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.
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