EDITORIAL | Attack a chilling prisons wake-up call


The appalling rape attack on an off-duty warder at St Albans Prison, for which correctional services has now accepted culpability, leaves the department having to do a thorough overhaul of what one would think is its core function – security. And protection of its staff.It is extremely difficult to comprehend how just three female guards could be responsible, while alone, for handling workshop training for 31 of the jail’s most dangerous of prisoners.These were not lightweight petty criminals – but convicted murderers and rapists who had already displayed the ruthlessness and disregard for human life that had landed them there.But yet the more vulnerable of those tasked with what is a stressful job that carries with it the constant threat of assault or worse, were at times left in charge at a ratio of 10 inmates to one.The fact that the perpetrator was allowed to simply stroll past an office of warders, all too busy on their cellphones to notice him, is also astounding.The middle-aged warder who was later attacked and has bravely chosen to be identified – like a handful of other courageous victims of rape or sexual assault – has described her absolute terror when she was kidnapped, stabbed with shards of glass from a bottle that had been broken over her head and then raped. She says she continues to suffer from panic attacks while having to also spend weeks in and out of a mental health treatment centre.What is worse is that her assailant, who was rearrested and later pleaded guilty to the attack, described to police just how easy it had been for him to escape.The fact his claims of poor security measures were generally backed up by the findings of an internal probe is also extremely telling.Correctional services on Tuesday finally accepted liability for the attack. But it must surely realise it needs to do far more – if it hasn’t acted on the investigation and done so already. This complete lapse of security has left one of their own emotionally and physically scarred for life.They owe it to her and her colleagues to not allow her awful ordeal to be repeated.

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