Aug 07

The Prisoner Officer’s Dilemma

Blog 7 + FT3 comments • 557 views

The crisis in the UK’s prison service has come to a head today, with the staff of UK prisons walking out. In some cases this has left 2,000 inmates being guarded by governors alone, that’s about 5 people to look after 2,000. A watching brief on that. And I have more than some sympathy for the officers who are at the front line in a society which seems to want to pander to the Daily Mail’s idea of justice more and more custodial sentences. Equally there is little impressive about a government welching on a pay deal which was in the first place below inflation, and then hoping to hide behind a contract with a Union drawn up under the Tory’s saying it is illegal for prison officers to strike. Much like the law which says it is illegal for police officers to strike, it has at the heart of it a big, fat paradox.

If it is illegal for a prison officer to strike then one assumes said prison officer will be arrested (or perhaps his Union leaders). OK, this is going back to the dark ages of labour relations, but it is not unheard of someone wanting to risk imprisonment for belief in their cause. But hold on. Imprisonment? Where? In prison. Imagine how well enforced (and indeed how strict) any serving prison officer would be on another prison officer incarcerated for fighting for the rights and pay of serving prison officers. Same with police officers. Who arrests the police officer who strikes on behalf of his fellow officers.

If you’re expecting society to continue on the goodwill of union scabs, and indeed an entire prison run by scabs, then I fear the crumblin’ fabric is already riddled with cracks.


  1. 1
    DV on 29 Aug 2007 #

    I presume the assumption is that they just sack prison officers or cops if they go on strike. Or they can. Or something.

    Over here the cops got a bit sulky over the last couple of years and all phone in sick on a couple of days. I don’t think any of them were disciplined for doing this, but their de facto strike did not win them any dividends, and society was able to continue functioning without masked superheroes having to be called in to restore order.

  2. 2
    Pete on 30 Aug 2007 #

    Pity. I’ve always had a soft spot for Irish superheroes.

    (Roll Call: er Jack o’Lantern, Shamrck, Banshee… any others?)

  3. 3
    Long Time Man on 30 Aug 2007 #

    If it only took 5 governors to look after 2000 inmates (with apparently little disruption), then why do we even need prison officers? Just employ more governors. Durr!!

    On a personal note, I’d have liked to have seen the P.O’s employ the same tactics used by rioting prisoners in the past – roof-top demonstrations with plenty of tile throwing, maybe even a couple of hunger strikes. Now that would have been admirable!

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