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Report reveals the dark cloud hanging over prison workers

By Bedfordshire On Sunday  |  Posted: December 13, 2009

By KEELEY KNOWLES

Bedford prison

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Concerns have been raised about the low morale of prison staff due to proposed workforce modernisation.

A report published by The Independent Monitoring Board reveals that morale among officers at Bedford Prison (pictured) has been ‘badly affected by the uncertainties over the repercussions of the changes’.

It states: “Not enough thought has been given to the effect of disrupting the working and personal lives of prison officers.” Other concerning issues highlighted includes prisoners’ property. The report says that the problem of property not following prisoners when they are being moved has returned to ‘unacceptable levels’.

It states: “The cost of pursuing these lost items together with claims for compensation must be costing the prison service enough to be able to divert funds into solving this problem.” Another concern raised is the high number of prisoners with mental health issues.

According to the information given in the report ‘more than one prisoner a month is sectioned, a number that is shockingly high’.

The report says: “It remains a scandal that prisoners with mental health issues are being remanded to prison instead of specialist units which would better deal with their problems.” However it goes on to say that the mental health team provides an ‘important service’ to the prisoners who suffer from such problems.

Other issues requiring a response include the number of mandatory and recalled lifers in the prison being far too high and problems with the visits booking line.

Positive points raised were the high standard of respect and decency shown to the prisoners by officers, quality and choice of food offered to prisoners and cleanliness in the centre having improved ‘considerably’ during the year (July 2008-June 2009).

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Ministers will consider the findings of the report and respond in due course.”

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