Dismissing the Facts

I regularly read or otherwise hear MPs and representatives of the Prison Officers’ Association claim that officers in British prisons are well-trained, professional individuals, who are dedicated to the job and all that entails. However, earlier this year a question was raised in the House of Commons, enquiring how many members of prison staff have been dismissed in recent years.

The response given was that an average of over 430 members of staff have been dismissed in each of the last five years, with the most common reason being for ‘medical inefficiency’. Well, I have previously spoken to officers about what is expected of them physically and I am told that some officers are not subject to a minimum standard of fitness at all. What’s more, they also tell me that their fitness test comes in the form of a ‘beep test’ (which you might remember from school), but that the minimum expectation is equivalent to a fast walk or light jog. And if an officer does fail it, they get two months in which to get in better shape before they get another shot at it. Well if it takes you longer than that to manage a fast walk then I think you probably deserve to get sacked because you are certainly not capable of responding to an alarm bell. What I find shocking is that nearly 300 members of staff are dismissed for failing to achieve these standards every single year!

The next most common reason for dismissal is on the grounds of conduct. Over 110 people are sacked for this each year, (and I’m sure most of these will at some point find themselves featured on the pages of Converse) but if they are all so professional, why are so many dismissed for bad conduct?

However, the third most common reason for staff to be dismissed is actually the one which shocks me most of all. An average of 20 people a year are sacked for unsatisfactory attendance. Unsatisfactory attendance as a shift worker, in a prison. I can’t even begin to comprehend how someone can fail to turn up for work in a place like this. I totally get why they wouldn’t want to, but I definitely don’t know how anyone can think they would get away with it.

If the Ministry of Justice and the Prison Officers’ Association really think that those things demonstrate their staff to be well-trained, professional individuals who are dedicated to the job and all it entails, then it looks like the facts have been dismissed as often as their members.

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2 thoughts on “Dismissing the Facts

  1. I assume that ‘conduct’ is code for corruption, something that is rife in the prison service according to an ex-prison officer I had a series of conversations with a couple of years ago. Influenced by what I had learnt, I began a novel in which prison corruption is a central theme. There is also a subplot involving a relationship between a prisoner and a member of staff that was written some time before I read your April 29th blog regarding your ex. Please rest assured that any similarities are purely coincidental.

    In writing the book, I found both your blog and Alex Cavendish’s very useful for background information and have dedicated the book to you in the hope that you will keep blogging. Although the tale is primarily an entertainment and should be read as such, it does not portray Her Majesty’s Prison Authority in the best possible light. Under the circumstances, I would like to make it clear to the authorities concerned that we have had no contact and it is being dedicated without your permission. There is a precedent: Fielding dedicated Tom Jones to The Honourable George Littleton “notwithstanding your constant refusal…”

    The Teaboy, which includes step by step instructions on how to turn a screw, will be published on Amazon Kindle on the 25th of this month with the paperback version coming out in June.

    • Thank you so much. It is a real honour that you have given me this dedication. When the paperback version comes out I will certainly be buying a copy.

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