"It's quite a scary thing to do to go to a prison, yet her general demeanor was very open and engaged," says charity CEO Mike Trace

By Simon Perry
Updated September 25, 2015 12:35 PM
Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/Getty

Princess Kate impressed former and current prisoners with her commitment to fighting addiction when she paid a secret visit to a jail on Friday.

One inmate, Isha, 33, who has been in and out of prison for the past decade and is due to be released in December next year, gave the royal mom two aprons made by inmates for 2-year-old Prince George and 4-month-old Princess Charlotte.

“George is going to need it for his painting and his coloring,” Kate told her at Send Prison in Woking, some 30 miles southwest of London.

Isha also gave Kate an assortment of prison-made pastries from the “Bad Girls Bakery” and honey from the prison bees.

Kate, 33, visited the prison to see the work of The Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt), a rehabilitation charity that helps female inmates conquer drug and alcohol addiction and prepare for a life outside.

Kate – in a $550 dress by The Fold – also met with Kirsty Lacie, 36, who spent four years of a seven-year prison term in the jail. A former addict, she left prison in February last year and is now married and expecting a baby – something Kate remarked upon.

“As soon as she saw me, she asked me when my baby’s due,” Lacie tells PEOPLE. “And she asked if it is a boy or a girl. I told her that I’m having a boy in March and she said, ‘Oh lovely.’

“I talked to her about my journey. She was down to earth and she had a presence that made me feel comfortable. I didn’t feel nervous at all.”

Kate asked Lacie if she had been offered treatment before prison, “and I said ‘no,’ ” she recalls. “I said to her, ‘Generally you get offered medication – its not looking at the root causes, it is covering up the problem.’ ”

Lacie tells PEOPLE that the royal was “genuinely moved” when she met a young female prisoner: “She could see that it came from not being helped from a younger age and not looking at root causes.”

Defeating the prejudices that often come with the subject is something that Kate will do by making the visit, Lacie believes. “There’s a lot of stigma attached to addiction, but she didn’t have that view or opinion.”

Mike Trace, chief executive of RAPt, says Kate was open and “inquisitive” and hoping to learn more about the women’s journeys.

“To get a visit from a VIP, and one who has shown so much compassion and understanding to them, reassures them they are doing the right thing,” says Trace.

“They are people who can be characterized as a problem for society, have complex stories and have to confront what they have done,” he adds. “But they are making a big effort to change, and she clearly showed she understood that complexity.”

The prisoners didn t know who it was coming in. “They thought they were going to get Russell Brand!” Trace says. “The way they reacted to her and the way she reacted to them – they have clearly very different lives and very different backgrounds, but on a human level it was really supportive.”

“It is quite a scary thing to do to go to a prison. Yet her general demeanor was very open and engaged. I deal with politicians and celebrities, and you don’t always get that. You can tell it when you see it.”

For more on Kate’s return to royal duties, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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