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Prison officers threaten strike action – again!

Prison officers threaten to strike - again!

Prison officers and 'morality'? Doubtful to say the least...

It seems only yesterday that TheOpinionSite.org reported that the police have been complaining about their pay cuts. Now it seems that prison officers are jumping on the same bandwagon, albeit they are doing it in a slightly different and rather unconvincing way.

Tony Blair’s government decided early on in their administration that they would try to privatise as much of the prison service as possible.

Needless to say, that proposal was met with fierce hostility from prison officers and prison governors alike who complained bitterly that in the event that prisons are managed by the private sector, pay scales would be significantly reduced along with pension and retirement payoffs.

This of course was entirely foreseen by Blair’s government and the policy was put forward in the first place as an attempt to try and save money in a  service that costs the taxpayer £3,000,000,000 a year.

The Prison Officers Association have decided to take what they claim to be a ‘moral’ stance in the argument with the Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke.

One must bear in mind however that when prison officers start talking about morality there is bound to be a certain amount of deception involved. Sad to say, it is not in the nature of a prison officer to be gifted with an understanding of morality.

Their argument is that it is wrong for private companies to make a profit from the incarceration of citizens. This highly unlikely point of view is being put forward only shortly after prison governors have complained that as a result of Mr Clarke’s reforms prisons may close and jobs may be lost. In that argument at least the ‘moral’ point of view did not surface at all and the sole concern of those involved was whether or not they would keep their jobs.

It is therefore hard for anyone to seriously believe that prison officers or for that matter prison governors are remotely interested in the ‘morality’ of locking up an ever increasing proportion of the population; well, not in any meaningful sense anyway.
TheOpinionSite.org feels that it is necessary to point out that this is really about the difference in pay between ‘custody officers’, who are employed in private jails and ‘prison officers’ – the so called ‘professionals’ – who are employed in the state sector prisons, are responsible for producing life changing reports on prisoners whilst not actually being able to spell or articulate themselves to any great extent.

It is indeed a very sad state of affairs when the Prison Service has to offer remedial reading and writing not only to inmates but to landing officers as well.

The differential between the pay scales of private and public custodians can be as much a 50%, which is hardly surprising when one considers that in the public-sector prisons it doesn’t really matter whether or not you waste money whereas in the private sector prisons, any waste of money or resources affects the bottom line of the company.

The Prison Service has wasted billions of pounds over the years and has never been forced to do anything else until now. One must not forget either that Ken Clarke was once Home Secretary and so is by no means new to the prospect of a conflict with whinging prison officers.

Nobody is pretending however that privately run prisons are necessarily a good thing, not least because the level of staffing is significantly lower than that in public-sector prisons and the level of violence, drug taking and illegal activity is considerably higher in private prisons than in the public-sector counterparts.

A prime example is HMP Rye Hill which had one of the highest rates in the country of mortality and drug use amongst prisoners and which frequently had only two ‘custody officers’ on a wing with 80 prisoners.

It is a statistically recorded fact (src: HM Inspector of Prisons) that there is more violence in privately run prisons than there is in publicly run prisons which is no benefit to either the inmates or the public on whose behalf these institutions are run.

Mr Clarke maintains that the great benefit of  having prisons run by the private sector is that to some extent at least they will be paid by results. That is, they are expected to reduce re-offending rates by 5% in order to maintain the terms of their contract.

Quite how this 5% is going to be calculated however is another matter as it could easily be argued that in fact it is not the Prison Service that is responsible for rehabilitation but the Probation Service.

It is certainly true that resources in custody are so limited that the chance of  successfully rehabilitating a prisoner who is convicted of a very serious offense, as opposed to shoplifting, is very low. Furthermore, the Probation Service would argue, with some degree of accuracy,  that rehabilitation really takes place in the community and that clearly, by definition that is not possible behind a prison wall.

TheOpinionSite.org believes that what this is really all about is simply saving money. It may also be an attempt to bring prison officers and their outdated modus operandi into the 21st century instead of allowing them to remain in the 19th century where they have been until very recently.

Nor is this a new idea as successive governments have been promising some degree of privatization of the Prison Service in one form or another for over 30 years.

The difference this time is that economic circumstances dictate that prison officers will lose any battle against the government and therefore that a little progress may be made, albeit in very small steps.

The Prison Officers Association have threatened industrial action and even the possibility of a strike.

This is frankly a stupid idea as the last time they attempted it all the government had to do was to go off to a High Court judge, get an injunction and the prison officers were given the choice of either going back to work or permanently losing their jobs.

Mr Clarke has also taken the precaution of putting the army on standby, along with specially trained police officers in order that in the event of industrial action by prison officers, the prisons can continue to be run more or less normally.

