Shazyon Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Thousands of inmates to be called 'Mister', New prison equality guidelines order wardens to call prisoners ‘Mr’ at the start of every sentence – and even help them tell the time and do their washing.
The 26-page Ministry of Justice document called Ensuring Equality states that prison workers have a ‘moral duty’ to ensure fairness to all. ‘Minority groups’ singled out for special treatment include the elderly, disabled, gays, transsexuals, religious groups and prisoners with learning difficulties.
Staff are told they should ‘talk to the prisoner’ to find out their special requirements and that when communicating with certain prisoners, they should use the prisoner’s name at the start of each sentence. They should also prepare the prisoner for each stage of the communication, for example: ‘Mr Jones, I am now going to ask you some simple questions.’
The document adds that some prisoners may need help with tasks such as telling the time, cleaning clothes and making telephone calls.
The Prison Service Instruction says all prison staff are ‘personally responsible’ for promoting equality and warns that ‘failure to maintain the required standards can lead to action, which may result in dismissal’.
A prison source, who did not want to be named, said: ‘We have long been aware of the importance put on equality for prisoners, but for officers to have to address prisoners by their name at the start of every sentence is taking things too far.’
'The prison service has changed for the better in the past 10-15 years, but there are some aspects of these orders which really stick in out throats, and this is one of them.'
The quality guidelines tell prison staff to Use visual aids and clear and simple language to help a prisoner’s understanding.
It adds that large amounts of information should be broken into smaller chunks and that they should be patient while talking with the prisoner.
It continues: 'The situation should be handled by health professionals - however, this does not mean that an obvious reasonable adjustment which would assists a prisoner should not be made simply because the prisoner does not consider themselves to have a disability.”
The PSI recommends that prison staff should ‘go more slowly’ through information with the prisoner and ensure they fully understand any information they are given.
The order also states that all prison staff are ‘personally responsible’ for promoting equality and warns that ‘failure to maintain the required standards can lead to action, which may result in dismissal from the Service’.
Governors are also tasked with monitoring prison equality closely and have to carry out Equality Impact Assessments to ‘identify and manage risk around equalities issues’.
The assessments are designed to detail the number of prisoners from ‘minority groups’ to allow staff to put in place an ‘action plan’ to ensure no group is discriminated against.
The order states that the Equality Impact Assessments - which will be made available to prisoners - will assess whether equality concerns have been addressed properly and to find out ‘whether there remain issues which result in unfair outcomes’.
The Government came under fire earlier this year after Justice Secretary Ken Clarke recommended sentencing leniency and 'softly softly' approaches to offenders.