Director at HMP Bronzefield talks about her career in Sodexo Justice and her role in inspiring and supporting female colleagues working in the prison and female offenders to reduce reoffending and to change their lives for the better. 

    Vicky is the Deputy Director at HMP Bronzefield – Europe’s largest female prison with capacity for up to 542 prisoners. The women at Bronzefield are some of the most complex, diverse, and challenging females in society. Some of the women are serving life sentences and some are in the prison for less than three weeks for non-violent crimes or civil offences. At Bronzefield, we also have a very diverse employee population with over 60% colleagues being female from officers to chaplain, teachers to nurses, and gym instructors to public protection officers. 

    Vicky RobinsonVicky is responsible for developing and delivering the strategic priorities in line with Sodexo and our client, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. She leads on the operational management of the prison including safety, security, stability and risk, plus our rehabilitative responsibilities and activities to change lives for the better. She also commands any operational incidents that take place.  

    Vicky joined Sodexo as a Prison Custody Officer (PCO) at HMP Forest Bank in 2000. She was promoted to Senior PCO and moved to HMP Peterborough in 2004. There, she progressed and was Head of Healthcare and Head of the men’s prison before moving to Bronzefield in 2013. She has run most departments including as Head of Residence, Head of Security, and Acting Director on two occasions with full responsibility for the prison. 

    Reflecting on her career, Vicky says; “When working in male prisons, at one point I was the only female incident manager, I had to work harder to gain and maintain my credibility without compromising who I am or my gender. Some women who work in a male-dominant environment may feel they have to take on traditional ‘macho’ traits to fit in and gain authority, however I strongly believe that you need to be true to yourself, your values, and your beliefs; respect the difference you bring and understand how that adds value to any team. And as a manager and leader, you need to challenge adverse behaviour and culture and role model what you believe in.” 

    Vicky found that other female leaders within the Sodexo Justice organisation had a positive impact on her and inspired her to work hard, gain trust, integrity and credibility but always remain true to herself.  

    She says; "The culture has changed in the last 20 years. Sodexo has positively influenced our values. I am proud that Sodexo strives for a diverse and inclusive workforce and does not tolerate any form of discrimination. I am also inspired to see more female role models in the organisation. 

    “I am always pleased and proud to have the opportunity to inspire others, talk about gender and remind people to be true to yourself (regardless of gender, background etc), hold on to your values and be proud to bring your whole self to work.” 

    She goes on to say; “Prisons are a microcosm of society, so by working in a prison you get a view of society. 70% of the women in Bronzefield have had a traumatic background with either adverse childhood and /or traumatic adulthood experiences. This impacts their feelings of self-worth and self-esteem and sadly has resulted in pathways into crime. My role allows me to make a difference by offering gender-specific support to complex and challenging women. Our aim is to change lives for better and every day I strive to achieve that. 

    We offer a wide range of support to the women in the prison including substance misuse, mental and physical wellbeing, gaining skills and qualifications through education and work in the prison, encouraging contact with families, and building the women’s confidence and self-worth – all of which are part of our trauma-informed, gender-centric approach to rehabilitation.” 

    Find out more about gender balance at Sodexo