HMP Birmingham guards could walk out again over unprecedented violence

HMP Birmingham guards could walk out again over \unprecedented\ violence
Prison staff protesting over inmate violence – POA union
Steve Gillan, the general secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA), said on Friday that its 20,000 members working in English and Welsh prisons should protest outside their workplaces until instructed otherwise.

The 7am call came less than a day after the chief inspector of prisons, Peter Clarke, took emergency action over dire conditions at HMP Bedford.

The Ministry of Justice has warned the Prison Officers Association that protests planned across England and Wales are unlawful and irresponsible and that all officers told to join the picket lines should return to their duty stations.

The prisons minister Rory Stewart said the walkout was illegal and irresponsible, and urged officers to return to work. The Ministry of Justice said it would seek an injunction to bring the action to an end.

Thousands of prison officers expected to stage walkout as ministers seek injunction to stop irresponsible strike

Gillan said officers had the right to walk out under health and safety legislation. The government and employer have a duty of care toward my members, and Im fed up of hearing of my members receiving smashed eye sockets, broken arms, broken legs, broken jaws, being attacked, spat on, having excrement and urine thrown at them, and enough is enough now.

Images posted on social media showed walkouts at prisons across the country, including Manchester, Holme House in Stockton-on-Tees, Durham, Wymott in Lancashire, Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey, the Isle of Man and Low Newton in County Durham.

Bedford is the fourth prison to be subject to the urgent notification protocol after Exeter, Nottingham and Birmingham, which was temporarily taken from its private operator, G4S, and returned to state control.

The POA said its members were facing unprecedented levels of violence in a crisis it blamed on government cuts.

Gillan accused ministers of paying lip service to the health and safety of my members and breaking safety commitments to prison staff.

We will now be demanding that the government provide safe prisons, meet our demands to improve personal protective equipment, [and] reduce levels of violence and overcrowding as set out by Lord Justice Woolf in his report into the riots of 1990.

Read more The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, said he backed the walkout. Conservative cuts to prison budgets and staffing levels have led to violence spiralling out of control in our prisons. Prison staff all too often pay the price, with assaults on officers doubling since Tory cuts started to bite.

To stabilise our prisons, the government needs to launch an emergency plan with substantial new funds to end understaffing and overcrowding across the prison estate.

Clarke invoked the urgent notification protocol for Bedford prison after inspectors found high levels of violence and inexperienced staff struggling to maintain control. He said standards had been declining unchecked for nine years.

The protocol requires the justice secretary, David Gauke, to draw up an action plan for Bedford within 28 days to turn the prison around.

Stewart said: Prison officers do vital and important work and we urge them to return to their duty stations, in line with their obligations to the law and the prison service.

Its irresponsible for the POA to encourage their members to take this illegal action. We are deploying our contingency plans but, by not turning up for work, these prison officers are putting their fellow staff and inmates at risk.

Yesterday we doubled the prison sentence for anyone who assaults prison officers. Weve also increased pay, provided tools such as body-worn cameras to increase security on the landings, and are investing £40m to improve the estate and tackle the drugs problem which is fuelling much of the violence. And weve now got 3,500 new officers to help ease the burden.

Im fed up of hearing of my members receiving smashed eye sockets, broken arms, broken legs… enough is enough, says jail staff union leader


Posted in Birmingham