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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 05:42 GMT 06:42 UK
Progressive prison wins praise
Durham prison
Durham has introduced a reward system for inmates
High-security Durham Prison should become a blueprint for secure institutions, according to a former chief inspector of prisons.

Sir David Ramsbotham praised the jail's policy of integrating vulnerable inmates into everyday prison life.

Levels of violence within the jail plummeted after former governor Niall Clifford stopped segregating "at risk" prisoners - predominantly sex offenders and child abusers - from the main prison populace.

Criticism was levelled at similar institutions around the country which shy away from tackling what was perceived to be the "socially 'outcast' status" of some prisoners.

'Considerable courage'

Sir David, who retired in August shortly after inspecting the prison, called for change in an inspection report of HMP Durham.

He wrote in the report: "The chief jewel in Durham's crown is what it calls its 'non-collusive' regime, meaning that no prisoners are kept apart from any other.

"To do this requires considerable courage, continuous attention to detail and professional confidence, which are amongst the reasons why it has not been attempted elsewhere."

Sir David called for an institutional overhaul of the system nationwide which, he believed, encouraged prisoners to seek segregation.

He wrote: "Solicitors, police and escort drivers should be officially discouraged from encouraging too many prisoners to automatically ask for 'vulnerable prisoner' status."

Prison staff at Durham use a rewards system, involving greater access to television in cells, telephone privileges and family visits, to engender a better atmosphere amongst inmates.

Government attacked

HMP Durham, which houses notorious criminals including Rosemary West, is the only institution in the country to take high security female prisoners.

Sir David criticised the fact that women inmates were incarcerated in a wing originally built to house IRA terrorists.

The former chief inspector of prisons attacked the government for not offering sufficient rehabilitation opportunities for prisoners falling short of "high security" status.

There was an over-emphasis, he believed, on offering training programmes for the country's worst criminals when the vast bulk of inmates were guilty of lesser crimes.

He wrote: "There is an almost total lack of low and medium level offending behaviour programmes, particularly but not exclusively for women, which are an urgent requirement in every prison in the country."

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