Prison Officers: Working Conditions

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:14 am on 2nd May 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 11:14 am, 2nd May 2018

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Henry.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Gordon Henderson. It is important for the Houses of Parliament to focus on prisons and in particular on the service of prison officers. As my hon. Friend pointed out in his substantial and eloquent speech—he is extremely well informed, with three prisons in his constituency—and indeed as my hon. Friends the Members for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Jack) and for Henley (John Howell), and Liz Saville Roberts pointed out in their interventions, we have a very strong debt of obligation towards our prison officers. Prison officers are very unusual uniformed public servants. They generally operate outside the public eye, and prisons are not places that the public generally visit. That is why I wish to come on to that good idea of a parliamentary scheme suggested by hon. Members.

The job of prison officers is very unusual. On the one hand, it has some of the features of the job of the police, in so far as they are dealing with criminals and therefore with a lot of violence and trauma but, on the other hand, a particular set of skills is also required. Unlike a police officer, a prison officer may often see the same individual hour after hour, day after day, week after week and even year after year, having to provide a moral exemplar for such individuals on their journey towards ceasing reoffending. Prison officers are helping to educate and support them, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey pointed out, in everything from healthcare through to employment.

The challenge presented by my hon. Friend is what we can do practically to help prison officers in their daily work—and, my goodness, they face a challenging situation.