Prison officers must therefore surely realise that taking on the government is one thing but taking on both the police and the army together is quite another.

In short, TheOpinionSite.org believes that the prison offices have no chance of winning this particular fight.

It is also quite ridiculous for them to complain about their working conditions, their ‘long hours’ and their ‘low’ pay.

According to the ex-prisoners that we have spoken to, together with a couple of prison governors, prison officers actually do very little work indeed and seem to spend most of their time sitting in an office drinking tea while most of the inmates are locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day.

Even if this wasn’t true, there would still be little public support for any action by prison officers because whether they like it or not, prison officers are regarded by the public as getting paid rather a lot for doing very little.

TheOpinionSite.org believes therefore that it would be unwise in the extreme for prison officers to pick a fight with this particular Secretary of State as he is very experienced, very resilient and is unlikely to give way in any shape or form.

That ultimately will be good for prisons, good for prisoners and quite possibly, if the re offending rates really do come down, good for the country.

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25 Responses to Prison officers threaten strike action – again!

  1. williamgarland
    October 12, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I am fortunate, that I have never been to prison, but I knew a Prison Officer once, who played in the same village cricket side as me. I did not like what I saw though, he would often talk about his job. He was a leading light in the POA (the prisoner officers union) at the said prison he worked for Of what I have read about this union (and not wanting to be anti union), it is a typical public sector union, ala 1970s, always threatninig industrial action, defending the indefensible as regard certain working practices etc. That respected inspector of prisons the late judge Steven Tumin, condemmned some of the working practices of the officers at this jail, where this officer worked, saying everything was run in the prison for the benefit of the officers and prisoners concerns were last on the list of priorities. This same officer, enjoying his 1970s type union protection (something, other workers can only dream of!) had trenchant right wing views, he was rabidly anti european and thought Mrs Thatcher was wonderful. Oh!, and as regards prisoners, he thought it was a great hoot when, one unfortunate prisoner hanged himself at the jail he worked, though he did also moan at the paperwork that this made for. As regards the sex offenders, he used the same slang terms, that the ordinary (so much more respectable of course!) criminals use, ie nonces and ponces, he even gave us a weekly report on the activites of a famous former gangland boss, who was an inmate at the said jail, which was in breach of the offical secrets act, which he must have signed.

  2. Annoyed officer
    May 9, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I have worked in the prison service for over 7 years now. Some nights we cut down 7 or 8 women trying to kill themselves, since working with juveniles I have had to listen to abuse everyday sometimes for 13 hours, had my mother called every name under the sun, threats to kidnapp my wife and to rape my child. I challenge anyone to do this everyday and then not complain when the government want to slash our pensions and pay and make the wings even more dangerous with less staff. I still try to be polite and have a laugh with the juvy offenders in the hope that even a few of them take on advice I give them about education and jobs even if it does feel pointless at times. The writer of this article hasn’t got a clue and the public shouldn’t generalise about officers just because of the actions of a few idiots who have commited crime whilst in the job. Go to a juvy jail for just one day just one and you will see how wrong you are.

  3. ex-prisoner
    April 13, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I agree that the entry level qualifications to become a prison officer are so low that many people are straight from the dole queue.
    What is also disturbing is that over the past 15 years, some 170 prison officers have been jailed for offences ranging from murder to rape and in one case a female warder harbouring an escaped prisoner and the incidents of female staff having liaisons with male prisoners is staggering.
    One female officer was also jailed at Maidstone Crown Court for perverting the course of justice by assisting her son to dispose of bloody clothing.He was later convicted of murder.
    Yes of course, there are bad apples in every walk of life.
    There is an upcoming trial in which 3 male officers at HMP Downview are accused of having sex with female prisoners over the past 4 years whilst another case in the North of England is about a prison officer who seriously assaulted a 15 year old offender.
    One Home Office official stated back in the late 1990s that it was believed that there were over 1300 corrupt prison staff which caused for a special undercover unit to be set up.
    We really do need a public enquiry into the training of prison officers but moreover to weed out without hesitation those who abuse their position whether they be prison officers or any other civil servants and not simply dismiss them, cover it up or give them the option of resigning.

  4. Charles Hanson
    April 13, 2011 at 9:18 am

    I was intrigued to read that HMP Dovegate are to undertake degree courses in Offender Management for prison staff which caused me to research the whole area of the training of prison officers, for the Prison Officers Association in often describing the ‘professionalism’ of prison officers might lead one to believe that their role is a highly skilled one calling for special talents and training with an appropriate and suitable educational background but as I have discovered, nothing could be further from the truth.

