Prison officers stage unofficial walkouts amid ‘perpetual crisis’ claims

Prison officers staged unofficial walkouts on Friday.
Prison officers staged unofficial walkouts on Friday.
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prison officers have staged unofficial walkouts amid claims the system is in “perpetual crisis.”

Staff gathered outside jails in England and Wales between 8am and 9am on Friday.

The Prison Officers Association (POA), which reported that thousands of staff took part, said: “The POA National Executive Committee have instructed its membership in England and Wales to hold meetings outside their respective prisons to discuss prison reform after Noms (National Offender Management Service) management failed to consult on how prisoners are supervised during their sentence.”

Concerns have also been raised about prison safety. Last year there were nearly 5,000 assaults on staff - a jump of more than a third compared with 2014.

In a joint statement, POA national chairman Mike Rolfe and general secretary Steve Gillan said the prison service has been “in perpetual crisis for a long period of time”.

They said: “Many good, committed and hard-working colleagues, our members, have long been struggling to deal with the increasing violence, challenging working environments and destructive budget cuts that have seen a drastic reduction in staffing and have made our establishments dangerous and unsafe places of work.”

Shadow prisons minister Jo Stevens said: “Any sensible employer undertaking major changes in the workplace would actively engage with their workforce right at the start, so those changes have the best chance of success.

“Our prisons are overcrowded, understaffed and violence against prison officers is at record levels. Prison officers rightly feel aggrieved about the lack of consultation with them.”

Last month the Ministry of Justice announced nearly £13 million of funds to deal with prison safety issues.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “This morning’s unlawful industrial action lasted an hour or less at most prisons.

“All staff have now resumed normal working. An appropriate level of security was in place across the prison estate at all times.

“Strike action is unlawful for prison officers. We are in regular contact with unions and are continuing discussions to address any concerns they have.

“The safety and security of our prisons is a top priority and well-established plans are in place to respond to action and maintain stable regimes.”