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Tuesday, April 13, 1999 Published at 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK


'Cynical' officers attacked in prison report

Inmates are "treated like subordinates"

A culture of cynicism among senior officers pervades the prison service and stifles progress, Chief Inspector Sir David Ramsbotham warns in his annual report.

Sir David Ramsbotham: "I am concerned about the lack of consistency around the country"
Reactionary prison officers dominate and intimidate new recruits to perpetuate a cynical culture, Sir David's report says.

It is also highly critical of senior management for failure of leadership.

In an outspoken attack on Prison Service culture, Sir David Ramsbotham accused officers of treating inmates as subordinates.

[ image: Sir David Ramsbotham:
Sir David Ramsbotham: "Treat inmates like patients"
He said they should care for them in the same way nurses treat patients.

Sir David warned the new Director General of the service that a "determined and sustained" attack on the present culture was needed if progress in the treatment of prisoners was to be made.

The Chief Inspector said the culture was apparent in the cynical way officers viewed the introduction of new programmes and changing work practices.

It was most noticeable among older staff, but even new recruits who began with enthusiasm were ground down "by domination and intimidation" which he described as "a pernicious way of influencing colleagues".

Senior management criticism

Sir David said the problem was exacerbated by, but not entirely due to, uneasy industrial relations with staff associations, the biggest of which is the Prison Officers' Association.

He attacked unwieldy manager/staff relations which sometimes meant plans to improve conditions for inmates dragged out for months on end.

Sir David also criticised senior management for leaving his service to pick up on problems they should have dealt with.

He warned: "Both sides must remember that they are in the business of protecting the public by preventing crime.

"The public will thank neither management nor staff associations if the conduct of their affairs interferes with that purpose."

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