Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers

Chief Inspector of Prisons

Anne Owers

Now head of IPCC, Anne gave this interview, in 2009 before she was made a Dame.

My first unannounced inspection was one of the most memorable of my career.

Dartmoor has an impressive presence even before arriving. It is on the open moor. Built of grey granite  A relic from the Napoleonic wars in more ways than one. Inside a wire ‘cage’ for potential suicides. Some of the ’vermin’ as the prisoners have been referred to. Thought of as a hard place for hard men.

I arrived at the prison gate with two of my inspectors, a man and a woman. There came a cheery greeting from the gate: Good morning sir! Hello girls…

I thought there’s a bit to be done here. But it was an iconic moment.  I was proud of my report. It was open and honest. Telling it like it was.    When the report came out it was front page news.

But the greatest satisfaction was to have the prison service put their hands up and admit that things needed to change. It established me, and the report was spot on. So I was fortunate that my first report was of such a bad prison. I called it the prison time forgot.

Chief Inspector of Prisons

When she was Chilef inspector of prisons

The  difference of being the first woman to hold this office, is mixed.  You are the totality of what you are including gender. But of course it affects the way people relate to you.  But, you work with what you’ve got. It doesn’t affect my approach to the job. Interestingly though there are many women in the voluntary sector.

Prison is different for women in several ways

Women have a big sense of responsibility for home and family. Women react very badly to inactivity, and to having no responsibility for themselves and others. Women generally need social networks, and the lack of social networks, affects them badly.

Also when a woman goes into prison, mostly she loses her children, she may be moved miles from home. She probably loses her partner, she often loses her home.

As  the first woman to hold the office of Chief Inspector of Prisons of course it affects the way people relate to you.  In terms of this job, a woman is seen as non threatening.

When I speak to prisoners or staff  I’m often seen as a non threatening woman and I’m not threatening their masculinity. So they sometimes feel that they can talk to me and tell me things, they would otherwise not say.   You are the totality of what you are including gender.





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