More than a third of all prisons went through at least one change of governor last year prompting warnings that “chopping and changing” demoralises staff and undermines prisoners’ rehabilitation.
A total of 44 prisons in England and Wales experienced at least one change of governor in 2013, compared to 28 in 2010.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan reiterated his warning that prisons are becoming “dens of violence”, not helped by the “revolving door of senior management” that “leaves prisons rudderless, staff demoralised and prisoners unreformed”.
An analysis of figures released by Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright in response to a written parliamentary question from Mr Khan revealed five prisons had four different governors in the last four years, while 21 prisons had three different governors over the same period.
A total of 42 prisons only changed governor once last year apart from the jointly managed Moorland and Hatfield prison and young offenders institute in Doncaster which had two changes of governor in the space of 2013.
Mr Khan said: “Strong, stable leadership is crucial to successful prisons. It’s a no brainer that having good governors in place with time to make their mark will lead to more prisoners being properly punished and reformed.
“Constant chopping and changing of Governors leaves prisons rudderless, staff demoralised and prisoners unreformed. Some of our prisons are nearly 150 years old – you can’t expect the culture to be changed if you only give the governor less than a year in post. It’s ridiculous.
“Our prisons will go on being dens of violence, with prisoners languishing in their cells for hours on end, unless we get in place good, stable leadership with the drive and energy to punish and reform those behind bars.
“Parents would think twice about sending their kids to a school that had four head teachers in four years, and you’d be worried about having treatment in a hospital whose chief executive never stayed more than 12 months. Why do we think prisons are any different?
“It’s unacceptable for prisons to have a revolving door of senior management.”
The five prisons that changed governors four times in four years are·Thorn Cross in Warrington, Rye Hill in Rugby, Ranby in Nottinghamshire, Manchester prison, and Foston Hall in Derby.
The Ministry of Justice rejected claims that prisons are left “rudderless” as a result of governors changing.
A spokesman said the figures included temporary changes, for example if a governor went on maternity leave.
Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright added:
“It has always been the case that individual governors will move to other posts or retire and their role will be filled by a colleague until a permanent replacement is appointed.
“In those situations we will continue to have experienced and highly skilled staff managing our prisons to ensure the public is protected and offenders properly rehabilitated.”