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December 2016 | 13.12.2016
IN THE SPOTLIGHT - ANY PUBLICITY IS NOT NECESSARILY GOOD PUBLICITY
The last few weeks has seen new depths to which the secure custodial estate can fall and this must be a concern for all of us. There is a balance that needs to be struck between getting our concerns into the media spotlight and damaging the credibility and hard work that each and every one of us do, this is sometimes an extremely fine line and it is for the NEC to monitor our perception on whether we are gaining the required impetus or damaging the longer-term strategy. Off course our plight is often overlooked and ignored by more favourable public interest stories such as hospitals, policing and schools and so the recent media spotlight has been a welcome one in order to gain much needed attention.
The riots at HMP Lewes & Bedford indicate a worrying trend in the changing mentality of the prison population and the NEC are further concerned about our members safety during these highly destructive incidents and whilst currently the anger and frustration has been directed at the Government and senior leading figures it is important that we remind our members to stay vigilant and safe during these uncertain times.
Secretary of State for Justice
Steve and I met with the Secretary of State for Justice following our circular 97/2016 being sent out to members, the meeting was frosty but between us we put across all of the salient issues that have been causing such great concern. Both the General Secretary and I left unconvinced that all of our concerns will be addressed or indeed that they will be taken as seriously as we had raised them. At the time of writing this article the emergency talks are ongoing and we are awaiting the answers to our concerns and issues.
The Secretary of State whisked over the closures of Dover, Haslar and Glen Parva by announcing new prisons on the Glen Parva and Wellingborough sites. As you will imagine we have condemned any prison closure whilst prisons are overcrowded and the staff at all three sites will be concerned about their futures and rightly feel aggrieved by the way they have been treated throughout this process. Both the staff from Dover and Haslar have been on forced detached duty since the mothballing of those sites and the continual lies and deceit about being very much part of the future of the prison estate will surely leave a bad taste in everyone’s concerned mouth. Similarly, the two new announced prisons have not been declared on whether the public or private sector is to run them and this will create unnecessary uncertainty for the staff at Glen Parva who will also soon be distributed to various other prisons in the locality and beyond.
Pentonville prison has had its fair share of bad news stories of late and I think it is important that we all garner support for our colleagues at HMP Pentonville who do sterling work on behalf of the public and Prison Service. Their future has been plagued with uncertainty following several high profile announcements that it would be desirable to close Pentonville, however as a branch that has been deliberately set up to fail by those in power they have remained strong in the face of adversity and it is important that those who are working hardest for the smallest amount of reward recognise that the issues they are currently facing are not ones of their own design or making and that those truly responsible should not be allowed to shoulder responsibility on our members working hard at the coal face.
In normal business, I have visited Send, Lincoln, Low Newton, Durham and Bedford, following the riot since my last Gatelodge article. I intend to keep a rolling programme of visits going for my entire term of office and whilst this uses union funds I think it is imperative that visibility and translation of the POA message is continually bought to our members. If you want a visit from the National Chair, please feel free to contact my Secretary on email@example.com.
Thanks for reading and remember to stay safe!