Staff morale 'low' at Suffolk prison
STAFF morale at an East Anglian prison is at its lowest in years due to an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, an inspection report has claimed.But the Board of Visitors (BOV) annual report on Blundeston Prison, near Lowestoft, has congratulated the jail for its hard work in re-classifying from a Category B to C prison last year.
By Danielle Nuttall
STAFF morale at an East Anglian prison is at its lowest in years due to an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, an inspection report has claimed.
But the Board of Visitors (BOV) annual report on Blundeston Prison, near Lowestoft, has congratulated the jail for its hard work in re-classifying from a Category B to C prison last year.
The report, which had been due to be published in January, covers the period July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002.
It claimed industrial relations between the governor and prison workers had deteriorated significantly, and said accusations of "bullying" and "intimidation" had been made.
"Staff morale deteriorated during the reporting period and is at as low a state as any of the BOV can remember," the report stated.
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"The board has received an unprecedented number of requests for help from staff members and in some cases their relatives in industrial relations matters.
"There is no doubt that, whether rightly or wrongly, a number of uniformed staff feel intimidated by the governor."
The report said every effort had to be made to improve staff morale and to narrow the gap between management and staff.
But prison governor Jerry Knight said the BOV's comments were "inconsistent" with the results of an independent staff survey undertaken in May and June, which showed staff were generally content.
"The survey clearly concludes that Blundeston staff, by comparison to other prison staff groups, are generally content – particularly so with management style and approach," he said.
"This is a remarkable achievement considering the enormous change process that the prison was going through i.e. the conversion from Category B to C status.
"The Chief of Prisons, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and the Prison Service operational management line all consider Blundeston Prison to be a well-managed, thoroughly decent and a high-performing establishment."
The BOV report recognised the prison had put a lot of hard work and planning into changing from a Category B to C prison in May last year.
"Everything was expedited so that the change could be made at the earliest opportunity and all the staff are to be congratulated on the success achieved," it said.
"The governor in particular with his senior management team and staff at all levels are to be congratulated on the smooth transition."
Mr Knight, who is due to take up a new post as governor of Norwich Prison, said he had been proud to work at Blundeston and was delighted with the progress that had been made.