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Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile

On behalf of everyone in society, prison staff do an extraordinary, responsible job. They do so under increasing pressure as prisons, and those who live and work in them, are facing an unprecedented level of change. Value for money notwithstanding, massive budget cuts and market forces are leading to reduced regimes and more time in cell just when there is a welcome policy emphasis on, and ambitious plans for, rehabilitation and reform. Prisons are arguably our most beleaguered, least visible, public service. Few staff want merely to act as custodians of a prison warehouse but staffing ratios have not kept pace with rising prison numbers.

With now just six weeks of basic training, we expect prison staff to undertake one of the most difficult jobs in our society. Unlike teachers or nurses, or indeed prison officers in many other European countries, they do not have anything like equivalent qualifying training or a body of professional literature and research that informs and supports what they do. Yet governors, directors and staff must create and maintain a disciplined, secure and safe environment for some of the most challenging and vulnerable people in our society. People who, as page after page of this briefing reveals, are far more likely than the general population to have been taken into care as a child, have mental health needs or a learning difficulty and struggle with addictions to drugs and drink.