Role of the Prison Officer - Justice Committee Contents

7  Conclusion

203.  The evidence we have heard has shown not only the opportunities prison officers have to tackle a prisoner's offending behaviour but the difficulties prison officers face in trying to have a positive impact in the current prison system. Overcrowding, staff shortages and the high incidence of prisoners with unaddressed mental health, drug or alcohol problems mean the system is constantly at crisis point, leaving little or no time to build productive relationships with prisoners. The Government's policies on 1,500 place prisons, clustering and Workforce Modernisation are, in our view, likely to further deskill the prison officer's role to that of a warder and risks devaluing the sense of vocation which we believe is a significant part of the motivation of many prison officers. This sense of vocation needs to be encouraged, nurtured and developed as far as possible rather than, at best, being taken for granted and, at worst, ignored. Reducing the ratio of officers to prisoners in pursuit of short-term economic savings will damage long-term re-offending rates, creating more victims, more fear of crime and all the social and financial damage that arises from criminality.

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