Prison Service under fresh attack

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The Independent Online

The embattled Prison Service faced a renewed onslaught yesterday with a fresh government report highlighting its failures and proposing further changes to its structures.

But the service's acting director general, Richard Tilt, who replaced Derek Lewis following his sacking over the Parkhurst jail-break, attacked the review as "unhelpful and unwelcome".

Mr Tilt pointed out that many of the changes suggested by the Home Office review contradicted those urged by Sir John Learmont in his inquiry into the escapes by the three prisoners on the Isle of Wight last year.

With the exception of all but a few of proposed changes, coming on top of a headquarters reorganisation only last year, Mr Tilt said the service would resist the recommendations.

The starting point of the report, a senior management review in a wider examination of all Civil Service departments, held that further change was undesirable. But after extensive interviews the team believed that the last shake-up "had not been a success" and that despite some progress the service was "failing to meet ministerial requirements in a number of areas".

One of the key recommendations, accepted by the service, is the drawing together of the six top security prisons - Frankland, Full Sutton, Long Lartin, Parkhurst, Wakefield and Whitemoor - and Belmarsh, under a single, board-level director.

However, it also called for a new directorate of policy and operational standards to take over the responsibilities of the present director of security and the director of health care, which Mr Tilt, himself former director of security, said he opposed.

Mr Tilt was also critical of the more general attacks on the service. "The criticism observed in this report are unhelpful and unwelcome at this particular point in time," he said. "It's a distraction from what I consider to be the important task of holding the establishments together and delivering the service."