Dr Ruth Mann 1965-2020

A tribute from Fiona Williams and Rosie Travers.

With great sadness, we share the news that our friend and colleague, Ruth Mann, died on 25 April. The world of Forensic Psychology has lost one of its giants.

Ruth was a well respected Psychologist. Indeed, her contribution to the psychological profession was recognised by the British Psychological Society when she was elected as an Honorary Life Fellow – the Society’s highest award. Ruth spent many years supervising, coaching and mentoring other psychologists and contributing to the development of Forensic Psychology itself. Yet, her reach extended beyond the world of Psychology. Indeed one of the Executive directors in HM Prison and Probation Service described her as a “talismanic figure... profoundly influencing and improving the thinking, behaviour and culture of our organisation, always striving for the better understanding and treatment of those in our charge.”  

Arguably her greatest strength was her ability to translate theory and make it operationally and practically relevant to people working on the frontline. As such, she was held in high regard by many colleagues across the criminal justice sector. Some of the tributes which capture her influence best include; “Ruth was a pioneer, trailblazer and had integrity which she lent to the wider profession...” and “I... will never forget her compassion and belief in rehabilitation and the power of hope.”

Ruth began her career as a psychologist working in prisons. At that time (1990/1), there was no strategy and very little known about how to work effectively with men who have sexual convictions. Indeed, it was the era of “1000 flowers blooming"; there were numerous small scale treatment approaches available led by well-intentioned staff. Ruth championed a new national, coordinated approach based on the latest evidence about what works to reduce reoffending with this group. She led on the development of interventions for the men in our care who posed the highest risk to the public and it was this ground breaking work which led to the creation of a number of different specialist programmes. Uniquely, she welcomed transparency and external scrutiny and was instrumental in setting up the Correctional Services Accreditation Panel to ensure that the work undertaken was independently assessed, challenged and verified.    

She is recognised internationally for her significant contribution to this area of work and was invited to give a keynote presentation last year at the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers in the USA – the leading conference in this area of work. Fortunately, her contributions to the field will continue to influence practice across the world for many years to come. Ruth created a huge body of knowledge about working with people with sexual convictions that all good practitioners working in this area have learnt from. 

In more recent years, Ruth worked in a broader role which allowed an even wider influence on our approach to imprisonment and rehabilitation. She was happiest when she was working directly with front line staff and the people in our care, working tirelessly to improve opportunities to reduce reoffending and protect the public. She played a significant role in the development of a new prison in Wales, HMP Berwyn – helping lead the planning for a prison explicitly aiming for a strong rehabilitative culture, working together with staff and residents to create a community where there is hope and everyone has something to give. She then went on to apply this evidence-based approach to support colleagues in prisons across the North of the country (although all of us were listening closely!), to develop communities where the culture is more explicitly supportive of hope and positive change, constructively underpinning all our rehabilitation efforts. In this way she directly helped build better futures for prison staff and the people in our care, but her work was noted and adopted by colleagues in every corner of our service so that rehabilitative culture and procedural justice are now terms recognised by all – in operational, clinical and strategy roles alike. For those working in prisons (our forgotten heroes), she shone a beacon of light on all of the good practice that she saw; Ruth promoted hope and opportunity and made sure that examples of good work were celebrated whenever she saw them.    

Ruth pioneered evidence-based ways of working and contributed herself to the research by publishing in excess of 80 publications (many of these publications are listed on “Researchgate” website which informs us that her work has been read by nearly 40,000 people). Her work has influenced penal policy and approaches to treatment and rehabilitation all over the world. She contributed to the academic debate with insightful contributions on bringing the evidence into our practice and through supervising the work of many grateful students and colleagues.  

As comfortable working with the most challenging individuals in our care as she was with Ministers, members of staff and academics – she treated everyone with respect as equals. A tribute to her from the Executive Director for prisons in the North describes her as a “touchstone for all that we hold dear in our professional lives, humanity, respect, decency and hope to name but a few. “What would Ruth think of this and how would Ruth respond?” is something that many of us use as an anchor in our professional lives such has been her influence.” Another tribute summarises her perfectly; “She was a triple threat: a quality researcher and clinician, an impactful supervisor/teacher/mentor, and a loving partner, mother and friend.”   

Ruth was a highly valued colleague – she set a high bar and kindly helped the rest of us meet it – with warmth and wit. For those of us who were lucky enough to consider Ruth a friend, we know that she was warm, funny, thoughtful, and kind. Always glamorous (with a keen interest in clothes and Clarins make up range), she also loved just being at home surrounded by her family and the dogs. She was an avid reader and also loved the outdoors (walking along the canals and holidaying on the isle of Arran were two particular favourites). We should also mention her love of Wigan football club where she was a regular in the stands with her son, Sam.   

Yet Ruth was human too – she was brave and humble, and experienced doubt and anxiety like we all do. What is remarkable is that she didn’t let that get in the way as so many of us do. She kept going, kept reaching out to people, connecting, listening, reflecting on what we know and what that means, insisting on hope, standing up to share the evidence perspective on how to live our values – even when that might be uncomfortable to hear.   

We shall miss her so – fascinating discussions, never ending support, wise feedback kindly given, exciting light bulb moments, mutual pep talks, pink drinks and laughs galore.  

We send our deepest condolences to those who will miss her.  

- Fiona Williams and Rosie Travers, HMPPS.

See also our 'One on One' from March 2011.

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber

Comments

Thank you Fiona and Rosie. As you said, Ruth Mann was much loved and highly respected by her many professional colleagues in the criminal justice world and beyond.  Her friends in the Division of Forensic Psychology Northern Ireland would like to express their sadness and deepest sympathy to her husband Mike and their family, at Ruth’s too early passing. We also want to convey our thanks and gratitude for her significant contributions to the development of our profession here.  Through her involvement with us in programme work and training over almost 30 years, Ruth influenced and inspired each of us with her high standards enabling us to become better psychologists. She had enormous compassion, integrity, warmth and humanity and demonstrated the importance of using these attributes and skills by respecting all those with whom we work and especially those who most need our help on the rehabilitation journey. Ruth shared her vast research and practitioner knowledge generously and yet was always humble when acknowledged. The psychology profession needs more inspirational people like Ruth. Our memories of her and her work will live with those of us who follow. We should try to not let Ruth down.