Crime Reduction

31.08.16

Fall in prison officer numbers has created ‘toxic cocktail’

Prison officer numbers are still at dangerously low levels despite government efforts to recruit more, a prisons’ charity has said.

New analysis from the Howard League of Penal Reform shows that in 2016, there were 14,689 officers working in UK prisons, compared to 15,110 in 2015.

Prison officer numbers fell from 17,190 to 14,660 between 2013 and 2014, prompting two years of efforts to recruit more officers.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Reducing resources while allowing the prison population to grow unchecked has created a toxic cocktail of violence, death and human misery. These figures show how reductions in staffing and problems in recruiting and retaining new staff are feeding the problems behind bars.

“The vast majority of those sent to prison will be released back to the community and so it matters to all of us what happens to people when they are sent to prison. Throwing someone into a raging torrent of violence, drugs and despair is not going to help that person steer away from crime. On the contrary, it will feed more crime and create yet more pressure on the failing prisons.

“The Ministry of Justice can look again at its recruitment policies but only wide-ranging reforms, which include a serious attempt at reducing prison numbers, will move us away from institutions that shame the nation.”

Cuts in prison officer numbers have been linked to increasingly dangerous conditions in prisons. In June 2015-16 321 people died in prison custody, a 30% increase from the previous year. This included 105 people who are thought to have taken their own lives.

In March 2015-16, self-harm in prisons increased by 27% to 34,586 incidents and assaults on prison staff increased by 40% to 5,423 incidents.

The biggest drops in prison officer numbers were in the East Midlands (8%), the south west (7%) and the West Midlands (7%).

A programme of reforms designed to make it easier to rehabilitate prisoners was announced under the last government. However, P J McParlin, chair of the Prison Officers’ Association, told PSE that the dangerous conditions in prisons would make it hard for the reforms to be effective.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We have recruited 2,900 staff over the last 12 months and are taking significant action to make sure we have appropriate staffing levels.

“The secretary of state is determined to make sure our prisons are safe and places of rehabilitation and will set out her plans for reform shortly.”

The Howard League for Penal Reform warned recently that children in care homes are being increasingly 'criminalised' by staff calling the police unnecessarily.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here.

 

Comments

Marianne Overton MBE   04/09/2016 at 12:56

Just reducing prisoner numbers on its own would be more dangerous still if these people who need help are left loose and inadequately supported in the community. There has to be a realistic alternative and that costs money. We need Workers with tiny case loads, three or four, and real access to a range of other support devices. The vast majority of inmates are damaged by abuse or drugs and abusing them further by locking them up with violence and drugs clearly makes it worse. Much more is needed on assertive outreach to prevent reoffending. Just spending money on more prisons that are rarely successful is throwing good money after bad, without tackling the underlying causes and mental health.

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Funding inequalities could destroy public services in rural areas

20/11/2017Funding inequalities could destroy public services in rural areas

Central government funding per resident in county authorities was almost 50% below large cities last year, with councils saying the situation cou... more >
Major growth investment includes £1.7bn city transport fund

20/11/2017Major growth investment includes £1.7bn city transport fund

The government has today announced that it will release £1.7bn of extra funding for cities ahead of Wednesday’s Budget. Prime mi... more >
Counties and districts clash over suggestion to scrap two-tier authorities

20/11/2017Counties and districts clash over suggestion to scrap two-tier authorities

A report suggesting that scrapping district councils could save £2.9bn a year has prompted anger from the District Councils Network (DCN). ... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough,... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the open — and this needs to happen as soon as possible. The fire at Grenfell Tower has been an unimaginable tragedy and it continues to be a hu... more > more last word articles >
Funding inequalities could destroy public services in rural areas

20/11/2017Funding inequalities could destroy public services in rural areas

Central government funding per resident in county authorities was almost 50% below large cities last year, with councils saying the situation could quickly deteriorate, new research released toda... more >
Major growth investment includes £1.7bn city transport fund

20/11/2017Major growth investment includes £1.7bn city transport fund

The government has today announced that it will release £1.7bn of extra funding for cities ahead of Wednesday’s Budget. Prime minister Theresa May made the announcement, which in... more >

the raven's daily blog

Visual.ONS: How to compete with the big data aggregators

13/11/2017Visual.ONS: How to compete with the big data aggregators

Advertisement feature Christopher Gallagher, territory manager at SAS, explains how big data can be used by the public sector to find innovative solutions to common problems.  I have been really impressed by the work of Visual.ONS – the team at the Office for National Statistics, who are responsible for exploring imaginati... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Driving forward a healthier Scotland

10/11/2017Driving forward a healthier Scotland

Dundee City Council is leading the way in boosting electric vehicle (EV) uptake in Scotland, writes Rebecca Wallace from the local authority&rsqu... more >
A smarter approach to digital transformation

10/11/2017A smarter approach to digital transformation

Catherine Bright, Smarter Digital Services (SDS) manager, explains how a partnership of 12 councils across Kent and Surrey are jointly funding a ... more >
Delivering on estates

10/11/2017Delivering on estates

Sam Ulyatt, strategic category commercial director at the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), on how a new framework can help public sector organisat... more >
Open for business

10/11/2017Open for business

Clare Moore, senior specialist of valuation and disposals at the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), explains how public sector bodies looking to... more >

interviews

‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

30/06/2017‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

Keith Smith, public sector business development manager at Virgin Media Business, tells PSE’s Luana Salles that health and social care orga... more >
HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

26/06/2017HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

Mark Hall, Chief Assurance Officer at Redcentric, discusses NHS Digital’s project, the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) and what b... more >
Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

25/04/2017Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

Ahead of this year’s mayoral elections, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, tells PSE’s David Stevenson why the argu... more >
New social care funding misses the point

13/04/2017New social care funding misses the point

Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, reflects on the social care funding released in this year’s ... more >

public sector focus

View all News