Two Staffordshire jails have been singled out for having too high a turnover of governors.
The Prison Reform Trust said both Stafford Prison and Werrington Juvenile Centre have had four governors in five years.
The trust said such unstable, inconsistent leadership would not be tolerated in schools or hospitals.
It also highlighted officers' sickness levels as an issue.
Officers lost an average of 17 days each to sickness in 2002, the trust said.
That figure is up four days on the year before, and almost double the prison service target.
The trust wants to see improvements in the recruitment, training, support, and pay of governors.