Pubdate: Tue, 12 Oct 1999
Source: Independent, The (UK)
Copyright: 1999 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Contact:  1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL


Prison officers have launched a scathing attack on the Chief Inspector
of Prisons, accusing him of making "extreme" comments which undermine
the morale of the entire Prison Service.

The attack by the Prison Officers' Association on Sir David Ramsbotham
follows a series of damning prison inspection reports accusing staff
of "militancy", "out-dated" attitudes and contributing to "evil"
regimes. Prison staff are reeling from allegations of officer
brutality at at least four prisons, including Wormwood Scrubs in
London where 27 officers are facing criminal charges for alleged assaults.

Mark Healy, the chairman of the association, which with nearly 30,000
members represents the great majority of uniformed prison staff, said
Sir David should "stop kicking those who are attempting, in very
trying conditions, to deliver a good service".

Writing in Gatelodge, the association's magazine, Mr Healy said: "[Sir
David] doesn't seem to realise the damage he is doing to the morale of
our members and for that matter every other person who works for this
agency." Mr Healy saidthe chief inspector deliberately uses "extreme
language", like the word "evil", in the knowledge that it will be
seized on by media reports of prison inspections. Mr Healy wrote: "He
hasn't got a grasp of trade unionism and that is probably because of
his social and military background."

The association is especially angry at an attack by the chief
inspector earlier this year on what he described as the "militant and
obdurate association committee" at Exeter prison.

Mr Healy, who said he cannot recall the Exeter officers taking any
form of industrial action, said: "The chief inspector should
concentrate on the real issues: lack of staff, too many prisoners,
insufficient funds and in many cases poor management."

The association has also warned the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, and
the director-general of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, that
attempts to recruit more officers from ethnic minorities may backfire
unless greater steps are made to eradicate racism in the service. Tom
Appadoo, of the association's race relations committee, said: "More
black staff is not the answer on its own." 
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