7 NOVEMBER 1952, Page 14

Prison Officers Sut,-1 agree with "Prison Broke " that on

the whole the prison staffs in this country carry out their tasks efficiently or at least to the best of their ability. But the tasks they have to carry out are tedious, unpleasant and ill-paid, and it is clearly impossible to expect the best type of man to volunteer for them. A large number of trainees resign after a short time—some because they are bored, some because they feel themselves unsuitable and some because they find they have been misled by the advertisements they answered. In these advertisements they were offered genuine opportunities for moral and social reclama- tion, but in fact they have no such opportunities. The attitude of all but a very few convicts prevents any close contact with prison officers even if the prison regulations allowed it, which they do not All the endeavours of the Government and the Prison Commission nowadays are directed towards cure, rather than punishment: it is appreciated that deprivation of liberty is punishment enough. It is therefore all the more important that a suitable type of prison officer be appointed, particularly as, under the Criminal Justice Act of 1948, sentences have tended to be longer. The acute shortage of staff in nearly all prisons has, for a number of years, forced governors to accept candidates who might normally never have even been con- sidered. Though most of these men are ultimately rejected at Wake- field, many of them survive for three months and some do pass the Board.

What the present situation calls for is a totally different typc of man. May 1 sugge4, that as a general principle no man should be recruited for the prison service under the age of 35 and that he must have had considerable experience of dealing with men of all sorts and be unconnected with any religious organisation or other charitable body. He should preferably have served in the regular armed forces and have retired on pension in a rank not less than a senior N.C.O. No such candidates, however, are Alicely to be forthcoming until the present conditions of service are improved one hundred per cent. from the point of view of promotion, pay, pension and accommodation. (I realise that in the present economic condition of the country such

improvements are unlikely, if not impossible.) Given the right type of officer, more could be done in a year towards straightening out the mind of the perpetual recidivist than could be done in a century by psychiatrists, chaplains, church-armies and after-care associations.

I again ask your permission to sign myself,—Yours faithfully,