    The UK prison officer training of a mere eight weeks or what is known as the Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT) is perhaps the shortest of all prison staff training in Europe that calls for no special academic entry qualifications or skills and where the emphasis is more to do with security, fitness, strength, control and restraint, locking and unlocking and observing an adjudication process, a bit like your local community support police officer who likewise has to maintain control at times, has to be fit and healthy but also has to deal with offenders and again calling for no special talents or skills.
    From my perspective, the description of ‘professionalism’ so often lauded by the POA means the competence of those who are highly trained and disciplined and it is the ‘highly trained’ feature which I would argue is lacking, for head counts and unlocking is hardly the thing of modern science or what would meet the criteria of being ‘highly trained’ for if it’s to apply to prison officers given their low level of training, it might equally apply to your local traffic warden who too would have undergone some very basic and rudimentary training requiring no specialised entry qualifications.
    In a House of Commons statement of 8 July 2010, Crispin Blunt MP the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice whose responsibilities include: Prisons and probation, told the House that the cost of training a new entrant Prison Officer is approximately £4,423 per person which compared to the cost of training someone for the Police or Fire Service or indeed a true professional – a nurse whose training will exceed 3 years begs the question, what training, what professionalism?
    Paddy Scrivens the General Secretary of the Prison Governor’s Association who started out life in the 1970s as a prison officer told the House of Commons Justice Committee on 3 November 2009 that she had concerns over the literacy and numeracy levels of recruits to the Prison Service going on to explain that, “You will get a report and you will think, “What on earth is that about?” Bear in mind that our staff write reports that are about people’s freedom and for court.”
    In Miss Scriven’s view, the Prison Service needed to introduce a requirement for higher standards of literacy at the recruitment stage.
    The Howard League for Penal Reform went further, proposing that being a prison officer should become a graduate role within 20 years and that a requirement of A-levels should be imposed immediately on all new recruits although anyone with that level of academic achievement would hardly seek a career as a prison officer.
    Looking further afield at prison officer training I turned to one example of what could be considered professional training.
    In Norway, each prison officer undertakes a two year training programme. To qualify for the staff academy they must have entrance qualifications for higher education. The first year comprises of 4 weeks at the academy, followed by practical work with close supervision and guidance for 42 weeks, with two study days weekly. In the second year there are 44 weeks of academic work followed by 6 weeks working as a prison officer. To qualify, the trainee must pass a series of exams, and satisfactorily complete each placement and project work. Officers must then undertake a further week of training after three years in post, or on promotion or change of responsibility. Most prisons also organise local training.
    Along the way, prospective prison officers will undertake studies in law, the causes of crime, criminal psychology, mentally disordered offenders, human rights legislation and prisoner’s rights to name just few of the areas which an officer needs to be well versed in.
    In the last two years no one has been released from the Norwegian Bastoy minimum security prison the equivalent of one of our Prison Service open prison without accommodation and a job to go to which is heralded as being the result of prison staff professionalism and commitment and that to me seems to be nearer the description of a fully trained and professional prison officer.
    As was held by a senior Norwegian prison official, “All people can be ordinary citizens if they are treated in a positive way and can live in a developing environment where the individual is respected and is given responsibility for his own development and behaviour. The environment must be influenced by ‘good” role models’, challenges, demands and meaningful activity.”
    An example of good practice?
    Another perhaps is Lithuania, that small county which is mainly Polish speaking and has a population of a mere 3.5m. Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to declare independence in March 1990 and one where prison reform and prison staff professionalism and training might perhaps be seen as being somewhat backward but there any such distinction ends.
    With some 15 prisons in the country comprising of 3 remand centres (including 1 institution combining a remand prison and a closed prison), 9 prisons for adult sentenced males, (including 1 for prisoners with active TB); 1 prison for sentenced women,1 prison for remand juveniles and 1 central prison hospital the prison population stands at just over 8,600.
    Prison officers in Lithuania will undergo training in many subject areas related to working within the prison system for examples, the origins of law, common charcteristics of the theory of state, the theory of law, concepts and functions of the criminal justice system, concept of criminal responsibility, crime, punishment, the treatment of offenders, human rights law, prisoners rights and international classification of offenders and many more subject areas with each module followed by a four hour examination.
    Like Norway a lot of emphasis by prison staff is on resettlement and prison officers are required to work with other agencies in a multi disciplinary approach to meet those needs and requirements rather than being seen perhaps to being closer to their British counterpart who are too often seen as mere turnkeys with no specialised background, knowledge or training.
    During the House of Commons Justice Committee meeting in May 2009, one time prison Governor Professor Andrew told the Committee during ‘The role of the Prison Officer’ debate that, “the fact that prison officers do the job that they do is, in many respects, quite amazing. If one stands back, you are recruiting men and women who, in theory at least, have no qualifications. Some of them will have qualifications but they are not required. Giving them, if they are lucky, eight weeks’ training, sometimes within a prison, not in a prison college, and then sending them off to a dispersal prison, or to a local prison, or to a women’s prison, or to a young offenders’ prison and expecting them to know what to do and how to do it is really quite wrong, and the fact that the officers do what they do is surprising, but that does not absolve us. I think particularly if you look at the level of training in other countries, which varies from three years, in the case of Germany, for us to offer eight weeks’ training, as the Select Committee on Education said, is totally inadequate.”
