Letter: Policy ignores prison facts

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The Independent Online
Sir: So Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, is prepared to face, without flinching, the consequences of his new tough policies in regard to increased resort to imprisonment and the regimes in our penal institutions, flying in the face of the views expressed by those who lay claim to know a good deal more about the subject than himself - senior judges, prison governors, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, the Director-General of the Prison Service, the Probation Service - to say nothing of reputable reformers such as Nacro and the Prison Reform Trust.

In the light of his recent address to the Prison Governors' Association, I wonder whether some basic facts were borne in mind by Mr Howard, ie, that discipline depends on skilful man management rather than on additional powers of punishment? That good-humoured relations between prison officers and inmates are the main reason why there are not more serious and numerous disturbances in our overcrowded prisons? That those officers - not the Home Secretary - will be in the front line in the event of more and more serious disturbances resulting from his policies?

Will our unflinching Home Secretary have the courage also to acknowledge the importance of constructive programmes in our prisons in respect of education, recreation and the maintenance of family relationships? None of these matters amounts to an easy life in prison. Apart from their humanity, they make plain common sense.

Yours sincerely,


Aston, Berkshire

5 November