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Monday, 31 January, 2000, 14:34 GMT
Failing prison bosses face sack

Wormwood Scrubs has faced much criticism

Governors at jails judged to be failing could face the sack as part of a package of reforms aimed at ending the "closed and defensive culture" of the prison service.

After a series of damning reports into the regimes of some of the UK's best-known jails, Home Office Minister Paul Boateng criticised prison visitors, area managers and governors for failing to warn of the serious problems.

The prisons minister said only a "tiny minority" of governors were not up to scratch and revealed that a working party would examine ways to break the cycle of criticism and scandal.

Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs jails in London have been harshly criticised in Inspectorate reports and are thought to be among up to 10 prisons considered to have serious problems.

Managers 'haven't had a grip'

On the eve of his speech to the Prison Service Annual Conference, Mr Boateng said on Monday: "We cannot continue to experience the sort of failures that have occurred in the Scrubs and Wandsworth and in a number of other institutions in which all those agencies and systems that you would expect to alert the board of problems seem not to have done so.

"The area managers haven't had a grip on it, the governors have not reported up.

"The board clearly hasn't known. That's not a situation which I am prepared to allow to continue."

He emphasised that the overwhelming majority of governors were up to the task of running the 135 jails in England and Wales, and that the working party would consider cash incentives for successful governors.

"It's a matter for us to ensure that we support good governors ... and get rid of that tiny minority who are not up to the job," he said.

Also on Monday, Home Secretary Jack Straw announced an initiative to tackle poor performance with the setting up of the working group under the chairmanship of Lord Laming, former Chief Inspector of Social Services.

He said: We need better warning systems to identify much earlier those prisons which are not operating to an acceptable standard."

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See also:
18 Dec 99 |  UK
Officers reject damning jail report
18 Dec 99 |  UK
Prison's 'culture of fear' condemned
23 Jul 99 |  UK
Jail warders face prisoner assault probe
20 Jul 99 |  UK
Inspector slated for slamming jails
28 Jun 99 |  UK
Troubled history of the Scrubs

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