    In the United States the country where vast numbers are in prison or on parole, a corrections officer in most state prisons will be required to have a high school diploma or a graduation equivalency degree , whilst the Federal Bureau of Prisons requires entry-level correctional officers to have at least a bachelor’s degree; 3 years of full-time experience in a field providing counselling, assistance, or supervision to individuals; or a combination of the two. Some state and local corrections agencies require some college credits, but law enforcement or military experience may be substituted to fulfil this requirement.
    Federal, state, and some local departments of corrections provide training for correctional officers based on guidelines established by the American Correctional Association and the American Jail Association. Some states have regional training academies that are available to local agencies. At the conclusion of formal instruction, all state and local correctional agencies provide on-the-job training, including training on legal restrictions and interpersonal relations.
    Academy trainees generally receive instruction in a number of subjects, including institutional policies, regulations, and operations, as well as custody and security procedures. New Federal correctional officers must undergo 200 hours of formal training within the first year of employment. They also must complete 120 hours of specialized training at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons residential training centre at Glynco, Georgia, within 60 days of their appointment. Experienced officers receive annual in-service training to keep abreast of new developments and procedures.
    But it’s closer to Home where some good practices and training exists.
    The Republic of Ireland with its 15 prisons and 4,000 prisoners stands out as an example of what good training practice should be for those entering their Prison Service.
    With the total daily population of each prison ranging from 100 prisoners to over 500 prisoners and a national total of over 4,000, the Irish Prison Service looks beyond the very basic requirements which seems to exist in England and Wales.
    On joining the Irish Prison Service, Recruit Prison Officers (RPOs) commence a training programme, the majority which will be spent on work placement in prisons.
    A bespoke programme developed by the Irish Prison Service (IPS) in partnership with a third level institution leads to the award of a Higher Certificate in Custodial Care. The Higher Certificate in Custodial Care (HCCC) is a recognised third-level educational award at level 6 on the HETAC awards system.
    The successful completion of this two year programme is a requirement for all RPOs in order to become an established prison officer.
    Among the four semesters are modules in ethics, health and society, criminology, social psychology, human rights law and custodial care and policy.
    Should an officer fail any element of the training, one further opportunity to pass will be afforded. Should this attempt be unsuccessful, the officer’s employment as a recruit prison officer will be terminated.
    All prison systems have their failings whether it be overcrowding drugs, prisoner on prisoner violence, staff violence, misconduct or criminal behaviour and Ireland too has had its share.
    However, what is very different from the prisoners detained in the UK is the 2007 Irish Prison Rules which provide for enhanced grievance procedures for prisoners. Under Rule 57, prisoners have the right to request a meeting with an officer of the Minister of Justice. The Governor is obliged to forward the request to the Director General of the Irish Prison Service who will designate an officer to visit the prisoner and hear any request or complaint. Subject to requirements of security, good order and the government of the prison, a meeting with the prisoner will take place within the view but out of hearing of a prison officer (unless the officer of the Minister requests the meeting be out of view also). The officer can also make a recommendation to the Governor or bring the complaint to the attention of the Governor for him or her to deal with. The Director General can also give a direction to the Governor in the matter and the Governor must comply.
    Where there is any allegation of assault or ill-treatment, the Irish Prison Service contacts the Garda (police) and prisoners are always facilitated in making complaints to the Garda them.
    Most prison administrations in Council of Europe member states have some form of training for new recruits, although the length and quality of this training varies significantly. The length of initial training varies from a few weeks, as in England and Wales, to two years, as in Denmark. In the Netherlands, the curriculum for training prison staff is linked closely to that of other institutional workers, such as those in psychiatric hospitals and youth care centres. In some countries of Eastern Europe, such as Russia, the training of future senior prison staff involves the equivalent of a university course, lasting for up to four years.
    In undertaking their work, prison staff need to have the proper training and skills, otherwise they will be merely ‘screws’ or ‘turnkeys’ and little more than a head counter (do they also need a calculator?). Throughout the course of their career, staff should be given regular opportunities to enhance their skills and to learn about new professional developments, technical advances and comparative international experiences. This is particularly important within the European context because of the work carried out by the Council of Europe in the prison environment, including that of the Court of Human Rights and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
    There is an increasing amount of case law about prisons emanating from the European Court of Human Rights. In addition, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture has now developed a comprehensive set of standards which it expects to be observed in all the prisons which it visits and staff need to be informed about all of these so that the Committee is able to witness good practice and not just a system of locking up offenders.

