Ministry of Justice (MoJ) staff were banned from calling prisoners ‘residents’ or describing the cells as ‘rooms’ after being asked about opening a ‘soft’ prison.
A style guide has been distributed to all Department of Justice, Prisons and Probation employees, and private prison contractors, to clarify what terms can and cannot be used.
Staff were asked not to refer to ‘service users’ or ‘clients’, but were encouraged to refer to them as prisoners or offenders.
It comes after the Justice Secretary championed a new ‘smart’ prison designed to reduce crime.
During a visit to HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, in March, Dominic Raab said inmates in the Category C prison needed to have ‘a sense of what life is like on the outside’ because ‘we let’s not lock everyone up. for life”.
The 1,700-capacity prison has no bars on the windows and will provide inmates with access to a gym, pool table, ping pong table and tablet to learn new skills.
At the time, prison staff said they would describe cells as “rooms” and inmates as “residents” to help with their rehabilitation.
During the visit, Mr Raab said: “I’m interested in punishment because that’s what the public expects, but I’m not really interested in stigma in a way that would be counterproductive. in relation to my goal of reducing recidivism”.
Asked if HMP Five Wells was a ‘soft’ prison, Mr Raab said there was ‘no doubt about it, prisons need to be secure, they need to punish, but they need to also try to give, as most offenders are going to be released, an idea of what life is like on the outside”.
But the Department of Justice has now said staff must stick to the approved language and edit any documentation or product that doesn’t follow the style guide. The rules will only apply to adult prisons, as youth custody facilities are exempt.
Media outlets suggested the guidelines were issued as the use of the phrases harmed public confidence in the criminal justice system, but this has not been confirmed by authorities.
A Prison Service spokesperson said: ‘Our style guide will ensure that clear and consistent language is used in all communication relating to adult prisons and probation services.’