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

Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

21/09/2017Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

Strikes by refuse workers in Birmingham have this week been called off after the union won an important High Court ruling. Unite has called ... more >
IFS: Public sector faces recruitment chaos if pay cap is not dropped

21/09/2017IFS: Public sector faces recruitment chaos if pay cap is not dropped

The public sector will face major recruitment and retention issues if pay restraints, which are pushing wages to historically low levels, are con... more >
‘Fundamental rethink’ on social housing needed as Javid brings forward green paper

20/09/2017‘Fundamental rethink’ on social housing needed as Javid brings forward green paper

A wide-ranging, top-to-bottom green paper on social housing is to be brought forward by the government, Sajid Javid has this week announced. ... more >

editor's comment

14/08/2017Time for reflection

A lot has happened since the last edition of PSE was published. In particular, the snap general election delivered an astounding result that many of the pollsters and political experts could not have predicted when Theresa May initially called for it back in April. Chris Painter, Professor Emeritus at Birmingham City University, provides a fascinating analysis of the campaign, and assesses the aftermath of the election on pages 26-28. I... 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 >
Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

21/09/2017Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

Strikes by refuse workers in Birmingham have this week been called off after the union won an important High Court ruling. Unite has called off the strike as a judge granted an interim injun... more >
IFS: Public sector faces recruitment chaos if pay cap is not dropped

21/09/2017IFS: Public sector faces recruitment chaos if pay cap is not dropped

The public sector will face major recruitment and retention issues if pay restraints, which are pushing wages to historically low levels, are continued by the government, experts have today warne... more >

the raven's daily blog

How do we deliver true social and economic value for the community?

18/09/2017How do we deliver true social and economic value for the community?

Five years on from the introduction of the Social Value Act, Alison Ramsey, frameworks co-ordinator at Scape Procure, reflects on the key questions that prompted the legislation’s introduction. The Social Value Act was an important landmark. It decisively addressed the need for major public projects led by all public bodies to maxim... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Support for councils following Grenfell

04/09/2017Support for councils following Grenfell

Ian Moore, CEO of the Fire Industry Association (FIA), discusses the wider lessons of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and what measures and assess... more >
A quiet revolution

04/09/2017A quiet revolution

Dermot Ryan, programme director at NHS Digital for the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN), talks to PSE about the importance of moving to the ... more >
Effective leadership in uncertain times

04/09/2017Effective leadership in uncertain times

Dr David Beech, lecturer in people management at Salford Business School, argues that continuous renewal and progress is fundamental to effective... more >
Refocusing professional development

04/09/2017Refocusing professional development

Graeme McDonald, managing director of Solace, discusses the importance of taking time out to focus on learning, especially in the ever-changing l... 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