Prison officer cuts run deep

HMP Lancaster Farms
HMP Lancaster Farms
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Cuts to the number of prison officers at HMP Lancaster Farms have had a big impact on existing staff and prisoners.

According to figures released by the Howard League of Penal Reform, between 2013 and 2016 the number of prison officers at HMP Lancaster Farms fell from 140 to 110.

Sarah Rigby, the Prison Officers Association branch chair at HMP Lancaster Farms said: “The reduced staffing levels do mean that my colleagues and I do not feel as safe or confident in dealing with prisoners as we previously have done.

“When I first started working at Lancaster Farms there could be between eight and 10 prison officers to supervise meal time when all of the wing would be unlocked.

“There are now three Prison Officers to supervise at meal times when the whole wing is unlocked. This is stressful and impacts on both staff and prisoners alike.

“The reduced staffing levels also have an impact on prisoners in that we struggle to deliver as high a level of care as we used to be able to. There is little time for general conversation and for building good staff/prisoner relationships.”

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “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.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman 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.”