THE riot at Erlestoke Prison underlines the precarious situation which seems to prevail throughout the Prison Service.

Erlestoke is a Category C prison, not one where one would expect such a degree of violence towards the staff as apparently took place.

There is no doubt that such an incident was brought about by the Government cutting back far too drastically on staff. When jobs are being cut it is usual that the most experienced choose redundancy.

These long-serving officers have well-developed relationships with prisoners, to such an extent that any riot would be unlikely and such violence against officers unthinkable.

Such a relationship cannot be taught, but has to be forged by experience, so the damage done by over-cutting has caused serious problems that will last for many months (or even years).

What angers me is the Government’s use of spin doctors to put out crass statements such as they are recruiting more officers.

I even heard the Attorney-General say the Prisons Minister was concerned at the riots.

It is high time that our politicians owned up to the blunders of the past and made determined efforts to put right the damage in the shortest possible time.

They need to work positively with such bodies as the Prison Officers’ Association and the Prison Governors’ Association to put in place a prison service which is as effective in rehabilitating offenders as it is in keeping them confined.

Yes, it will cost money, but by adopting policies common in other European countries, the prison population can be reduced considerably, thereby making it easier to get manning levels up to that needed by a modern prison service.

So, let us see action, not lame excuses from our politicians, with an undertaking for a review with concrete proposals for a modern and effective regime.


Newman Road