  5. Disgusted
    April 12, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I am educated, honest, reliable and a family man. I became a prison Officer by default as I wanted to be a Fireman but they weren’t recruiting at the time. Twenty years of meritorious service later and I find myself hounded and lambasted by the media and an unelected Government just because I do a job few in this country want to do. I don’t expect much, I’ll accept a 0% pay rise as long as my bills don’t rise and I can house and feed my family. But at the very least I expect not to be targeted and ridiculed by such pathetic nonsense as this. The author has not bothered to research his facts and his report is totally one sided. In twenty years I’ve been assaulted seriously five times, found far too many bodies, saved countless lives, prevented numerous escapes and not received a single thank you. When did we become a society which despises our public servants and lauds our criminals? We’re not the enemy !

  6. John
    April 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

    It is very odd indeed that whilst all these prison officers have commented, apart from a couple of ex offenders, no member of the ordinary, non-prison officer public have bothered to comment.

    I am a member of the general public and I am now going to say what me, my friends and others have been saying down the pub after reading this article.

    Firstly, according to law, people go to prison AS punishment, not FOR punishment. If you don’t like that, change the law.

    Secondly, it is PRISONS that keep the public safe from those convicted, not necessarily those who work there. Whether a prisoner is locked up for 24 hours a day or only 8, he’s still not going to get over that 20 ft wall.

    Thirdly, if prison officers are, as they claim, professional, well educated and well respected, they should have no difficulty in finding another job.

    Prison officers are not generally liked by anyone, not even the police or probation services and certainly not by the general public. This is not new; history shows that this has always been the case.

    Personally, I think there is something very odd and sinister about a person who is prepared to make their living from locking up fellow human beings.

    Instead of moaning about the view held by many of the public and which happens to have been expressed in this article, if prison officers don’t like their job, why don’t they find another one?

  7. paul
    April 7, 2011 at 1:09 am

    I am a public sector prison officer and I have been blessed with the ability to read and write,I am also wholly insulted by the veiws and ill-informed opinions that the author has issued.
    First of all,unlock at my establishment is at 08.00 hrs and lock in is at 19.00hrs,by my alleged incapacity to add up,I eventually calculated that this was in fact 11 hours that the people in my care were unlocked and not the one hour that this moron reports.
    Yes,as many other valuable prison staff,I deal with suicide,self-harm,mental heath issues,assaults,bullying on a daily basis,these are but a few of the issues that professional prison officers have to face day in day out.
    As for privately run prisons,it is fact that staff resignation is far greater than that in the public sector,due to poor working conditions and very poor pay scales,ultimatley leading to a poor performing prison.
    Current public sector staff are paid only a modest salary in comparison to the dangers they face from day to day,an example of this is one of my colleagues had boiling water thrown in her face just before lock- in this evening,as I was leaving to go home,she was going to A and E.
    Prison staff have difficult jobs,as do many other civil servants,all we want is to keep our jobs and not to be swept aside by a government that doesn’t respect its employees or public safety

  8. sarah
    April 6, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Wow what a biased and uninformed idiot wrote the beginning of this thread. I am suprised at the quiet and cool way the opposing opinions have been written here. I suppose that is an indicator of the type of person it takes to work in the prison service, always calm and keeping the peace, diffusing violence every day. I wonder if the person writing it could or would be able or willing to take on the job for under 20k per annum? Is it stressfull yes and there are suicides and stress induced illness among officers, I couldn’t do it.
    My friend is an officer and works 13 hour shifts watching the prisoners have 3 good meals a day, with special diatry requirements if needed, while the officers have a sandwich machine which they pay for. But with no ability to strike they can not complain or take any action about anything that happens to them, which the originater seems to think is right and just. What kind of society are we living in? I wonder if he/she will feel the same when they have made all the prison cuts, and released a large percentage of regular offenders back into the community near them.

  9. E.Simms
    April 3, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I can not believe I sit and read this, I do not understand how as prison officers we gain such bad press, I am a 25 year old female and have worked in a female prison for 5 years, day in day out we deal with and resolve a multitude of issues that prisoners face. These include family issues, mental health issues, self harm, bullying, drug issues, the list goes on, and to say we sit in offices drinking tea while prisoners are locked up for 23 hours is the biggest load of s**t I have ever read. We are constantly under pressure to increase our population, whilst increasing time out of cell hours and providing enrichment for more prisoners with less money, staff and resources.
    We see the police under pressure and face job losses, with all due respect where police officers do a fantastic job, does it not occur to people writing these wrongly informed, presumptive articles that where police may deal with perhaps 10 criminals a day, prison officers spend their WHOLE day dealing with wings full of CONVICTED criminals. Protecting the public from those sent to us by the courts.
    Please consider the job we actually do before making assumptions, days are long and problems are extensive. But the job we do we do the best of our ability.
    Ask yourself if your child worked in this environment would you be prepared to sit back and watch them be 50% more at risk of being punched, spat at and verbally abused or would you support a case to stop prisons going private?

