Letter: Dogma and prisons

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Sir: I have read with interest Isabel Hilton's perceptive analysis of the crisis facing the Prison Officers' Association ('Not the climate for a dinosaur', 13 August). My own experience of the work of the Prison Service is now in the past; I regret that the influence of the POA over the years should have provided a reason - or excuse - for the Home Secretary to go ahead with precipitate haste in pursuit of the Government's policy to privatise the prisons.

However this may be, I hope that in making this radical change, one basic truth will not be overlooked: the dedication of the great majority of prison officers to their jobs, doing their best both to protect the public and to deal humanely with offenders whose rightful punishment is the loss of their freedom.

In the course of many years, as chairman of the Parole Board and as president of the National Association of Probation Officers, I have learnt to respect prison officers for their skill in combining discipline with caring. The administration of our penal establishments depends, to a large extent, on good personal relationships between staff and inmates. I trust that this essential factor will not be prejudiced by considerations of economy, or political dogma.

Yours faithfully,


Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

14 August