National Chair

Issue 64 | 24.03.2010

Safe, Decent & Secure


Dear Colleagues

During the last 18 months, I have heard and read the above comments all too often from the Prison Service Management as they attempt to justify change.  I have to ask, if these are simply words or statements of purpose, whichever it is clear there is NO substance to support them.


The definition of safe according to the Collins English Dictionary is as follows;

  1. Giving security or protection from harm: a safe place.  Do our Prisons meet this definition?  In my opinion, No and in the opinion of the general public our Prisons are in meltdown.
  2. Free from danger: you’ll be safe here.  Are our Prisons free from danger?  Having witnessed the recent assaults and incidents in our Prisons, the answer simply has to be, No.
  3. Taking or involving no risks: Do all risk assessments in Prisons comply with legislation and have they been compiled with all known information?  I doubt very much that this is the case, but time will tell.
  4. Worthy of Trust.  Who can the Union trust and more importantly who can the membership trust?
  5. Not dangerous.  It is clear our Prisons are dangerous and by the very nature of the job we do, we all face situations which should and could be avoided if Prisons were Safe, Decent and Secure.
  6. On the safe side.  Whose side are NOMS on and are they fighting our corner when budget cuts are imposed from Treasury.

These words and phrases are important because we all have a duty to one another.  Prisons must be safe and we can no longer allow knee jerk reactions from NOMS, the Prison Service or any other organisation “to place our safety at risk”.


The definition of decent according to the Collins English Dictionary is as follows;

  1. Polite or Respectable. Is it polite or respectable for the Management of the Service to play with your Health and Safety in an attempt to save money?
  2. Proper, fitting.  Are Prisons decent and proper and are they fit for purpose under the current regime?  I have to say that things must change if we are to have a Service that we can be proud of, that is proper and fit for purpose.
  3. Good or Adequate, a decent wage.  Is the imposition of the Prison Officer 2 good or adequate?  Is the closure of the PO rank and all other uniformed ranks good or adequate?  I do not believe that anyone thinks the decisions of Government and NOMS Board on 27th April 2009 to impose change, Market Test Prisons and privatise new prisons was decent, good or adequate.

I pose these questions, because it appears to me that there is nothing decent in the manner or attitude of those in authority towards this Union and its members.


Two of the definitions of secure according to the Collins English Dictionary are as follows;

  1. Free from danger or damage.  This can not be said of our prisons and if the current regime continues, they will only get worse.
  2. Free from fear, doubt or care.  The recent events and level of violence in our Prisons, including attacks on staffing levels do not create Prisons which are free from fear, quite the opposite.  Does anyone care in management?

I raise these points, because it seems to me that a prisoners blood is worth more than that of a member of staff and this is not right.

We all accept that we work in a dangerous environment, but we should and must not accept the risk or violence being increased, simply to save money.

I have written to the Ministry of Justice on behalf of the Executive and membership on a number of issues recently, because NOMS and the Prison Service Management Board are ignoring us.  We have to ask why and demand answers.

At the NOMS Conference the Director General failed to seize the opportunity to pay tribute to the staff who had been stabbed at HMP Frankland.  Why? 

It was pleasing to see a Chief Constable singing the praises of one of her colleagues, who as a result of an attack, was being medically discharged from the Police Force.  When has anyone from NOMS been outspoken in the Press in a similar situation for a POA member?

The management of Frankland refused to immediately lock down the Prison when asked to do so by staff, following the stabbing of three Officers.  What has to happen before our safety is put first ahead of the need to save money or provide regimes for prisoners.

I condemn the actions of the Director General of NOMS for the way he has dealt with the request from the Union to introduce a Zero Tolerance policy towards “violence in our Prisons”.  For the last 18 months or more, we have been waiting for the Zero Tolerance to Violence policy to be implemented, following the intervention of Jack Straw.  Why did it take so long?

The Health and Safety of everyone in Prisons has to be protected and if necessary, the NEC will attempt to persuade and encourage all members to protect themselves and others.

I would like to place on record the support of the NEC to all members who have been assaulted or injured whilst at work or outside as a result of the work we do.

This Union will promote and protect your interests, even if your employer will not.  You are the professional men and women of the Service, the forgotten public servants.

We must stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of adversity and challenge change.

Colin Moses
National Chairman