London, Jan.1 (ANI): Britain's Ministry of Justice has issued instructions to prison officers not to refer to their charges as "inmates" because it might offend them.
According to a report in The Telegraph, the ministers claim the age-old term is not appropriate if criminals are to be treated with "respect and dignity".
One prison officer leader attacked the move and warned jails have already become too soft as he called for a return to tough prisons in 2009.
Opposition MPs said it was "politically correct nonsense".
In a scathing outburst, Brian Caton, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, called for an end to the "namby pamby attitude" that has led to soft prisons.
"It never ceases to amaze me, the hypocrisy of politicians and senior civil servants," he said.
"We should treat them fair and properly, but prison should be tough. As we come to 2009, prisons should move away from being seen and actually being soft options to be challenging and demanding places of punishment.
Prisons minister David Hanson revealed the Ministry of Justice stance in a letter to an inmate in HMP Wakefield, in which he said: "Prison staff are expected to treat prisoners with dignity and respect and for this reason the term 'prisoner' should be used in preference to the term 'inmate'."
He went on to say the term "offender" was not inappropriate.
Shadow Justice Secretary, Nick Herbert, said: "The government would do well to concentrate their efforts on stopping prisoners walking out of open jails, ending early release and tackling the drugs trade in prison which is rife, rather than this politically correct nonsense."
A Prison Service spokesman said: "The term prisoner, rather than inmate, has been preferred for a number of years as it is more accurate and specific to those held in prison. The term 'inmate' can refer to anyone held in any type of institution." (ANI)