Letter: The need for real prison reform

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Sir: Nick Cohen accurately signalled the advent of privatisation at the expense of the reform of the prison estate in his recent, thought-provoking piece (26 August). Ministers have already contracted out the Wolds jail; Manchester and Blakenhurst may go the same way. Recently, staff were told that 20 further jails listed in an options paper were being considered for market testing. Indeed, the indications are that most Home Office employees will be bidding for their own jobs by the turn of the century.

The Prison Reform Trust's comments (Letters, 27 August) therefore seem based on principled optimism, rather than political reality. The prison department has worked hard, but the investment needed to implement fully the Woolf Report is quite clearly a Treasury no-go area. In future, it will be market forces and profit potential, not government resources, that dictate the direction of reform.

Yours faithfully,


Assistant General Secretary,

National Association of Probation Officers

London, SW11

27 August