Thursday, 2 May 2013

Some Observations 14

Cynics might say that Justice Minister Chris Grayling's recent announcement concerning changes to the prison regime in England and Wales has more to do with his career development plan and providing a useful soundbite prior to today's Local Elections, than anything else. Oh, and pernicious influence of right-wing think tank Policy Exchange.

Many would argue that the private prison's introduction of subscription only Sky Sport and film channels as a way of keeping prisoners 'occupied' cheaply was always hard to justify, but what the hell lies behind 2 weeks mandatory prison uniform for newly-sentenced prisoners? That really does seem to say more about Chris Grayling's desire to play up his tough guy image.

A lot of Governors of Local Prisons are going to be pondering where all the extra uniform kit is going to come from, the headache caused by all the extra bureaucratic processes that the changes will bring in, and all to what purpose? It's all very well saying privileges like tv's will have to be earned from now on, but if there's no employment or courses, how's that going to work and allow Governors to keep good order and discipline at the same time?

Somewhat predictably Ben Gunn, now the semi-official spokesperson for prisoners it seems, did a whirlwind tour of the media, darkly hinting at prison riots, but I notice the date for introduction is November, not really noted for being hot weather. We'll have to see how it all pans out and exactly how much latitude and creative thinking individual Governors can come up with in putting it all into practice. 

It looks like NAPO members will have two candidates to choose from shortly in the contest for a successor to Jonathan Ledger, who hastily departed his General Secretary's post in January and under a still-mysterious cloud. 

In situations like this it's reasonable to suppose that the incumbent candidate, Ian Lawrence, might be felt to have an advantage. But interestingly the outside aspirant from the PCS union, Hugh Lanning, comes with a ringing endorsement from Judy McKnight, the previous NAPO General Secretary and who also hailed from the Public and Commercial Services Union. I guess Harry Fletcher just got fed up with it all and decided on pastures new. 

Monday this week saw a new comedy 'Job Lot' on ITV1 and set in a Job Centre. Ok it got panned by the critics, but I think it looks promising and I love the historical orange and green references that will be all-too-familiar to many of a certain age who had to frequent such places during the 70's and 80's. The characters are immediately recognisable and of course Job Centre staff see many of the same people that we do. I suspect DWP staff will love it at least. 

Don't forget to sign the No10 petition here.   


  1. It's a pity there is no political consensus on the use of imprisonment and the treatment of prisoners. It's dog whistle politics and politicians forever triangulating to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Instead of silly gimmicks around clothing and TV, Grayling would be better occupied building safe and constructive prison regimes. As an aside, always surprises me that we have more private prisons in the UK (15%) than USA (9%).

    Thanks for the information about the Napo contest, as the Napo website is the last place to go for current affairs. Unless it's a conference that's being promoted. I know we need such things – but when Rome is burning...?

    As you say, still waiting for the lowdown on Jonathan Ledger - and how much it all cost in fees and payoffs. Judy McKnight's endorsement will hopefully be widely noted.

    1. Yes I agree - but the trouble is I think we used to have a political consensus even when I started out in the 80's and the Home Office was still felt to be fairly enlightened! I think I'm right in saying that if you go back far enough, they even suggested NAPO be set up. The genie is out of the bottle now and politicians will sadly feel able to carry on thinking they can win votes by this sort of bollocks.

    2. Yes hopefully Judy McKnight's endorsement should be noted. If the allegations made against Mr Ledger and his officers/colleagues mates at Chivalry Rd are true, someone from outside needs to be brought in to authorise a full investigation into what went on in Chivalry Rd and who knew about it. We can only have more confidence in an outsider I'm afraid.

  2. It all feels very directionless in terms of NAPO- why have I been paying my subs all these years..........

    1. I guess for the same reason as me - it felt right and probably still does, especially for officers of a certain age.....

  3. Prison uniform - let me guess: badly cut blue jeans and blue/white striped shirts. Perhaps complemented with a maroon sweatshirt. Been there, done that. The shirts especially used to sell well to saddos. Nothing really changes.