Thursday, August 17, 2006

Problems at Parc

Once again Parc Prison is in the news for the wrong reason.

Despite the fact that progress has been made in some areas such as in the young offenders' institution, the prison is falling down in some crucial areas according to the findings of the recent report by the Inspector of Prisons.

Parc is a private prison, and I have always been sceptical that the private sector can run such an institution. The prison has had a difficult history since it opened in the mid-1990s. At the time, I was the county councillor for Coity Higher, and the prison was in my ward. I remember the public meetings that took place at the time, and I remember well the assertion by one of the prison's representatives that there would be a proportion of nine trainees to one experienced officer. I felt it was a recipe for trouble, and said so.

Sure enough there were serious riots in the prison; there have been several suicides, especially amongst the younger prisoners. Governors of the prison came and went without any continuity in management. When so many at the top leave so quickly there is a serious problem in any organisation and it's no wonder that problems still remain there.

I've visited the prison many times, and have always been impressed by the dedication of those who work there, particularly those on the 'shop floor' of the prison. They are being let down by the revolving door at the top. No matter how good the people are on the ground, if there is no long-term direction from those managing the prison then it cannot hope to succeed.

Strangely enough, this is probably the best report that the prison has had, and at least there has been improvement in some areas. Unfortunately, it's still a poor report, and people's patience is wearing thin. We have heard a lot from the prison over the years about how things are changing for the better, but this has not yet been shown to be correct.

The next report must be better, for the sake of those who work there, for those who are interned there and for the community in which the prison is situated.

(Article first published in the Glamorgan Gazette)