Letter: No change in prison policy for IRA

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The Independent Online
Sir: In response to the points made by Paddy Seligman (letter, 13 September) about Whitemoor prison, neither the Home Secretary nor the Prison Service has sanctioned any relaxation of security for IRA prisoners, or the provision of special privileges.

When the special unit that held the IRA prisoners at Whitemoor was opened in July 1992, it was not general practice to conduct rub-down searches of visitors to prisoners in all such units. Following a review of policies, instructions were issued by Prison Service headquarters, in May of last year, which required full rub- down searches for all visitors in all special secure units.

That has applied at Whitemoor since the reopening of the special secure unit in June 1993. It will be a matter for the inquiry, now under way, to confirm that this policy was being fully implemented. The Prison Service policy is that no special privileges are given to IRA prisoners that are in any way different from other prisoners of the same security category.

Maintenance of security is the top priority of the Prison Service. It is our policy to ensure that adequate staff are available to maintain security.

There have been no reductions in the number of security staff at Whitemoor prison, which is fully staffed.

Yours faithfully,

DEREK LEWIS

Director General

HM Prison Service

London, SW1

13 September

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