Prison staff to get extra training on race issues

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Prison officers are to be forced to abandon their traditional marching and drilling so they can spend more time learning about race relations and mental health issues.

Prison officers are to be forced to abandon their traditional marching and drilling so they can spend more time learning about race relations and mental health issues.

Martin Narey, director general of the Prison Service, told a race-relations conference in Leicestershire last night that he regarded the parade ground training as "outdated and militaristic". The Prison Officers' Association reacted with fury to the announcement, saying that drill was important in maintaining discipline and team spirit among jail staff.

Brian Caton, general secretary of the POA, said drill was carried out by the police and fire services and was "the heart and soul of what people are required to do in prisons".

He said the suggestion that drill was outdated was a "slap in the face" for those officers who had risked their lives at the Strangeways prison riot in Manchester in 1990 and at other jail disturbances.

Marching and drill have been taught to new recruits at the Prison Service's colleges since the Second World War. Prisoners were also once required to do drill. Mr Narey feels that such skills are no longer relevant to the job of today's prison officer.

His announcement came a day before the Commission for Racial Equality was expected to announce a formal investigation into racism in the Prison Service. The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee is expected to publish a damning report today of a raid by 80 prison officers on Blantyre House jail in Kent, which was widely criticised for being a military-style operation.

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