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December 2009 | 16.12.2009
Zero Tolerance - "So you really don't want it Phil"
The question must be asked how long can the POA tolerate the failure of NOMS to implement a Zero Tolerance Policy and Campaign?
After requesting to work together with the Management of the Prison Service and Government for in-excess of 15 years, to have "Zero Tolerance" of violence in prisons, we seem now no further along the road in achieving this than at the beginning of our efforts. So, have we failed as a Union? I have and always will remain a self critical person but the answer to this question is clearly NO.
Jack Straw the Secretary of State for Justice, his Ministerial Team, the Prison Service Management Board (and reluctantly) Phil Wheatley Director General of NOMS all agree that we should run an active and prominent Campaign for "Zero Tolerance to Violence in Prisons". So where is it and why isn’t it in place? On every bus, train, in every hospital, doctor’s surgery, at every airport, in every police station and all other work places in the UK we see the posters of "Zero Tolerance to Violence at Work". The POA are constantly told that we must keep this low key and move forward gradually whilst Prison Officers are being brutalised, battered senseless and serious psychologically damaged under a Management that really don’t care about anything other than the financial element of policies.
The Justice Select Committee have released their Report "The Role of a Prison Officer", my opinion is this is the most accurate report to come into the public domain regarding Prison Officers in the past 30 years. It is a Report that deals with the reality of prison live and those in the forefront of dealing with difficult, dangerous and severally damaged
offenders. The Report draws from academic, professional and political areas of public life. It identifies the very violent nature of the workplaces of POA members. Do we see any response to this Report from the Prison Service – NOT A SINGLE COMMENT. The Report indicates that with the exception of the POA, few care about Prison Officers and their work is not championed nor is it given the high profile it deserves by those who profess to run the custodial and offender management systems of our country. I urge every POA member to read this report see link on POA Website.
Assaults on staff are not just a matter of our Campaign for "Zero Tolerance" to violence. You will know that POA Policy is for all assaults to be reported to the Police, this is so that they can be prosecuted appropriately. Whenever a member of staff is assaulted the prisoner should be placed on report. The Governor should open the adjudication, suspend the adjudication pending a Police inquiry and/or a decision form the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). If the CPS decides not to prosecute, then in accordance with PSO 2000 the Governor must re-open the adjudication, refer it to the independent Adjudicator within 28 days and the case against the prisoner should be heard.
It has become more and more apparent that Governors are not reopening Adjudications within 28 days and therefore the Adjudication can not take place and prisoners examined for assaulting staff.
Firstly, we will be putting forward the Unions views to the CPS consultation review on the code for crown prosecutors - we will be asking the MOJ to investigate all Governors who have failed in their duty to re-open adjudications and to prosecute prisoners where the CPS decide not to prosecute. Finally, we will be looking at PSO 2000 and considering whether a review is necessary and if so pressing for change.
Finally, Happy Christmas and Happy New year to all POA members and their families.
POA MEMBERS REGARDLESS OF WHERE THEY WORK WHETHER IT BE IN PRISONS - PUBLIC OR PRIVATE, NHS SECURE PSYCHIATRIC PROVISION OR COURTS AND ESCORTS SERVICES ARE NOT PUNCH BAGS FOR VIOLENT THUGS OR MENTALLY ILL OFFENDERS THIS UNION WILL PROTECT AND PROMOTE OUR MEMBERS.
We need to bring about change.