Prison staff urged to stop calling inmates 'residents'

HMP Highpoint Prison in Suffolk Picture: ARCHANT

Prison staff have received a new language style guide - Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant

A Suffolk criminologist said the issue on language used in prisons "goes round in circles" after a new style guide urged staff to stop referring to inmates as "residents". 

Calling cells "rooms" should also be avoided, according to the new language guide sent to prison and probation service staff by justice secretary Dominic Raab. 

It also instructs staff to refer to those released from jail as "prison leavers" and "people leaving prison" rather than "clients" or "service-users". 

According to The Times, Mr Raab is keen to end such use of "woke" language over fears it is damaging public confidence in the criminal justice system. 

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab - seen here in the House of Commons has been interviewed on TV

Justice secretary Dominic Raab - Credit: PA

In November 2018, it was revealed cells at HMP Warren Hill, in Hollesley near Woodbridge, were being called rooms to boost the jail's commitment to “positive and productive relationships”. 

That decision was taken by managers at the prison and was not a directive from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Prison campaigner Faith Spear, from Ipswich, said "language is important" but stressed there were bigger issues within prisons that currently need addressing. 

"We cannot normalise prisons by changing our language," she said.

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"I agree that those who have been released from prison should not constantly be referred to as ex-prisoners. The stigma is already great enough.

"Honestly, this subject goes round and round in circles. Yes, language is important, there needs to be respect without being overly familiar. 

"But sort out the backlog of repairs, sort out the education, offer more purposeful activity, make sure they are more equipped on release and make sure they are not released homeless. The list is endless."

Faith Spear is concerned by the inspectors' report Picture: KJ SPEAR

Criminologist Faith Spear said the issue "goes round in circles" - Credit: Archant

Meanwhile, the government expects the number of children in custody in England and Wales to more than double by September 2024, according to a new report. 

A report from the National Audit Office (NAO) finds that while the average number of children in custody fell by 73% between 2010-11 and 2020-21, court recovery from the pandemic - alongside the impact of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and government plans to recruit extra police officers - will drive up the number of young people in custody.

It is expected that the number of children aged 15 to 17 in young offender institutions will double, from 343 in July 2021 to 700 in July 2025, the report said.

The report also finds that ethnic minority groups are overrepresented in custody.

Over half - 53% - of children in custody in the year ending March 2021 came from ethnic minority backgrounds, up from 32% in 2011.

Black children accounted for 29% of children in custody, compared with 18% in the year ending March 2011.

Boys made up 97% of children in custody in 2021, but the report notes that while the proportion of girls held in custody is low, they have some of the most complex needs, and are likely to have experienced sexual and physical victimisation.

The rate of self-harm incidents per 100 children had increased by 90% among children in custody from March 2015 to March 2021, the report added.