Prison governor bans inmate and offender labels in favour of first names

The decision to ban prison guards from using the terms ‘inmate’ or ‘offender’ and to use their first names has been branded ‘disgraceful and unacceptable’ by officials. The governor of HM Prison in Maidstone Kent has ordered that prisoners should not be called inmates or offenders because it “defines them”.Announcing the move governor Judith Feline said: “Yes, they’ve committed an offence, that’s why they’re in prison, but we’re trying to move toward something else.”If you work with people in custody to make life as normal as possible, they’re more likely to leave as a law abiding citizen.”The governor said prisoners used to be called by their surname but now everyone in HMP Maidstone, including prison officers and Ms Feline herself will be referred to by their first name. The move however has prompted a backlash from the Prison Officers Associate (POA) who said the decision shows a lack willingness to tackle more important problems in prisons, while forcing officers to treat inmates with a higher level of respect than they receive. Dave Cook, the POA Maidstone representative, said the rule change was “unacceptable”. “I am disgusted HMP Maidstone is focusing on how they address prisoners instead of more important matters like the safety of officers and the violence we experience. It’s clear to see safety is not high on their agenda,” he said. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Mr Cook said staff in the prison will be forced to address inmates “with a level of respect they themselves do not receive”.“Sorry they’re not residents, they’re prisoners. It’s not a hotel. They’re not there by choice and to call them anything else would be misleading. We’ve been calling them prisoners for decades,” Mr Cook told The Telegraph.  “The fact is our prisons are suffering from a high level of violence and drugs because of a lack of control. It’s disgraceful. That’s where management’s attention should be going.”The directive follows a similar policy change in North Sea Camp last year when staff were directed to call inmates “residents”.Ms Feline, who took over as governor of Maidstone Prison in April told the Kent Messenger: “Prison is a very artificial environment, you’re told what to do and when to do it every day, but it’s important to treat people as human beings and model the right behaviour.”HMP Maidstone is a prison for foreign nationals. Around 600 inmates are detained there.