'No substance' to claim uniform policy threatens prison guard trainees
University course leaders have rejected claims that student safety could be jeopardised by a policy to wear uniform on campus.
The head of a prison officer training scheme dismissed suggestions that master’s degree students had become “potential targets” by attending the University of Suffolk in uniform.
Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook, an annual reference guide to the penal system of England and Wales, said a requirement to wear uniform, when training on-the-job and in the classroom, endangered the personal safety of students on the two-year Unlocked Graduates course delivered at the university.
In a letter to prisons minister, Rory Stewart, Mr Leech praised the course as “a great initiative” but wrote: “Students are being forced to wear full prison officer uniforms on campus, contrary to Prison Service Orders, and which they wholly oppose for personal safety reasons.”
Mr Leech argued students were required to wear uniform “for no reason, other than it looks good”, claiming it made them “potential targets for any radicalised nutcase who believes his brother Muslims have been mistreated in prisons”.
But the programme’s founder and chief executive denounced Mr Leech’s claims as completely groundless.
“There is absolutely no substance to this complaint,” said Natasha Porter .
“Just like all prison officer trainees, our graduates wear their uniform throughout training to get used to it and all the equipment that comes with it.
“In public areas they are advised, but not required, to remove identifying features like epaulettes.
“This is all exactly in line with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service guidelines.”
In his letter to the minister, Mr Leech said one Unlocked Graduates student had written to him with their own concerns about wearing the uniform.
He quoted a student as saying they were uncomfortable wearing uniform in a “non-secure environment” and that course leaders had “refused to change their minds”.
Mr Leech said he was due to raise the issue with the minister at a meeting scheduled for next week, but added: “Urgency has overtaken events and I need to share with you now, personal safety information that is not being taken seriously.”