    • anon.
      April 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      If you realy want to know where your going wrong then try adapting the same common sence principles that the entire e.u uses reg crime, punishment, and prisons, yes I understand its never an easy task having to bring a country out from what is no more than barbaric dark age laws and justice, the word alone makes me ill just thinking about it, but I suppose if u simply just don’t know or understand any better then what can one say?.

  10. ex prisoner
    April 3, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I was in prison for a long time and found some prison officers helpful and polite and caring. Many however were thugs in uniform. I remember watching through a spy hole that was stuck open as screws at Wandsworth pulled a young lad wearing nothing but his boxers out of his cell and dragging him down 3 filghts of stairs with his head banging against each one. He was nowhere to be seen the next day. The investigation revealed nothing and the screws got away with it. In 2001 more staff, this time at Wormwood scrubs were found guilty of beating up prisoners on the VPU where sex offenders were housed.

    Like I said, some officers are ok, until as Anon said in his comment, they get a bad day but in my experience, as a wing rep and enhanced prisoner, many are just bully boys looking to take it out on the weakest prisoners. To those good screws I say thank you, to the others I suggest that they don’t try and pretend that they are anything other than what they are.

  11. Philip Duffey
    April 3, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I have been a Prison Officer for 31 years,during that time I have on rare occasions been punched,headbutted,bitten, verbally abused and insulted,I can remember one morning coming on duty at Brixton and we had been told that Special Branch had been tipped off that the IRA we were locking up had smuggled a firearm in and intended to take one of us hostage.(stressful days work?)
    However, most of the time is spent being treated with respect and politeness and I believe treating prisoners and their families with respect,in especially deplorable conditions thanks to the neglect of both Tory and Labour Governments.
    I am at present recovering from a heart attack and will not be able to join the colleagues I have worked with for so long again,I am proud to have served our Queen and work alongside men and women that are part of the backbone of our society,I supposed thats all I can say.

    • Philip Duffey
      April 3, 2011 at 2:37 pm

      Blooy Hell Tracy you got £4500 where did I go wrong?
      ps whats the point of putting our names to this rubbish when others hide behing psuedonyms

      • Philip Duffey
        April 3, 2011 at 6:15 pm

        I have just realised where I went wrong,I shouldnt have worked none stop for the past 45 years and never been in trouble,I should have robbed a building society,raped someone,burgled,etc etc then I would probably get more REESPECT

  12. anon.
    April 3, 2011 at 1:10 am

    Wow, looks like someone held the button down on the pressure cooker. I am an ex lag, and reading these comments did make me chuckle a bit. Yes,” in all fairness some officers do run a fair game, however, this only applys for as long as things are going ok for the screws themselves. As a man with experience I know all to well how your so called professional training flies out the window when your having a bad day, and the fact that the con, any con for that matter becomes a human punch bag. I get bad days also as I’m just human same as everyone else but I will not take my anger out on someone else, but I suppose if it stops u going home and beating the misses & kids up then glad to be of service to you.

  13. PAUL LOPEZ
    April 2, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    I must first agree with all my colleagues comments previously. I too have worked with the public all my life including several years in Financial services attaining respected qualifications.I wonder as to the intelligence of the man who wrote this article,sitting behind his nice,safe,comfortable desk writing comments about situations he obviously has no experience of.Like one of the many so called experts in life i guess, writing trash and living in numerous properties claiming expenses at the tax payers expense.Its time to get in the real world my friend and stop watching repeat showings of porridge in your luxury surroundings.The prison service has come a long way since then,lets start hearing comments about all the good things we prison officers do and perhaps spend some of your spare time actually finding out the truth about life inside.

  14. Vector
    April 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    I was a prison officer for four years on a supposedly ‘fast track’ entry. I joined in the belief that I really could make a difference to the lives of those in my care but was prevented from doing so by my ‘fellow’ officers. I am sorry to say that in my experience the majority of prison officers either don’t care about others, take the job because they can’t work anywhere else or simply want to take their own displeasure with life out on those who cannot defend themselves. As a result I left the service and only then realised that once you’ve been a prison officer, nobody wants to give you a job.

