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18 Dec 2014

Prisons hit by staff shortages in run-up to Christmas

More than 230 prison officers are being asked to work in other prisons in the run-up to Christmas as governors across England and Wales face a major staffing crisis, plans seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform indicate.

The charity has been shown official documents, drawn up in the autumn, which outline measures to tackle staff shortages in prisons during November and December. They identify more than 50 prisons to be asked to provide officers to plug gaps elsewhere in the system.

Struggling prisons due to receive additional officers under the plans include Elmley, where nine prisoners have died so far this year; High Down, the scene of a major disturbance last year; Feltham; Wormwood Scrubs; Nottingham; and Woodhill, which holds maximum-security prisoners.

The plans require 239 officers to be moved to other prisons on detached duty during November and December.

A specific document about staffing on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day indicates that about 56 officers will be asked to work in other prisons on these bank holidays. The document suggests that some officers will be required to work in prisons more than 60 miles away.

The move comes after Howard League research revealed that the number of frontline officers in public-sector prisons has been cut by 41 per cent in less than four years.

Almost all the prisons asked to provide additional officers in the run-up to Christmas are themselves having to contend with severe staff cuts.

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: “This provides evidence for a system under extreme stress. Taxpayers’ money is being squandered on shoring up a failing system. We know that each week a prison officer works in another prison can cost the taxpayer up to an additional £500, which adds up to hundreds of thousands over the months the emergency use of ‘detached duty’ has been operating. Prisons holding children are being asked to release staff and drive them up and down motorways to help out at adult jails facing an emergency over the holidays. Politicians must accept responsibility for the chaos their policies are inflicting on the prison service, on staff and on the public.”

 

Detached duty during November and December

Documents seen by the Howard League identify more than 50 prisons to be asked to provide staff to tackle shortages in other institutions during November and December. The table below lists these prisons and indicates where their officers were due to be sent.

Prisons sending staff elsewhere on detached duty
From To
Aylesbury YOI 1 officer to Leeds
Bedford 2 to Aylesbury; 1 to Leicester
Bristol 1 to Bullingdon
Brixton 2 to Isis; 3 to Wormwood Scrubs
Buckley Hall 3 to Haverigg
Bure 7 to Chelmsford; 4 to Elmley; 4 to Gartree; 3 to Isis
Cardiff 5 to Bullingdon
Channings Wood 2 to Aylesbury
Dartmoor 2 to Swaleside
Deerbolt YOI 4 to Hull
Dover 3 to Elmley; 3 to Rochester
Downview* 10 to Feltham; 18 to High Down; 1 to Swaleside; 6 to Wormwood Scrubs
Durham 2 to Gartree; 1 to Leicester
East Sutton Park (women) 1 to Rochester
Eastwood Park (women) 3 to Aylesbury
Exeter 1 to Aylesbury; 1 to Swaleside
Ford 1 to Elmley; 1 to Rochester
Garth 1 to Isis; 2 to Wormwood Scrubs
Glen Parva YOI 1 to Leicester; 1 to Onley
Guys Marsh 1 to Aylesbury; 2 to Elmley
Holloway (women) 3 to Isis; 4 to Pentonville
Holme House 3 to Nottingham
Kennet 1 to Haverigg
Kirklevington Grange 2 to Hull
Lancaster Farms 3 to Haverigg
Leeds 1 to Brinsford; 5 to Elmley; 4 to Hull; 1 to National Tactical Response Group
Lewes 2 to Swaleside
Leyhill 1 to Bullingdon
Littlehey 3 to Aylesbury; 2 to Chelmsford; 4 to Elmley; 2 to Glen Parva; 1 to Nottingham
Liverpool 1 to Onley
Low Newton (women) 4 to Hull
Maidstone 1 to Isis; 2 to Swaleside
Moorland 1 to National Tactical Response Group
Morton Hall 1 to Glen Parva; 1 to Nottingham
New Hall 1 to Brinsford
North Sea Camp 3 to Nottingham
Norwich 4 to Chelmsford; 3 to Elmley
Preston 2 to Nottingham; 2 to Swaleside
Risley 2 to Aylesbury; 2 to Nottingham
Send (women) 1 to Aylesbury; 1 to High Down
Stafford 2 to Brinsford
Stocken 1 to Glen Parva; 3 to Nottingham
Stoke Heath 3 to Brinsford
Swansea 2 to Bullingdon
Thorn Cross 1 to Haverigg
The Verne 3 to Aylesbury; 2 to Bullingdon; 2 to Elmley; 1 to Isis; 5 to Swaleside; 2 to Wormwood Scrubs
Warren Hill 2 to Chelmsford; 5 to Cookham Wood
Wandsworth 1 to Onley
Wealstun 1 to Brinsford
Wetherby YOI 2 to Elmley; 1 to Swaleside
Whatton 2 to Brinsford
Winchester 2 to Aylesbury
PLUS: 32 officers to be sent to Woodhill prison from high security prisons (Frankland, Full Sutton, Long Lartin, Wakefield and/or Whitemoor)

*Downview prison is currently empty as it is in the process of being re-rolled from a women’s prison to a men’s prison.

Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day

Documents seen by the Howard League also include plans to send additional officers on detached duty to 14 overstretched prisons on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. The arrangements are outlined in the table below:

Aylesbury to receive four officers each day – from Send (55 miles away) and Littlehey (52 miles away).
Brinsford to receive four officers each day – from Stafford (12.7) and Stoke Heath (29).
Bullingdon to receive four officers each day. Two to come from Winchester (69.6) and another two volunteers to be sought from elsewhere.
Chelmsford to receive five officers each day. Two to come from Warren Hill (58.9) with another three volunteers to be sought from elsewhere.
Elmley to receive six officers each day. Three to come from Dover (57.5) and another three volunteers to be sought from elsewhere.
Feltham to receive three officers each day, probably from Downview*.
Haverigg to receive two officers from Lancaster Farms (56) each day.
High Down to receive five officers each day, probably from Downview*.
Hull to receive four officers from Leeds (64) each day.
Isis to receive three officers each day – two from Holloway (13) and one from Brixton (12.3).
Nottingham to receive four officers each day. Two to come from Stocken (39.4), one to come from Morton Hall (32.4) and another volunteer to be sought from elsewhere.
Swaleside to receive three officers each day. Two to come from Maidstone (20) and another volunteer to be sought from elsewhere.
Six volunteers to be sought to work in Woodhill each day.
Wormwood Scrubs to receive three officers each day, probably from Downview* (17.3).

*Downview prison is currently empty as it is in the process of being re-rolled from a women’s prison to a men’s prison.

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. The scale of prison staffing cuts across England and Wales is shown in the Howard League’s research briefing paper, Breaking point: Understaffing and overcrowding in prisons and an update on even further cuts to staff.

Contact

Rob Preece
Press Officer
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7880
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 60495
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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