It appears that Chris Grayling was so successful in reducing the number of prison officers and making the environment so toxic, nobody seems interested in working there any more. This from the recent Howard League press release:-
Prison officer numbers fall again as major recruitment drive fails
The number of frontline officers working in public-sector prisons has fallen over the last year, despite Ministry of Justice plans to recruit additional staff to help respond to the highest levels of violence, suicide and self-injury since recording practices began.
Statistics seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform show that there were 14,689 frontline officers (full time equivalent) in England and Wales in June 2016, down from 15,110 a year earlier. This leaves prisons with barely more frontline staff than the lows of 2014, which prompted the Ministry of Justice to embark on a major recruitment exercise.
Almost every region has seen frontline officer numbers fall in the last year, with the most significant reductions recorded in the East Midlands (8 per cent), the South West (7 per cent) and the West Midlands (7 per cent).
Previous research by the Howard League has shown how prison officer numbers were cut by 30 per cent between 2010 and 2013. Today’s figures indicate that, in spite of the government’s recruitment drive, people remain unwilling to work in prisons under present conditions.
While officer numbers fell between June 2013 and June 2016, the prison population across England and Wales rose from 83,796 to 85,130 – putting more pressure on a failing system.
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.”As the prison population has grown and frontline officer numbers have fallen, safety in jails has deteriorated significantly. Ministry of Justice statistics released last month showed that 321 people died in prison custody during the year to the end of June 2016 – an increase of 30 per cent on the previous 12 months. They included 105 people who are thought to have taken their own lives.
Reported incidents of self-harm in prisons have risen by 27 per cent in a year. There were 34,586 reported incidents in the 12 months to the end of March 2016 – one every 15 minutes. The number of assaults on prison staff has increased by 40 per cent. There were 5,423 incidents during the 12 months to the end of March 2016 – at a rate of almost 15 per day.
What the figures mean for prisons in the north east, as reported on the Chronicle website:-
Lives are being put at risk due to the decreasing numbers of frontline public-sector prison officers in the North East, it has been claimed. A representative of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has also labelled the situation “critical” and has described it as a “constant state of crisis management” after figures were released showing that frontline officers numbers had decreased once again over the past year.
The Howard League for Penal Reform has collected Ministry of Justice figures which show that there are now just 1,000 full-time prison officers in the North East’s six public-sector prisons as of June 2016, down from 1,030 a year previously. Five of the six prisons in the North East have seen a reduction in their staff levels over the past year. Only Low Newton in Durham saw an increase in prison-officer numbers in the last 12 months, from 100 to 116.
And this is in spite of a Government plan, launched in 2014, which aimed to increase recruitment into the service in a bid to respond to the highest levels of violence, suicide and self-injury recorded in prisons since statistics were collated.
Prison-officer numbers are now barely above the low of 2014, when staff levels had been cut by 30% over the preceding three years. And Terry Fullerton - the POA National Executive representative for the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside - believes the decreasing numbers are dangerous to staff and inmates alike.
He said: “The marked reduction in prison-officer levels puts lives at risk - both those of the inmates and of the prison officers themselves. It is no coincidence that violence inside prisons has risen at the same time as staff numbers have been cuts. Murders inside prisons are at a level not seen in more than a decade. The situation is critical. We are essentially in a constant state of crisis management. I’ve worked in the industry for almost three decades, I’ve never seen resources stretched this thin before.”
As of June 2016, there were 103 prison officers at Deerbolt, County Durham, down from 110 in June last year. At Durham prison there were 159 officers, down one on 2015; at Frankland, County Durham there were 407, down from 420; at Holme House, County Durham numbers had fallen by 12 to 178 and at Kirklevington Grange, North Yorkshire there were 37 officers, down from 50.
The trend is not just specific to the North East, however, with the number of public-sector officers falling from 15,110 to 14,689 nationwide from the year to June 2016. At the same time, overall prison population has risen from 83,796 in June 2013 to 85,130 in June 2016.
Across Britain, 321 people died in prison custody during the year to the end of June 2016 - including 105 cases of suspected suicide - a staggering 30% increase on the previous 12 months. There were five cases of suicide in North-East prisons in 2015 alone, while Michelle Barnes is suspected of killing herself at Low Newton Prison in February. Reported self-harm cases also rose 27%, with 34,586 in the year up to March 2016.
What’s more, assaults on prison staff were also up 40% - with an average of 15 per day up to March 2016, and a total of 5,423 altogether. And Mr Fullerton believes such statistics are deterring potential recruits from joining the prison service.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, the figures of increased violence from inmates put potential recruits off too,” Mr Fullerton added. Not only are prison officers leaving in their droves, but nobody else wants to join anyway.”
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League, has also criticised the Ministry of Justice for failing to keep prison-officer numbers high.
“Reducing resources while allowing the prison population to grow unchecked has created a toxic cocktail of violence, death and human misery,” Mr Neilson said. These figures show how reductions in staffing and problems in recruiting and retaining new staff are feeding the problems behind bars. 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.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Safe prisons are fundamental to the proper functioning of our justice system. Our dedicated prison staff, who support tens of thousands of prisoners every day, are vital to the safe running of our prisons. 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.”