Speaker Biographies

Chair for the day - Omar Khan

Omar holds a number of advisory positions including chair of Olmec, chair of the Ethnicity Strand Advisory Group to Understanding Society, chair of the advisory group of the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at the University of Manchester, Commissioner on the Financial Inclusion Commission and was a member of the 2014 REF assessment, the 2011 Census, and the UK representative (2009-2013) on the European Commission’s Socio-economic network of experts. Omar was previously a Governor at the University of East London and a 2012 Clore Social Leadership Fellow.

Michael Spurr - Former CEO HMPPS

Michael Spurr became the Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Agency in June 2010, continuing as CEO of HM Prison and Probation Service upon the Agency’s creation in April 2017.  Michael undertook this role until March 2019.  Michael is now Visiting Professor in Practice, Social Policy Department, London School of Economics.


His earlier executive posts were as Chief Operating Officer of NOMS, and Director of Operations and then Deputy Director General of the Prison Service.


Michael started his civil service career as a Prison Officer at HMP Leeds in 1983, and worked in the Prison Service for 25 years at various establishments and at its headquarters, including three successive Governor posts at HMYOI Aylesbury, HMP Wayland and HMP/YOI Norwich.

Dr Sarah Lewis - Director of Penal Reform Solutions

Dr Sarah Lewis is an independent penal reformer and director of Penal Reform Solutions.  She has worked and researched in probation and prison environments over the past 12 years and specialises in working relationships, rehabilitative work and growth-focused correctional practice.  She was a senior academic at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth where she was responsible for training probation. Prior to this, Sarah worked for the probation service delivering cognitive behavioural treatment. 

Sarah is currently working for the Council of Europe developing, training and evaluating rehabilitative programmes in Eastern European prisons and is working closely with HMP Guys Marsh to develop and improve prison environments to achieve greater safety and well-being. 

Steve Robertson - Deputy Governor HMP Guys Marsh

Steve Robertson has worked in the prison system for nearly 30 years, and is currently the Deputy Governor at HMP Guys Marsh where he is committed to continuing with its positive direction and improvement, and where the wellbeing of both the staff group and those in custody are at the forefront of a person centred approach. Steve has previously worked in several policy and project based roles, and in other Deputy Governor roles and also more recently was part of the project team that prepared for the opening of  HMP Berwyn 2017.  


Steve received the Lord Woolf award in 2004 for the work he was involved in with the rehabilitation of those in custody, something that he was extremely proud of. Steve’s personal ambition is to lead a prison which has humanitarian and rehabilitative values at its core and where staff are fully supported, developed and invested in to provide a service that has respect, trust, and decency as fundamental principles of a growth orientated climate. Steve feels strongly that the experience of custody should essentially encourage and provoke genuine ambitions of personal change, and where the strength and agency of families is encouraged at every opportunity.

Dr Kate Gooch, Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of Bath

After completing her doctoral research on the experiences of teenage boys in young offender institutions, she has continued to undertake ethnographic and qualitative research within prisons focusing on issues such as: violence, drugs, the illicit economy, serious and organised crime, physical restraint and the experiences of care leavers in custody. More recently, Kate completed a longitudinal study of the opening of HMP Berwyn, exploring themes such as leadership, organisational culture and change, organisational resilience, staff recruitment and training, prison building and architecture, and rehabilitative practices. Kate is currently the Principal Investigator on large projects: 1) an ESRC funded grant entitled ‘The Rehabilitative Prison: An oxymoron or an opportunity to radically reform imprisonment?’ 2) Understanding and preventing prison homicide. As part of her commitment to knowledge exchange and dialogue, she regularly presents her research as part of events organised by HMPPS, the Youth Justice Board, the Ministry of Justice, and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. She has also given evidence to the Parliamentary Justice Select Committee and currently sits on the editorial board for the Prison Service Journal.