Letter: Hope in jail

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The Independent Culture
Hope in jail

Sir: Andreas Whittam Smith's article "Let us show prisoners how to be human beings" (23 June) was both insulting and demoralising to the thousands of prison officers who provide a humane and supportive environment for inmates. As someone who is privileged to deal with both staff and inmates in my capacity as a member of the prison watchdog body, the board of visitors, I found it infuriating.

Yes, the Prison Service has its rogues and yes, not every officer always treats every inmate with humanity, but to headline an article in such a way is to imply first that prisoners, by definition, are not human beings and second that no effort is being made by anyone to rehabilitate inmates.

On the contrary, daily, people are being changed for the better by their experience "inside". There is a long way still to go, but give credit where it is due. A recent report by HM Inspector of Prison was justifiably glowing in its praise of the excellent rapport between staff and inmates at HMP Wellingborough and the quality of both workshops and education. I don't believe this was an isolated case.

Get out and about a bit more, Mr Whittam Smith. Contact your local board of visitors and talk to them. Better still, apply to join. Then you can practise what you preach.

JEAN REID

Vice Chairman

Board of Visitors

HM Prison Wellingborough

Northamptonshire

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