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Friday, April 16, 1999 Published at 03:35 GMT 04:35 UK


Private jail staff 'too friendly' say prisoners

Some prisoners would prefer to be in less friendly jails

Inmates at Britain's first privately-run prison have asked to be transferred because they say the staff are too friendly.

The BBC's Jon Brain: "The report says some prisoners find being treated as fellow human beings unnerving"
A report published on Friday says that some of the prisoners at Wolds Remand Prison, near Hull, find the relaxed conditions too unsettling and have asked to be moved to other prisons where relations are more antagonistic.

Conditions at the prison, run by Group 4 Securitas, at Brough, on Humberside, have been praised in the glowing report by Chief Inspector of Prisons Sir David Ramsbotham.

But he said some prisoners found the friendly atmosphere a "culture shock", and had requested to be re-located to jails characterised by the more familiar "mutual antipathy" between staff and inmates.

Sir David said that excellent relations between staff and prisoners had created a humane, safe and caring community.

[ image: Wolds Remand Prison received a glowing report]
Wolds Remand Prison received a glowing report
Inmates were on first-name terms with staff, who addressed them either by their first names or using the title "Mr", shared meals with them, and treated them as individual human beings.

The report stated that the reception process was "no more threatening than checking in at the airport", and that bullying, drug use and graffiti were uncommon throughout the prison.

It said that for most prisoners the "continuously polite and cheerful approach acted as a balm", giving them renewed hope and setting them off on the path to rehabilitation.

'Tough nuts' found themselves relaxing their guard and "opening up" as they acclimatised to the new environment.

But it proved too much for some, with complaints that the prison was not a "proper" jail and that using first names was "a gimmick".

[ image: Sir David Ramsbotham praised the jail's
Sir David Ramsbotham praised the jail's "cheerful approach"
Sir David said: "That staff treated all prisoners as fellow human beings came as a complete shock to some prisoners, who could not adjust to the contrast with other establishments.

"They often asked to be transferred out to a place where a degree of mutual antipathy existed and they could survive."

However, he stressed that the regime was not soft, and that any indiscipline was dealt with sharply.

He added that the jail did not live up to the hype about it on the prison grapevine, which meant some prisoners arrived expecting to find televisions in every cell and a swimming pool.

Sir David's praise for the jail, which opened in 1992 and holds about 400 prisoners, follows his attack in his annual report days ago on the negative, hostile and uncooperative culture present in many Prison Service jails.

[ image: Some prisoners asked for transfers to
Some prisoners asked for transfers to "proper" jails
Group 4 said it was delighted with the inspector's verdict that privately-run prisons had "shown their worth".

Prison director Dr Alison Rose-Quirie said: "This very positive report gives independent recognition of the excellent work that can be achieved with prisoners by a well-motivated and dedicated staff.

"The report is a credit to all working in the prison."

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