Government to recruit 2,500 new prison officers after warning cuts are leaving jails unsafe

Custodians say prisons are becoming ‘bloodbaths’

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Thursday 03 November 2016 01:04
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Prison officers warn jails are becoming unsafe
Prison officers warn jails are becoming unsafe

The Government has announced cash for an extra 2,500 prison officers as those working on the front line warn the safety of jails is threatened by falling staff numbers and cuts.

The £104m announcement comes a day after the chair of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) warned prisons were turning into a “bloodbath” due to staff cuts and low morale.

The number of prison officers has been falling since 2010, with an uptick in recruitment of the last year – meaning the latest announcement is effectively an admission that staff numbers have been reduced too quickly.

Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, said the new measures would help cut reoffending and cut the £15bn that crimes committed by former prisoners cost the country every year.

“It is absolutely right that prisons punish people who commit serious crimes by depriving them of their most fundamental right: liberty,” the Justice Secretary will say in a speech on Thursday.

“However our reoffending rates have remained too high for too long. So prisons need to be more than places of containment – they must be places of discipline, hard work and self-improvement.

“They must be places where offenders get off drugs and get the education and skills they need to find work and turn their back on crime for good.”

Commenting on Wednesday, POA chair Mike Rolfe painted a bleak picture of the front line of prisons.

“It’s a bloodbath in prisons at this minute in time. Staff are absolutely on their knees, lost all morale, all motivation,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One programme.

“Prisoners are scared. They want prison officers to be in charge, and the prison officers feel incapable to do that.

“Low staffing numbers, people leaving the job in droves, it's a real bad mix, and it's dangerous for everyone, staff and prisoners alike.”

The Government has not yet clarified whether the annual £140m commitment includes the £14m announced at Conservative party conference last month to hire 400 extra prison officers for the toughest jails.

The new cash comes alongside promises of English and maths tests for prisons to help with rehabilitation post-release, the testing of all offenders for drug use upon entry and exit of prison, and league tables for such institutions.

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