Jail Chiefs Caught Playing Pass-The-Prisoner

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 110 months ago
Jail Chiefs Caught Playing Pass-The-Prisoner

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Image by Ben Sutherland under Creative Commons licence
Sounds like a madcap scheme for a Porridge script lost to the ages: prison officers decide to juggle troublesome prisoners between their jails to hide them away from the peeled peepers of inspectors.

This is what five senior prison chiefs at Wandsworth and Pentonville have been accused of by the Prison Service, who are also taking a close look at strange prisoners transfers at Brixton jail. A report by Dame Anne Owers, the prisons watchdog, found that the screws had collaborated in squirrelling away five vulnerable inmates from Wandsworth, and six from Pentonville, during April and May this year, transfers that were "completely pointless and potentially dangerous" and amounted to moving them around as if they were "pieces on a chessboard", with detrimental effects to the prisoners' wellbeing.

The chiefs involved have since moved to other prisons — some received promotions based on the good work they'd done at Pentonville and Wandsworth— but if found guilty of the charges against them, are likely to be sacked.

What's particularly troubling is that both Pentonville and Wandsworth have made recent significant progress in quality, and had received glowing reports; speaking on BBC Radio 5 this morning, the National Offender Management Service director Phil Wheatley said he suspected it was a case of people trying to put a "gloss on something that had already improved", possibly to further their own careers. More damnably for the system, it's also a symptom of the prison service's wider malaise.

Last Updated 20 October 2009