A prison monitoring board chairman has been suspended by a government minister after speaking to the press about allegations of bullying.
Faith Spear claims she was being “bullied” into standing down from her post on Hollesley Bay Prison’s Independent Monitoring Board – denied by the board – after she wrote what was perceived as a critical essay on the state of the prison monitoring system in annual publication The Prisons Handbook.
Writing under the pseudonym Daisy Mallet, Spear described herself as a “whistleblower without a whistle” in her article and outlined her view that the prisoner monitoring system must be more professional, more transparent and attract younger members if there is to be progress over prisoners’ rehabilitation.
Colleagues on the voluntary board for the Suffolk prison found out she was the author and have demanded her resignation, she has claimed. It is understood she did not seek approval from the board for her article.
Spear, of Ipswich, has filed an official complaint about the matter with the Ministry of Justice, which is still ongoing.
However after speaking with East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star reporter Colin Adwent about the allegations last week she has been suspended by Prisons Minister Andrew Selous for misconduct.
Crime correspondent Adwent, who spoke with Spear and published the report on her allegations, told Press Gazette: “At a time when we are all told that information is a lot more freely available than it ever has been, to seemingly try to deter the chairman of a board that is representative of the public – who is trying to improve a public institution, i.e. a prison, and trying to help rehabilitate prisoners in preparation for them to go back into the public domain – from talking to the press seems highly ironic.
“We are representatives of the public as journalists. She is a representative of the public and so is the rest of the monitoring board and yet one can’t talk to the other to air grievances and concerns in a public forum. So the public aren’t allowed to know basically.”
Adwent, who has spent nearly 20 years at Archant-owned the Daily Times, added: “The government’s own handbook signifies that companies have a duty to look after whistleblowers as long as they believe that person is acting in the public interest. Arguably what Faith Spear has said falls under this.”
Spear told Press Gazette said the letter informing her of her suspension had come “totally out of the blue”. She added: “It’s ridiculous – why does everything have to be so secret?” and confirmed she would be challenging the suspension.
Hollesley Bay is an open men’s prison in Woodbridge that also houes young offenders. The Ministry of Justice website describes it as “an outward looking modern institution”.
An MoJ spokesman said: “There is an ongoing investigation into Hollesley Bay Independent Monitoring Board. No conclusions have been made and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.
“As with all public appointments, a member of staff can be suspended during an investigation. If no wrongdoing is found they will be reinstated.
“We value the work of independent monitoring boards, who play an important role in ensuring prisons are places of decency and rehabilitation.”
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