Prison Service defends its policy on staff changes at Whitemoor

By ADAM LAZZARI CLAIMS that staff at Whitemoor Prison in will be put under increasing danger by a shake-up of the staffing system have been refuted by the Prison Service. The Government is no longer appointing principal officers to any prison in England

By ADAM LAZZARI

CLAIMS that staff at Whitemoor Prison in will be put under increasing danger by a shake-up of the staffing system have been refuted by the Prison Service.

The Government is no longer appointing principal officers to any prison in England and Wales.

A principal officer is the highest grade of prison officer and works directly beneath governors.


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Colin Moses, national chairman of the Prison Officers Association said: "Prisons need strong and visible leadership.

"There are 1,500 principal officers in England and Wales and to remove these leaders from the prisons is ill conceived and stupid. It will lead to less secure prisons and put the public in danger."

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A source at Whitemoor Prison, March, said: "The Prison Service want university graduates as governors and officers to be people who work at the prison as a stop gap for two or three years.

"This will mean that staff are less experienced and have less training. Staff are already worried that Whitemoor is becoming an incredibly dangerous place to work."

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "The changes are part of a broader programme of workforce changes that are necessary to ensure the Agency is able to run safe, efficient and effective prisons.

"The National Offender Management Service is committed to ensuring the safety of the public, staff and prisoners and we are confident that these proposals will support our performance on prison security and safety. These changes do not affect existing prison officer training arrangements."

There have been two serious assaults in Whitemoor Prison in the last month.

The first resulted in a female officer suffering a broken jaw and a male officer a broken nose.

In the most recent convicted rapist Durwayne Martin had boiling butter poured over him by a gang of three inmates.

Whitemoor is one of the only high security prisons in the country where inmates have access to the kitchens

This was the third serious assault in the last year that has come from a kitchen in the prison.

The Prison Service spokesperson said: "A consistent level of regime is provided to allow prisoners to use their sentences constructively as part of their rehabilitation. This includes the use of small kitchens to cook food.

"Following serious assaults at Whitemoor involving the use of kitchen tools the facility was temporarily closed and all sharp tools withdrawn from use with immediate effect. The perpetrators of these assaults were dealt with very robustly by both the police and Prison Service. One prisoner is about to commence criminal trial for his assaults and the other prisoners are still under police investigation. The prisoners responsible have all been removed from their wings and three have been referred into the close supervision centre system.

"The kitchens have been re-opened without these items. Safer alternatives are being considered and funding for CCTV in these areas is being sought. This allows the benefits of cooking for the vast majority of prisoners who do not abuse this facility whilst preventing further incidents using those items.

"A prisoner has recently been assaulted with hot liquid but this incident would not have been prevented if the kitchen was closed as prisoners can access hot liquids in other areas. This incident is currently subject to police investigation."

A recently-recruited prison officer has received a letter of recognition from the Prison Service for his response to the boiling liquid assault.

The man, who we cannot name, pulled the victim to a cold bath and kept him there until medical assistance arrived.

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