Prisons inspector attacks running of local jails

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Sir David Ramsbotham, the outspoken Chief Inspector of Prisons, launched a scathing attack today on the way prisons are managed.

Sir David Ramsbotham, the outspoken Chief Inspector of Prisons, launched a scathing attack today on the way prisons are managed.

Most suicides took place in local jails, the most overcrowded in the Prison Service, and vulnerable inmates were being put at risk, Sir David said.

Others were not being prepared for life on the outside because of the lack of consistent standards, he said.

The poor way the service managed jails, coupled with the shortage of cash, meant prison sentences simply "further corrupted" criminals.

Sir David said: "No industrial firm would survive if it left such a large proportion of its business without clear and consistent management and guidance.

"I fail to see why the Prison Service continues to refuse to respond to the lessons that are brought to its notice, day after day, in order to ameliorate the problem."

Sir David, who is thought to favour a separate managerial structure for different types of prisons rather than the area model favoured by Prison Service officials, made his remarks in a report on Lewes jail, in East Sussex.

Staff were making "steady progress against the odds", the former Army officer said.

"I have lost count of the number of times I have reported on the odds that face the Governors and staff of all local prisons, which, because they are so similar, suggest to me that the common-sense and logical way out of them is to adopt a common policy affecting them all, rather than leave them for individual line managers to tackle as best they can," he added.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said clear guidelines existed for staff at local prisons to follow and that a recent reorganisation meant area managers could ensure best practice was shared among similar jails.

But Sir David, who has repeatedly clashed with officials, said: "The mission given to the Prison Service is quite clear - to protect the public by preventing crime."

Lack of resources and a co-ordinated approach across similar prisons meant that could not happen, with the result that "containment leads to prisoners being further corrupted", Sir David said.

The number of vulnerable prisoners needing protection was beginning to seriously effect the staff who work at Lewes, his report said.

With 60 inmates out of 430 needing segregation from the main prison population, they spilled on to wings not designed for the role and had all but taken over the reception centre for new inmates.

"We were concerned that the increasing numbers of prisoners requesting protection from other prisoners were in danger of reducing the effectiveness of staff and the prison's role," Sir David said.

And he added: "There seemed to be no relief in sight for Lewes."

Sir David also denounced as "disgusting" the case of a prisoner sentenced to life who had been waiting 18 months to be placed in a jail where he could work towards parole.