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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 70178 Find in a Library
Title: Legitimating the Prison Crisis - A Critical Review of the May Report
Journal: Howard Journal of Penology and Crime Prevention  Volume:19  Issue:2  Dated:(1980)  Pages:73-84
Author(s): M Fitzgerald; J Sim
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 12
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: An examination of the 1979 May Report, the result of an urgent independent inquiry into the British prison system, finds the report's major function to be the legitimating of the Home Secretary's prison policies.
Abstract: It is generally acknowledged that the British prison system is in crisis. Conditions are appalling. Prison officers engage freely in disruption activities, and allegations of drug use and brutality abound. The inquiry, which was chaired by Mr Justice May, was to examine the organization and management of the prison system, including its use of resources and working arrangements, conditions in prison service establishments, and the structure, pay, and conditions of the staff. The conflict which has arisen between prison officers and prisoners, Governors, Prison Department officials, outsiders who perform specialist tasks within the prisons, and the Prison Officers' Association (POA), dominates much of the report and is characterized as a problem of industrial relations. The May Report finds pay scales for prison officers to be at appropriate levels and rejects the POA's claim for parity with the police. Focusing on the role of the prison officer, the report recommends more fulfilling roles such as those offered at Grendon, Ashwell and Ranby, and the Special Unit at Barlinnie. However, in doing so, it does not acknowledge the crucial issue of control over prisons or the resentment of the roles of welfare workers seen as hostile to prison officers. Although the May Committee was set up as an independent inquiry, doubts have been expressed by the POA and by others giving evidence who noticed the close proximity between the Home Office evidence and the May Report. Gaps are noted in dealing with women in prison, the Prison Medical Service, and relationships between prisoners and staff. The hallmark of the prison department is visible in May's recommendations about industrial relations in prisons; the recommendations are straightforwardly managerial and based on the reassertion of leadership with no reference made to the imprisoned. Although the report recognizes the need for more openness within the prison system, it seems doubtful that meaningful advances will be made. Seven references are included.
Index Term(s): Correctional planning; Correctional reform; Corrections management; England
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