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Former gang member: Prison guards “oppress inmates” by shouting at them, so media wants to make it illegal

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LONDON – The United Kingdom is a good two decades ahead of the United States in its rabbit hole of human rights laws. That is to say, it enacted laws that seem to put criminals’ rights above those of their victims, law enforcement and society in general.

It is the kind of legislation that allows a solicitor to successfully argue against imprisoning a female criminal, for instance, because to do so would keep her away from her children. Never mind that she may have ruined peoples’ lives and broken the trust a community has in its members. Not to mention, if you can do the crime, be prepared to do the time.

So it should be no surprise, though no less irritating, that one of Britain’s major morning news shows would entertain the idea that prison guards shouldn’t shout at prisoners because it hurts their feelings. (Insert eyeroll here.)

More specifically, says former gang member Nequela Whittaker, shouting at prisoners is against their human rights and doesn’t help them rehabilitate.

She made the claim during a debate with Vanesa Frank-Harris, a former prison warden, on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, Frank-Harris, who defended the need to shout, took the easy way out of the debate by saying prisons are noisy and guards must yell to be heard.

What she should have said is prisoners are in prison and not on holiday on the Costa del Sol and they are not the ones calling the shots. Frank-Harris said:

“In 30 years I didn’t go to work once thinking I was going to shout at people.”

She explained that because prison is a naturally loud environment, prison officers do have to yell to be heard. She said:

“Prison by its very nature is a noisy place, you have got keys swinging and doors banging on a wing [with] 300 prisoners who don’t want to be there, milling around and shouting about.

“And there are times where you have to call prisoners down to go for visits or gym or whatever.”

She noted that prison staff do not discipline inmates by shouting at them, and are, in fact, trained to treat people with respect.

Whittaker said there is a difference between raising one’s voice to be heard and shouting, which is “oppressing” that person. She said:

“You’re repressing someone’s voice to the point where they are not feeling able to have that trust within the prison system.

“How the message is being conducted, when that person is shouting, screeching, putting them down, demonizing them, it’s not reform, So in my eyes it’s not the best practice for that prison officer to get the best outcome out of that person.”

Whittaker said she believes it is never appropriate to shout at a prisoner because that person is already going through trauma and looking for someone in whom to confide.

She made the point that if prisoners can’t confide in the officers, they can’t ask them to assist in their reform.

The debate comes after the release of an official report into the jail HMP Winchester that condemned guards, called officers, for shouting at offenders and for referring to them by their surnames. It said the practices failed to show a requisite respect for prisoners.

Watchdog agency HM Inspectorate of Prisons conducted the study. Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said:

“Staff would unnecessarily yell  ‘Exercise’ and other orders at the top of their voices when in the vicinity of those they were addressing.

“Not only was this unnecessary, but it also demonstrated a lack of insight into the impact of shouting on those who had suffered trauma in the past.”

As the British are fond of saying: They have lost the plot. The U.K. criminal justice system does not exist to cater to criminals, it exists to keep society safe from criminals, or it should. But it now seems the inmates are running the prisons.

The report added that it was “expected” that prisoners be “treated with respect by staff throughout their time in custody.” No one is suggesting that prisoners be subjected to cruelty but why give them the upper hand in interactions by unnecessarily criticizing unremarkable methods?

Incidentally, despite the watchdog’s criticisms, the majority of the inmates polled at HMP Winchester – 57% – believed prison staff did treat them respectfully.

GMB viewers weren’t impressed with Whittaker’s stand and voiced their thoughts on social media. One person said:

“Poor prisoners already going through a trauma. Already being punished by having a warm room, three meals a day. More than lots of people. We need to make prisons a deterrent and make them as uncomfortable as possible.”

Another viewer said:

“It’s ok for prisoners to shout torture ,abuse (sic) and even kill their victims but don’t like it when they are shouted at.”

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