“Victimised and intimidated”

PRISONERS at March’s top security Whitemoor jail have been victimised, threatened and intimidated by staff according to a report published this week.

One in three inmates at the maximum security prison felt unsafe at the time of an unannounced inspection in January and poor relationships with officers was to blame for their fears said inspectors.

However, Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) said the prison was ‘safer and more secure’ than when it was last inspected.

Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, found “poor staff attitudes about race and religion” with inmates fearing they would “stitched up” if they complained.

He said; “Many prisoners said they had been victimised, threatened or intimidated by staff, particularly if they were black and minority ethnic or Muslim.

“Muslim prisoners said many staff were unsure how to relate to them without resorting to assumptions about extremism. Too many (60 per cent of prisoners) told us they had felt unsafe in the prison and almost a third significantly more than in other high-security prisons, told us they felt unsafe in the prison at the time of the inspection.

“In my view, this reflected relationships between staff and prisoners which, although improved, were still not what they should be.

“I witnessed some good interactions between prisoners and prison officers but also some that gave cause for concern and helped to explain why some prisoners were fearful,” said Mr Hardwick.

The inspection of the prison which holds 452 men, all serving long sentences, found that several prisoners thought “the younger inexperienced staff treated them badly but that they were reluctant to complain as this would make things worse.”

Prisoners referred to “discrimination, aggression and bullying by staff” in interviews with inspectors.

One said: “They stitch a lot of people up. I’ve seen some prisoners reported for intimidating staff even though I was there and it didn’t happen. It makes you wary to interact with them.”

The inspectors said that although the prison is improving with “many strong features” there is a need for development of a clear strategy to “deal with the underlying negative staff culture and improve relationships between staff and prisoners”.

Mr Spurr said: “The governor and his staff will work hard to tackle the areas where more improvements can be made.”