Jails run on the cheap

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THE ITV documentary Strangeways seems to have ignited a debate about the difficult job of a prison officer.

People comment that it would be an impossible job for them to undertake.

It also reflects that prisoners appear vulnerable and that they have been let down in society, one way or another.

The programme portrays rather accurately life inside a prison.

The public tend to forget what happens to the local hoodlum who gets a couple of months detention, or indeed the high-profile murderer who at the time of his trial was prompting public demand to bring back the death penalty or “throw away the key”.

The impossible job is getting harder – not because the environment is getting more violent, but because the Government is trying to deliver this service as cheaply as it possibly can.

Prison staff numbers are getting cut, pensions are changing and the role of an officer has been de-skilled.

However, the most alarming measure is that prisons are facing privatisation.

It would appear the Government’s responsibility for dealing with society’s failures is open to profit.

Firms that are bidding to win the contracts to run prisons did not overnight develop the desire to change people’s lives or rehabilitate.

They do, however, have a focus on making as much revenue as possible.

This profit will be at the expense of front-line prison staff...the people who take the kicks and punches when prisoners feel aggrieved; the people who are protecting the public and trying to rehabilitate their charges

The next time you drive past on the motorway and see the tranquil setting of Lancaster Farms, remember David Charlton, (who for some reason has become an overnight internet sensation), and think about that dedicated and professional workforce who have been bullied by your elected Government.

I appreciate that in a recession expenditure has to be examined. However, running this service on the cheap will have serious consequences not only to uniformed staff, but to the general public when prisoners are back on your street.

T D Bowman, Chairman, Lancaster Farms Prison Officers Association

Grandchildren loved zoo visit

I WAS recently persuaded to visit Blackpool Zoo on the strength of a letter you carried advising the public of some birthday celebrations which were taking place to mark the first birthday of Meisie, a gorilla successfully bred in captivity.

The photo you carried of this cute little creature was instrumental in me gathering up my two grandchildren and heading for Stanley Park.

I must say the attraction has come on leaps and bounds since I was there age.

The animals seem well kept here and while I am not generally a believer in wildlife being behind bars, there is plenty of space for them to roam around.

Anyway, my grandchildren were delighted and now we’re planning to go further afield, to Chester, although I’m told I may have to save up a bit first.

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