On Tuesday, I asked the Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss MP, what her department was doing to decrease the number of sick days taken by prison officers.
The number of sicks days have risen to 200,000 days in the past 12 months. This is due in part to the increase attacks on prison officers committed by prisoners.
As you will be aware, I have only just held a Westminster Hall Debate on prison safety and security and pointed out to the Minister that every indicator for prison safety and security was moving in the wrong direction. Prisoner on prisoner attacks have dramatically increased, prisoner on prison officer attacks have increased, the use of narcotics has increased, the use of weapons in attacks has increased, and the use of mobile phones has increased.
The Department need to get a grip of this problem, which is in part their own making. They have cut prison officers by 7,000 since 2010 creating a lack of manpower to manage the prisons. The Justice Secretary is now on a recruitment drive to increase the number of prison officers – in an effort to atone for the Government’s past failings. But this has created a new problem. We now have inexperienced prison officers and experienced prisoners: a worrying combination.
The Secretary of State stated that the Prisons Minister holds regular meetings on sick days and that they are recruiting more prison officers. As welcomed as this is, we were telling the Government that they would create problems by cutting prison officer numbers so much yet they ignored us.
If this problem is not dealt with there will be more prison riots, more prison officer attacks and a higher re-offending rate.