Sir: The announcement that the prison service is to cut the number of prison officers by almost 3,000 will have a profound effect on control inside our penal system, but a more effective solution to the problem of overstaffing is available.
The working practices of the English prison service have long since been the dictate of the Prison Officers Association. Despite the fact that less than 20 per cent of prison officers actually work with prisoners in the cell blocks, all officers earn exactly the same amount (circa pounds 18,000), dependent not so much on their responsibility as length of service. Paying for all these officers, when only a small proportion actually do the essential work, is at the root of the massive problem of staffing costs.
A year ago the Scottish Prison Service tackled this problem by introducing a radical restructuring that placed prison officers into one of five pay bands: those in the cell blocks who took the most risks received the most money, while those, for example, who manned the prison gate received a lesser amount - meaning a pounds 5,000 per annum cut in pay.
Had Michael Howard adopted this approach, there would be no need for these inept cuts in prison staff.
The Prisoners' Handbook