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'No doubt prison staff are in control' - jail monitors hit back in 'political correctness' row

HMP Warren Hill. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

HMP Warren Hill. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Archant

A jail which calls prisoners "residents" and cells "rooms" is right to use the terms - despite claims it is being overly-PC and giving prisoners too much control, independent monitors at the facility have said.

HMP Warren Hill. Picture: PHIL MORLEYHMP Warren Hill. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Colin Reid, chairman of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Warren Hill, said he was “surprised” at criticism Ipswich criminologist and prison commentator Faith Spear made of the language staff use at the Category C jail in Hollesley, near Woodbridge.

Mrs Spear, who rose to prominence after she was dismissed as chairman of HMP Hollesley Bay’s IMB for highlighting what she saw as failings in the criminal justice system, said Warren Hill - which had a population of 242 at the end of September - risked giving prisoners too much control by using politically correct terms.

“Are we trying to normalise a prison to make it more acceptable or palatable by changing our language?” she asked.

“I think you can get caught up too much in the language and worried we are going to offend.

“I worry that the prisoners, offenders, inmates or whatever you call them will then be running the institution they are in.

“There is respect but there is also going over the top and you can’t tell who is actually in charge.”

However Mr Reid said: “The IMB emphasises that Warren Hill’s humane and constructive approach to rehabilitation ‘is possible because there is a clear disciplinary framework with an appropriately focused attention to security concerns’.

“Prisoners have frequently told us they feel safe and there is no doubt whatsoever that the governor and staff are in control.

“The prison’s pioneering regime, and the language used to express it, are not at all affected by ‘political correctness’ but constitute an honest, confident and practical approach.

“This uses both challenge and support to help men, most of whom have been in prison for many years, to learn self-discipline and to show they can be responsible members of a community while preparing for release.

“At a time when reoffending rates are high and many prisons are reported to be in a state of crisis, Warren Hill shows an alternative way forward.”

The decision to use the terms “residents” and “rooms” was made by managers at the prison and was not a directive from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

In response to Mrs Spear’s comments, a spokesman for the MoJ said: “The governor at Warren Hill believes this measure will ensure prisoners feel treated with decency and can contribute positively to society - part of a much wider rehabilitative culture that helps offenders with training and employment upon release.

“Giving governors the autonomy and freedom to make decisions in the prisons they know best can help offenders turn their lives around and ultimately reduce reoffending.”

■ What do you think? Write, giving your full contact details, to andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk or comment below

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