Letter: Healthy prisons

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The Independent Culture
Healthy prisons

Sir: Your coverage of the Chief Inspector of Prisons' excellent report on the Wolds Prison concentrated on the Chief Inspector's suggestion that prisoners have asked to be returned to other prisons because they prefer the more familiar "mutual antipathy" not present at the Wolds (15 April).

If this were true I would be very worried, but it is not. As the governor of the Wolds has confirmed to me, one or two prisoners have asked to leave the Wolds, but not because of any discomfort caused by the excellent staff- prisoner relationships.

I share the Chief Inspector's opinion of Wolds as an outstanding prison. But it would be wrong to believe that its healthy staff-prisoner relationships are unique. Similar conditions prevail in the vast majority of our prisons. Our emphasis on staff mixing with prisoners and supervising them at all times and detaining and controlling them without recourse to armed perimeters makes us a prison service increasingly unique in international terms.

Our outstanding record in recent years in cutting escapes from prisons from 232 in 1993 to 28 last year could not be achieved without the considerable skills of prison officers in managing and influencing prisoners.