Sir: In 1849 the first of the new Victorian prisons was opened - at Pentonville, in north London. It was known at the time as the New Model Prison, and inmates had individual cells as well as their own toilet within each cell. It has taken us the best part of 140 years to begin to return to those Victorian standards of civilised prison amenities.
In recent years, one person has probably done more than any other to remind us of the need to provide a civilised prison environment - Judge Stephen Tumim, the Home Office's Inspector of Prisons.
He has been seen to be completely impartial and fair-minded, and while his reports may well have embarrassed the Prison Service on the odd occasion, it is vital in a democracy that such an independent overview exists. If he has now been forced out for political reasons, it will be to the eternal shame of the Home Secretary, Michael Howard.
The writer was previously a civil servant with the Prison Service.Reuse content