Public-sector prison officer numbers cut by 41 per cent

Media release

Public-sector prison officer numbers cut by 41 per cent

Monday 20 October 2014

The number of officers at public-sector prisons in England and Wales has been cut by 41 per cent in less than four years, figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today (Monday 20 October).

Research published by the charity shows that there were only 14,170 officer grade staff working in prisons run by the state at the end of June 2014. There were more than 24,000 at the end of August 2010.

Cuts include 1,375 officer posts that were lost when 15 public-sector prisons were closed during the period.

The drop in officer numbers nationwide has coincided with a deepening prison overcrowding crisis and an alarming rise in the number of self-inflicted deaths in custody.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The prison system is in crisis, and these figures reveal why. While the prison population has grown, officer numbers have been cut without any thought for the consequences.

“A shortage of governors makes matters even worse, because officers are being taken off the wings and asked to ‘act up’ to fill vacancies.

“Having made prison officers redundant, the Ministry of Justice is now apparently struggling to recruit. These are desperate times, and ministers are resorting to desperate measures.”

In July 2014, the Howard League warned that prisons were at breaking point as it revealed figures showing officer numbers had been cut in all prisons – public and private – by 30 per cent in three years.

The charity’s findings were supported by the Prison Governors’ Association and the prison officers’ union, the POA, who urged the government to act.

Since then, the damaging impact of staff cuts has been highlighted in a series of inspection reports published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. Safety concerns were raised in reports on Ranby, Glen Parva, Hindley, Isis, Wormwood Scrubs, and Swaleside prisons.

Today’s figures show how staffing levels are getting worse, not better – and how public-sector prisons have borne the brunt of the cuts.

Frances Crook said: “Last week, the outgoing president of the Prison Governors’ Association revealed that officers were being shipped from the north to plug gaps in the south, and being put up in hotels at a cost of £500 per week each. I understand that this arrangement is being built into long-term planning. Nobody knows how much it will cost, so the government is writing itself a blank cheque.

“As well as being a shameful waste of taxpayers’ money, this approach will only create more disruption in jails. Good relationships between prisoners and staff are key to a well-run prison, and such relationships will be harder to achieve.

“Prison officers must respond to emergencies, and it is potentially disastrous to ask lowly-paid staff, demoralised and far from home, to work in different, unfamiliar prisons each week. Established officers, already working under great pressure, will have to spend time explaining where things are and how things work.

“The only solution to this crisis is one that successive governments have ducked. There are many people in custody who have not committed serious or violent offences and it is time for a hard look at who we send to prison and why. We must reduce the prison population.”

Prison officer numbers

Prison

Population        (Jun-14)

Prison officers

% change

Aug-10

Jun-14

East of England

Bedford

505

143

100

-30%

Bure

621

152

130

-14%

Chelmsford

690

214

140

-35%

Highpoint

1,320

306

190

-38%

Hollesley Bay

432

52

50

-4%

Littlehey

728

271

180

-34%

Norwich

767

211

170

-19%

The Mount

776

158

110

-30%

Warren Hill

164

142

90

-37%

Wayland

997

214

140

-35%

Whitemoor

457

411

290

-29%

East Midlands

Foston Hall

295

140

80

-43%

Gartree

699

221

130

-41%

Glen Parva

658

250

130

-48%

Leicester

364

138

80

-42%

Lincoln

697

207

120

-42%

North Sea Camp

379

56

30

-46%

Nottingham

1,097

317

160

-50%

Onley

679

204

90

-56%

Ranby

1,088

253

150

-41%

Stocken

838

188

120

-36%

Sudbury

574

64

40

-38%

Whatton

834

189

130

-31%

London

Belmarsh

880

508

330

-35%

Brixton

724

211

120

-43%

Feltham

574

403

280

-31%

Holloway

533

226

120

-47%

Isis

615

125

110

-12%

Pentonville

1,321

379

220

-42%

Wandsworth

1,623

427

260

-39%

Wormwood Scrubs

1,258

310

200

-35%

North East

Deerbolt

466

178

120

-33%

Durham

939

311

160

-49%

Frankland

784

604

420

-30%

Holme House

1,195

336

200

-40%

Kirklevington Grange

283

51

40

-22%

Low Newton

323

141

100

-29%

North West

Buckley Hall

443

102

80

-22%

Garth

773

276

150

-46%

Haverigg

638

140

80

-43%

Hindley

276

260

170

-35%

Kennet

281

136

50

-63%

Kirkham

625

87

60

-31%

Lancaster Farms

369

216

110

-49%

Liverpool

1,246

366

210

-43%

Manchester

1,151

503

340

-32%

Preston

714

261

150

-43%

Risley

1,083

283

180

-36%

Styal

440

184

110

-40%

Thorn Cross

325

100

60

-40%

Wymott

1,100

268

180

-33%

South East

Aylesbury

441

159

90

-43%

Blantyre House

117

31

20

-35%

Bullingdon

1,110

263

170

-35%

Coldingley

513

131

80

-39%

Cookham Wood

141

125

80

-36%

Downview*

0

120

60

-50%

East Sutton Park

82

22

10

-55%

Ford

520

60

40

-33%

Grendon/Springhill

529

135

100

-26%

High Down

1,152

260

150

-42%

Huntercombe

402

141

70

-50%

Isle of Wight

1,128

473

230

-51%

Lewes

693

206

140

-32%

Maidstone

588

144

90

-38%

Rochester

733

233

120

-48%

Send

278

90

70

-22%

Sheppey Cluster

2,796

740

440

-41%

Winchester

682

201

140

-30%

Woodhill

810

452

290

-36%

South West

Bristol

611

210

130

-38%

Channings Wood

719

178

120

-33%

Dartmoor

650

163

100

-39%

Eastwood Park

319

151

100

-34%

Erlestoke and Shepton Mallet**

488

182

90

-51%

Exeter

536

176

110

-38%

Guys Marsh

573

130

100

-23%

Leyhill

506

69

50

-28%

Portland

575

200

120

-40%

Wales

Cardiff

804

267

160

-40%

Swansea

451

148

100

-32%

Usk/Prescoed

483

90

60

-33%

West Midlands

Brinsford

492

237

130

-45%

Drake Hall

314

89

60

-33%

Featherstone

684

150

100

-33%

Hewell

1,289

330

170

-48%

Long Lartin

596

403

290

-28%

Stafford

735

184

100

-46%

Stoke Heath

637

237

140

-41%

Swinfen Hall

592

201

120

-40%

Werrington

107

86

70

-19%

Yorkshire and the Humber

Askham Grange

90

26

10

-62%

Full Sutton

601

444

320

-28%

Hull

755

308

180

-42%

Humber

1,058

168

110

-35%

Leeds

1,213

383

200

-48%

Lindholme

998

240

160

-33%

Moorland

1,255

305

200

-34%

New Hall

411

206

130

-37%

Wakefield

736

425

270

-36%

Wealstun

799

205

160

-22%

Wetherby

204

232

160

-31%

Closed prisons

1,375

0

TOTAL

69,637

24,077

14,170

-41%

*Downview is empty as it is being re-roled from a women’s prison to a men’s prison

**Partially closed

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the UK. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. Figures were obtained from Ministry of Justice statistical releases.
  3. Breaking point: Understaffing and overcrowding in prisons can be downloaded at here.

Contact

Rob Preece
Press Officer
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7880
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955
Email: robert.preece@howardleague.org

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