Union says drop in officers at Risley could put community at risk

HMP Risley

HMP Thorn Cross

First published in News

PRISON officer numbers at HMP Thorn Cross and HMP Risley have dropped significantly, with union fears it will ‘put the community at risk’.

According to figures released by charity the Howard League for Penal Reform, officers at Thorn Cross open prison have dropped from 100 to 60, in the last three years.

At Risley, officer numbers have dropped from 283 to 220.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The prison system is at breaking point.

“Everyone should be concerned at the crisis in prisons as when people come out of jail they are more likely to inflict more crime on us.”

The ‘misleading’ figures have been disputed by the Ministry of Justice.

It said staffing levels have been agreed with unions to ensure prisons are ‘safe, efficient and decent’, and the quality of service has not been reduced.

The Prison Officers’ Association said frontline staff numbers are inadequate, jeopardising safety and preventing rehabilitation, making re-offending more likely.

A spokesman said: “We have warned the Moj the reduction of staff is resulting in more violence, more drugs, and more serious incidents of self-harm against prisoners.

“As a result, local communities will be put at risk, and the problems will continue as frontline staff are taken away from a service that operates 365 days a year.”

According to Moj figures, there are currently 325 prisoners at Thorn Cross, from a capacity of 331, compared to 322, three years ago.

There are 1,083 prisoners at Riley, from a capacity of 1,095, compared to 1,050, three years ago.

Warrington North MP Helen Jones said cuts were leaving prisons ‘overstretched’ in what is a ‘very difficult job’.

“(Cuts) are also leading to workshops being closed and wings being shut down,” she said.

“Prison officers need the right level of staff to do their job.

“The government is failing on all counts. It's making it much harder for prisoner officers.”

As revealed in the Warrington Guardian, the number of inmates absconding from Thorn Cross, in Appleton Thorn, has risen.

One has absconded every week in the last two years.

Warrington South MP David Mowat said he was monitoring the situation, in light of fewer frontline staff.

He said: “The level of absconding prisoners from Thorn Cross has remained broadly stable although it is still too high.

“I am continuing to work on this with prison governor and prisons minister and I will continue to keep local residents informed.”

Comments (1)

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10:19am Fri 18 Jul 14

China says...

What a joke! My OH was an officer but got out when they offered a package last year to reduce staff levels as it was stressful then and he had been an officer for a long time and had never known the morale amongst staff to be so low. It is even more stressful now for the officers left behind. The biggest laugh of all is that the MOJ have been sending out letters to those who took a package just 9 months ago offering them short term temporarly contracts to come back - I think that speaks volumes.
So many people are so quick to give prison staff a bad rep and criticise them but those guys work in a dangerous and tense environment with some of the dregs of society (let's face it the vast majority, though not all, of those who are in prison are there because they have been through all the other options, community service, probation, etc so they are no angels). The assaults on officers continue to rise. There is a FB page called "Know the Danger"..... makes interesting reading.
The community SHOULD be concerned about what is going on in the prisons and about staffing levels.
What a joke! My OH was an officer but got out when they offered a package last year to reduce staff levels as it was stressful then and he had been an officer for a long time and had never known the morale amongst staff to be so low. It is even more stressful now for the officers left behind. The biggest laugh of all is that the MOJ have been sending out letters to those who took a package just 9 months ago offering them short term temporarly contracts to come back - I think that speaks volumes. So many people are so quick to give prison staff a bad rep and criticise them but those guys work in a dangerous and tense environment with some of the dregs of society (let's face it the vast majority, though not all, of those who are in prison are there because they have been through all the other options, community service, probation, etc so they are no angels). The assaults on officers continue to rise. There is a FB page called "Know the Danger"..... makes interesting reading. The community SHOULD be concerned about what is going on in the prisons and about staffing levels. China
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