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Prison staff morale at rock bottom

PUBLISHED: 08:31 30 July 2009 | UPDATED: 11:09 06 July 2010

A PRISON guard currently working at a Suffolk jail housing some of the country's most dangerous young criminals has spoken out - claiming staff morale is rock-bottom.

A PRISON guard currently working at a Suffolk jail housing some of the country's most dangerous young criminals has spoken out - claiming staff morale is rock-bottom.

The Warren Hill prison guard's claims - which include that staff have been told to treat prisoners as their own children - echo those made by two former employees earlier this week.

The guard, who wants to remain anonymous, said: “Among the staff there is just apathy. Nobody cares. I would say that 99pc of the staff are sick to the back teeth of where the prison is going. There is no discipline and no control. It is an absolute joke.”

Last night, the prison's Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) conceded there is staff disaffection and that it is “not the stable, positive atmosphere that it used to be”. But it said there was no need for an investigation into the claims made this week.

The prison guard spoke out following allegations made earlier this week by former Warren Hill employees Helen Stanmore and Tim Brame. They claimed that young offenders were treated to a “holiday camp” lifestyle and that it was an unsafe environment to work in.

According to the prison guard, Warren Hill has a “softly, softly” approach which is not working and is causing unrest among staff.

“We were told recently that the offenders have got to be addressed by their first names otherwise we will face discipline and that we have to treat them as if they are one of our children”, he said.

He claims that the most dangerous young offenders at Warren Hill are currently working with Aldeburgh Productions for a three week period on activities like mixing music, which is costing £30,000. Up until recently, he said a company from Newcastle was paid to bring motorcross bikes to Warren Hill which the prisoners used on weekends. He claims they have been on days out to a training ship in Lowestoft as well as visits to adventure park Go-Ape in Thetford Forest.

He claims these methods are leading to a “revolving door policy” with offenders returning within weeks of being released.

He said: “When you get lads coming up to you saying 'I love coming here because you feed me and clothe me and I get my own room', you know that things are drastically wrong.”

One inmate was paid £10,000 in compensation recently following an assault by a member of staff. According to the prison guard, his colleagues are concerned about intervening with prisoners because of the fear of being accused of assault.

“Lots of false and malicious allegations are made by these lads,” he said. “You see your colleagues verbally and physically abused on a regular basis. If you try to intervene in the back of your mind you think that you may be accused of assault.”

Last night, Jane Stearn, the vice-chair of Warren Hill's Independent Monitoring Board, said: “I think the prison is doing its best but there are constraints with a lack of money and insufficient staff. There is a great deal of change going on in the Prison Service which does make the staff disaffected and worry them. It is not the stable, positive atmosphere that it used to be but that is due to money.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “HMYOI Warren Hill is a fundamentally safe and decent environment. There are no reported issues with staff morale. Rehabilitation schemes are working.”

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