  15. Mark Hodgkinson
    April 2, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    I find it hard to begin to respond to this article. My first difficulty is, obviously, due to my illiteracy and lack of education. My second issue is the age old problem of finding a logical and informed response to an irrational and deluded point of view.

    I won’t attempt to point out and correct all of the ill informed and, in some cases, ridiculous statements made by the author, but I would like to focus on one aspect. There is a reason why incidence of drug taking and violence is lower in a public sector prison. It’s down to the officers. Both the number and quality of the staff I work with daily contribute to providing a safe and decent environment for both offenders, staff and visitors. You may not find this important but it is important to those who live and work there. We don’t provide that environment by sitting in an office drinking tea.

    This is a cost cutting exercise and there is room in the system to make savings. I am a taxpayer myself and would like to see the bill reduced as much as anyone. But to make a personal attack on the character and integrity of the staff who work in the sector is no way to make the case. Especially if you have to make up “facts” to put that point. If you are going to share an opinion, at least make it an intelligent one….or get on the Jeremy Kyle show.

    • Administrator - theopinionsite.org
      April 2, 2011 at 8:55 pm

      I am pleased that so many Prison Officers have taken the trouble to comment. I must respond to some of those comments.

      Firstly, as a former visitor to prisons up and down the country I am the first to admit that some officers do a very good job under difficult circumstances. On the other hand, when the public hears the Gen Sec. of the POA and local representatives on television, it is hardly surprising that they are often described as arrogant, uncaring and callous. Nor does it help when former prison officers row away in a boat to try and fake their own death for insurance reasons or when they are convicted of downloading child pornography. Reports from HM Inspectors often quotes the lack of care and respect given to prisoners, not to mention the death of children in custody. Officers convicted of bringing drugs and mobile phones into prisons also do nothing to help your image. ‘The Wandsworth Way’ and reports form Full Sutton and other high security prisons do nothing to help the public perception either.

      One officer has commented on prisoners who ‘cut up’ and try to hang themselves. Maybe that officer should ask why it is that prisoners find it necessary to do so. I have never heard of a prison officer suffering such stress and helplessness

      TheOpinionSite.org is about offering a critique and everyone of our visitors is entitled to question the views expressed. However, people may look at the comments given by prison officers and come to the conclusion that these officers are in the minority. A visit to any of the many websites dedicated to prisoners’ families may also broaden the perspectives of those in uniform.

      As for the pay issue, one must presume that when someone joins the Prison Service they understand that they are not expected or permitted to go on strike if it is not in the public interest to do so.

      The purpose of TheOpinionSite.org is to encourage people to comment. Therefore, I thank you for your opinions and views.

      • Mark Hodgkinson
        April 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm

        I am aware that the purpose of your piece was to illicit a response. I feel the inflammatory remarks you used to get them was unfair and ignorant.

        You will get no argument from any prison officer about the poor public perception of the service. Accounts from former offenders, press reports of officers convicted of trafficking and abusing there position do little to shine a positive light on our profession.

        I would ask you to consider a couple of points before you label the whole workforce based on these issues.

        Firstly, many offenders have a similar view of the police force, the courts and the probation service. It stands to reason that while our job is to ensure offenders abide by the rules of the establishment, we are hardly likely to be popular with a population that has difficulty following the rules of society. Indeed, the inability to do so is what bought many through the gates.

        Secondly, I would ask you to consider how the public get to hear of the small number of officers who traffic or abuse their position. They are caught or reported by other officers.

        Finally, I would like you to consider that in the closed confines of the prison, it is easy for the general public to fail to see the dedication and hard work put in daily by officers and other prison workers to ensure the safety and welfare of those in our care. The papers will never be interested in tales of officers who observe signs of a depressed offender and take steps to ensure his safety. Or helping an offender to write to his family or even just listening to their problems. It just doesn’t sell.

        An offender who has just been handed a lengthy sentence is undoubtedly going to feel desperate. I would suggest to you that it is down to the care and compassion of the vast majority of prison staff that there are not more incidence of self harm and suicide. To ask why an offender would want to harm himself shows a huge lack of knowledge, understanding and empathy for the situations that those in our care find themselves facing.

        A lack of knowledge, understanding and empathy that, luckily, prison workers do not share.

      • Dave
        May 10, 2015 at 6:21 am

        Facebook page:

        “Know The Danger”

        Educate yourselves please before writting dribble such as this, your knowledge of the Prison Service is about 40 years out of date! If you actually had a shread of knowledgre about this subject, you would realise that for every prisoner who chooses to take his own life, prison staff prevent about 100 others from taking theirs, if you realy believe the reasons for all prisoners taking their lives is due to the nastiness of staff, well I’m truly wasting my time. (Btw – In 13 years service, i know of 2 officers who have committed suicide!)

