Letter: Battle of the Scrubs

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The large-scale action plan devised by the prison service to overhaul Wormwood Scrubs (report, 5 August) is as robust and comprehensive as any I have ever seen. The prison service are to be congratulated on developing this plan, and more so for the time limits they have set themselves to turn Wormwood Scrubs from the penal dustbin of the past into a model for others to follow in the future.

The real problem with Wormwood Scrubs stems from the inordinate amount of power which the Prison Officers' Association have been able to wrest from the prison's management over many years. They have thus been able to ground initiatives which the Wormwood Scrubs management have sought to introduce in the name of reform, and as a result the Scrubs has lost both direction and credibility.

The prison service is right to see its staff as its most important resource but, equally, it is vital that prison staff accept the chain of command in any penal establishment if it is to function as intended. The entrenched destructive attitudes of some staff at Wormwood Scrubs mean, however, that the battle for the Scrubs may take far longer to win than the six months which the prison service have set themselves.


Editor, "The Prisons Handbook"