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Prison Ombudsman seeks apologies from staff for unfair treatment of prisoners

Feb 19, 2010

by Stephen Shaw, England and Wales Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, writing in Inside Time:

As Ombudsman, I have tried to pioneer a restorative approach to complaints investigations. If a prisoner has been treated unfairly, a properly worded apology from the staff concerned is the best way of putting things right. 

My office mediated a good example of this recently when an investigation revealed that two members of staff had been less than professional during a sentence planning meeting. They were both asked to write letters saying sorry for their actions, and the relevant governor apologised on behalf of the prison as a whole. 

I think that restorative approaches are particularly valuable in a prison context. Financial compensation is often inappropriate (unless there is clear evidence of monetary loss). And the pro-social, healing aspects of restorative justice are especially relevant given that so many prisoners are distrustful of authority and alienated from society as a whole.


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