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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"This was Sir David's strongest message yet"
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Sir David Ramsbotham
"I don't think I was listened to... by the people who would have benefited from listening to me"
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Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK
Jail inspector accuses Home Office
Sir David Ramsbotham
Sir David criticised officials for not consulting his team
The outgoing Chief Inspector of Prisons has criticised the Home Office for ignoring his advice during his six years in the post.

Sir David Ramsbotham complained: "To be quite honest I don't think I was listened to as much as I would liked to have been."

He said his advice could have improved prisons and possibly led to falling crime rates.

The chief inspector, who was giving his final speech before leaving his post, also sounded a warning against budget cuts and "the cult of managerialism" in jails.

Prisoners are people, not commodities

Sir David Ramsbotham
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's PM programme, Sir David said: "Whatever Jack Straw [former Home Secretary] may or may not have thought about me or my message or the way it was given, what I have tried to do is always to give an independent and objective assessment of the treatment and conditions of prisoners.

"If I was disappointed by anything, it was that all the work we put into making our recommendations and writing our reports was not being listened to by people who I am absolutely certain would have benefited from listening."

He said he would like to have seen the home secretary "more than I did", but added that Mr Straw was a very busy person with a heavy workload.

"But certainly I would have welcomed the officials seeing me more because I knew that they were giving advice to ministers which we were able to contribute to, but our contribution was never sought.

"Therefore I questioned whether the advice given to ministers was as good as it could and should have been."

'Bureaucratic overload'

Sir David, who will be replaced by Anne Owers in August, gave a valedictory speech at a meeting of the Prison Reform Trust, (PRT) in Church House, Westminster, on Thursday.

He told a 650-strong audience that only once had he received an official or ministerial acknowledgement of one of his annual reports on problems in the penal system.

He also warned that a "bureaucratic overload" was holding prisons back in their efforts to stop inmates reoffending, by diverting the attention of governors from treatment and rehabilitation.

During the election much was said about crime, little about prisons

Lord Hurd
Prison Reform Trust
"Prisoners are people, not commodities, and must be treated as such," he said. "Any firm that used these methods would go bust."

The PRT hopes Sir David's comments will put prisons back on the political agenda.

Lord Hurd, PRT chairman, said: "During the election much was said about crime, little about prisons.

"Yet an overcrowded, badly-run prison whose governor changes every year, which is dominated by an out-of-date union, which fails to provide sound work, education and training for offenders, quickly becomes a reservoir of crime.

"David Ramsbotham has done a heroic job in bringing a strong searchlight to bear on these failings."

A spokesman for the Home Office said that a response from Martin Narey, the director general of the Prison Service, had been included in every one of Sir David's reports.

The spokesman added: "Sir David is entitled to his personal views and that is what he has done in a forthright manner since his appointment. As an independent inspector it is his right to express these views."

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