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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2007, 13:33 GMT
Immigration staff 'using staves'
Lindholme Prison
Detainees at Lindholme have not committed criminal offences
An immigration centre has been criticised for issuing staff with wooden staves to keep order despite a ban on their use in low-security jails.

Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers said in a report she was "disappointed" by their use at the Lindholme removal centre near Doncaster.

She said staff should not be allowed to carry "offensive or defensive weapons".

Although detainees at Lindholme have not committed criminal offences, the centre is run by the Prison Service.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "It is Prison Service policy for prison officers working in the immigration removal estate to carry batons, as they do in prisons.

"Their use is only sanctioned as a matter of last resort."

Management 'weaknesses'

Ms Owers' call to ban the staves follows her disclosure two years ago that they were being used to enforce discipline among detainees at immigration centres in Dover and Haslar, near Portsmouth.

She told ministers then that their "routine deployment in a centre holding those not convicted of any criminal offence is intimidating".

In her report she says the Prison Service still routinely issues staves - 30cm (1ft) wooden truncheons - to immigration removal centre (IRC) staff at Lindholme.

Her recommendation they should not carry weapons had again been rejected, she added.

Anne Owers
The Chief Inspector of Prisons has called for staves to be banned

She said the centre provided "a reasonably safe environment" and the use of force was low.

However, a number of weaknesses remained as a result of it not being sufficiently separated from the neighbouring prison from which it draws its staff and management.

She said: "The IRC now had its own separation unit thus no longer having to rely on the neighbouring prison to manage recalcitrant detainees.

"However, it was disappointing that the new unit was inadequately supervised and that staff lacked clarity about its proper use.

"We also remained disappointed that the Prison Service, unlike its private sector counterparts, still routinely issued staves to IRC staff."

Greater efforts were required to forge a separate identity for the centre, with a dedicated staff and a proper focus on the particular needs of immigration detainees.



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