Budget cuts, overcrowding and staff resource putting prison officers at risk14 April 2014
Incidents on the increase at Nottingham Prison, showing prison resources are as stretched as ever
Officers at Nottingham Prison are being subjected to assaults on a regular basis as a result budget cuts, overcrowding and a lack of staff, according to a leading trade union.
The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has called for a review of staffing levels, saying that the situation at HMP Nottingham is “extremely tense and dangerous” for staff.
Official figures show that ‘incidents at height’ at the prison increased from 11 in 2011 to 48 in 2013. An incident at height is an incident that takes place more than three feet above ground level. Some cases include prisoners obtaining access to safety netting, meaning prison officers have to negotiate to get them down, disrupting the regime.
General secretary of the POA, Steve Gillan, said: “We are concerned not just about incidents at height, we are concerned about assaults, passive demonstrations, barricades and a whole range of issues, and it’s on the increase.
“There has been a prison closure programme, and one of the major problems is that Nottingham has for a certified normal accommodation of around 700, and it’s holding over 1,000 prisoners, so it’s actually 50% overcrowded.
“The budget cuts at Nottingham have been severe and the lack of staff is prohibiting, we would say, the proper rehabilitation of prisoners.”
Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors, which represents the POA and its members, commented: “As the government ploughs on with its budget cuts and austerity measures, there is increasing pressure on prison resources and prison workers.
“The figures show that incidents in prisons are continuing to increase and it is prison officers who are bearing the brunt. For the last decade violence in prisons has been on the up, and this not only means that officers are put at risk, but it also affects prisoner rehabilitation programmes, leading to other social problems.
“The government maintains that its cuts to the Prison Service are not leading to increases in the number of incidents, but this is clearly not the case. The government cannot ignore this issue if we are to avoid the workplace environment in which prison officers must work deteriorating so as to be permanently dangerous.”
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