Ministers order prison guards to stop calling inmates 'residents'

Ministers order prison guards to stop calling inmates ‘clients’, ‘residents’ and ‘service users’

  • Ministers have stepped in amid concern over language used to refer to prisoners
  • Language such as ‘residents’, ‘clients’ and ‘service users’ increasingly deployed  
  • Prisons minister Alex Chalk issued a message that term ‘prisoner’ should be used

Ministers have ordered prison guards to stop calling criminals ‘clients’ and ‘residents’, it was revealed today.

Politicians have stepped in after concern that the terms have become increasingly widely used instead of ‘prisoners’ in the justice system.

Prisons minister Alex Chalk has issued a message insisting staff must not ‘pretend that these people are angels residing in a cell out of choice’, according to The Times.  

There have been growing complaints about the use of ‘residents’ in prison guidance in England and Wales. 

In some instances they have been rebranded as supervised individuals, service users, or even clients.

Politicians have stepped in after concern that the terms have become increasingly widely used instead of ‘prisoners’ in the justice system (pictured, Belmarsh prison) 

Jo Farrar, chief executive of the prison and probation service, is among those who have used the ‘residents’ language. 

In a speech in March, she said: ‘All prison governors will be given funding to spend on in-cell activities and extra technology to help our incredible staff support residents to maintain family ties and access support services.’

Guidance at HMP Wandsworth in southwest London says: ‘Residents have phones in their rooms and are able to make outgoing calls.’

However, prison officers have voiced alarm at the language – which supporters claim can help rehabilitation.

One former officer told the Times: ‘I have locked some people up in the worst accommodation you can imagine and actually if you called them a resident in that accommodation you’d be taking the mick. Why are we trying to pretend they’re not in prison?’

A source close to the prisons minister said: ‘This kind of language does nobody any favours.

‘People in prison are there because they have committed serious crimes and need to be locked up to protect the public.

‘We should be speaking plainly and not pretending that these people are angels residing in a cell out of choice.’

Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governors Association, backed the move. 

‘The word prisoner is inoffensive, it refers to everyone who’s in prison – whether they are on remand and unconvicted or convicted,’ she told the paper.

‘We’ve had residents, we’ve had clients, we’ve had service users – all sorts. It muddies the water. Prisoner is simple, it’s inoffensive and it refers to every single person who is in prison.’

Prisons minister Alex Chalk has issued a message insisting staff must not ‘pretend that these people are angels residing in a cell out of choice’

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