        Also, why should the service only accept ‘A’ level graduates?! An officers starting wage is now officially £6000P/A LOWER, than the starting salary of a binman, all recent recruitment drives have failed disamally, these followed after the government paid redundancy for thousands of experienced officers in 2012/3, thinking they could replace them on the cheap, well, they didn’t, in fact, less than a year down the line, all those same staff were offered their jobs back on a part time basis (Prison Officer Reserve Scheme – Note – there wasnt many takers!) and as a result the eshtablishment i work at is now running on 40% less frontline staff than it did 3 years ago, the results being more self harm, more assaults, more trips to the hospital and an absolute drug epidemic, anyone who has any clue about how prisons operate in these times know that the good order and disipline of a prison is completely in the prisoners hands, not staff. its not a matter of ‘if’ the lid will come off, more about a matter of ‘when’. Maybe then, when you see prisons burning to the ground, with prisoners clambering over the fence to freedom, you might actually appreciate the conditions we work in.

        If you realy think being an officer means sitting around an office for 10 hours drinking tea, i challenge you to become an officer, as im 100% certain, you will eat your words!!..

  16. Tracy
    April 2, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    I have had to write this in reply to the above disgusting comments this man has made, he has obviously never worked in a prison.I joined the service 15 years ago, we had approx 160 prisoners on a houseblock and it was managed by 12 officers and one Senior officer, now due to cuts we have 187 prisoners and only 6 officers and one senior officer.We as officers do not just lock them up and drink tea as this man assumes we do. I genuinely love my job and i like to think that i can make a difference even if it is only a handful of men that heed my advice and do not re offend.
    The ammount of abuse staff suffer from some prisoners is unimaginable, the violence towards us at times can have a profound affect on staff. I have been assaulted in the past, i had my breast grabbed and was pushed so hard i landed on my elbow and shoulder, since this assault i have needed 2 operations to have the bone shaved in the shoulder…. For those who read this and assume i received massive compensation….you are wrong, i received just £4,500.
    We are all just normal people carrying out a hard job, sometimes our shifts can run very smoothly then other days you have to deal with the aftermath of someone who may have committed suicide, may have self harmed, a fight, assaults on both prisoners and staff alike, there are too many subjects to list but unless you walk a day in an officers shoes you cannot make a judgement like this man has done.

  17. April 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    1) Im a prison Officer who can read and write.
    2) Prison Officers work hard to sort out the multitude of problems each prisoner in our care comes with. From sorting out mail and phonecalls to medication, liasing with other depts in and out of the Jail.
    3)The money we get for the hrs and work we do is ok but could and should be better. 1 in 5 assaults in prison is on members of staff including female officers.
    4) Saving lives, preventing self harm, dealing with death and the effects it has on all concerned, staff through to the loved ones.
    5) So please understand that we as a service work very hard to do alot with very little.
    6) The description of officers sitting in an office doing very little can be compared to any workplace in the world.
    7) Prisoners are out of their cells between 7 – 10 hrs a day, This is a target set by Government and met in public service Prisons nigh on everyday of the year.
    8) The opinions of the prisoners you talked to with regards staff and time in cells were probably the shoplifters and troublemakers of which you speak.
    9) We work in a service to protect the public not our profits.
    10) Probation are pushed to the limit and any problems in the community and there clientelle are straight back to us.
    So please before you form an opinion like the article above please come and talk to prison staff And allow us to have our opinion and a say as well. Public sector prisons perform better to match Government set targets than the private sector. The Army and Police ( heroes all) have limited training and the regimes would and could not run fully. Theres your 23 hour bang up right there, I hope you respect what im saying. I couldnt do your job well at all, id like to see you do mine and see what its really like. The way you talk and act is the be all and end all. I have a fantastic working relationship with all the prisoners I have ever dealt with They respect me for the efforts I put in on there behalf, and I know about 95% of officers will say the same. We do work hard and alot goes on that you dont hear about.

    Thank You

  18. Toni Sutcliffe
    April 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I myself work in two prisons, not as an ‘immoral’ Prison Officer, but as a mental health nurse and I find this article very offensive. You obviously have no idea how prison officers manage their day to day duties within this very difficult and challenging environment.
    Prison officers have a right to defend their pay and working conditions, just the same as any other group of workers.
    ToniSutcliffe.org therefore believes that this article shows that you are an ill informed, pompous arse.

  19. Marjorie Fanana
    April 2, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I would just like to challenge you to spend a day in the life of a prison officer and deal with people ‘cutting up’ and trying to hang themselves every half an hour. Many people seem to have an opinion about the prison service, yet none have ever entered through prison gates to see the reality for themselves and not what is written in government documents.

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