Today the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) will launch a campaign to defend the Prison Service from destructive budget cuts and policy changes which are being forced through by senior management responding to politicians’ demands to the detriment of both prison officers and inmates across the UK.

The POA is calling on the three main parties to make clear and unambiguous commitments in their general election manifestos that they will defend the Prison Service against funding cuts and changing working and employment practices that are detrimental to all those who work in the Service.

300 years of history being threatened

“For 300 years, HM Prisons have been a key cog in our justice system. Now that proud history of seeking to balance incarceration with rehabilitation is being threatened by this Government’s budget cuts and enforced changes in working practices that pay little heed to the reality of the day to day job. This Government is undermining vital areas of the Prison Service and severely undervaluing and belittling the role of the professional men and women who make it tick,” said Steve Gillan, POA General Secretary.

The POA is holding a Rally to Parliament to highlight the corrosive effects of increasing violence in prisons, pay freezes, creeping privatisation and pension poverty on its members and the wider Prison Service.

Violence in prisons at unacceptable levels

Violence in prisons - between inmates and against officers - has been on an upward trend for over a decade, increasing from 32 incidents of violence per day to 45 incidents per day and over 3,000 assaults on officers every year. There is also a trend towards increasingly severe accidents involving improvised weapons, placing prison officers and inmates alike at greater risk.

Stephen Cavalier, chief executive officer of Thompsons Solicitors - who represents the POA and its members – and who is speaking at today’s Rally, argues that decisions in Whitehall are increasingly putting prison officers at risk on the front line:

“This Government’s obsession with the politics of austerity is putting more pressure on prison resources and prison staff and is increasing the volatility of already-dangerous environments.

"The Government sits in its ivory tower in Whitehall and says that the cuts it is imposing on the Prison Service are not leading to an increase in violence against staff or prisoners. Let them tell that to the increasing numbers of POA members up and down the UK who we are representing who have been attacked”.

Steve Gillan continued: “It’s not good enough for there to be injuries and then serious trouble and for the Government to commission a review or a report after the event. We are telling this Government and every political party that our members are being attacked every day, the issues are here now and the pressure is building.

“And it’s no wonder. More inmates are being kept in their cells for ever-longer days - with more having to share cells - and rehabilitation and training programmes that help to improve prisoner behaviour and reduce recidivism have been slashed and are being cut again. This is a recipe for disaster and Parliament needs to stand up and take notice now, before it is too late.”

Support the POA this Wednesday in its Rally on Parliament against pay freezes and pension poverty, violence and creeping privatisation.