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20 Oct 2014

Public-sector prison officer numbers cut by 41 per cent

A prison officer walks along a corridor in Send prison

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 here.

Contact

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

ISDN line available on 020 7923 4196 – uses a G722 system

For enquiries outside normal office hours, please call +44 (0)7918 681094.

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