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Prison manager quits in despair

One of the Prison Service's most senior managers resigned his post in despair yesterday, declaring he could no longer be part of a process hijacked by the lowest form of politics and obsessed with locking more and more people up.

In his resignation speech at the Edinburgh/Cambridge Society last night, Dr David Wilson, head of prison officer and operational training for England and Wales, became the latest penal expert to call for a Royal Commission on crime and punishment to "untangle crime and punishment from the politics of law and order".

In an impassioned speech attacking the media and television programmes such as Crimewatch as well as the Tory government, Dr Wilson said he had reached the "sad and inescapable" conclusion that he could not remain in the Prison Service.

"I simply cannot be part of a process which has been reduced to the lowest, often basest political common denominator and which has to continue therefore to find ways of locking more and more and more people up," he said.

Dr Wilson, who is taking a part time job with the Prison Reform Trust, said most penal practitioners would want a prison service that locked up securely those who were a danger to the public but which allowed prisoners an opportunity to change their behaviour through work, education or counselling.

American notions of boot camps, "honesty in sentencing" and "three strikes and you're out" had begun to take hold in Britain, while violent crime, actually only a tiny proportion of the total, had become the basic media staple of the media. A Royal Commission would allow for rational, non-partisan, debate, finding solutions that would "develop our nation rather than turn it into a Gulag", he said.