Woodhill festive staff shortages ‘worst in country’

MPMC Woodhill Prison
MPMC Woodhill Prison

Woodhill Prison will have the worst staff shortages of any prison England and Wales over Christmas and New Year, it has been claimed.

32 officers are being sent to Woodhill five high-security prisons to cover shortages over November and December, according to pressure group The Howard League For Penal Reform.

And six staff are being called in from elsewhere to work each day on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

A Howard League spokesman said: “Woodhill isn’t alone in having to contend with a toxic mixture of chronic overcrowding, a rising prison population and deep staff cuts. That is something which should concern us all.

“It makes life more difficult for staff, and life less pleasant for prisoners. And when prison’s regimes become more restricted, with less meaningful activity for inmates, then they are more likely to re-offend when they are eventually released.

“All across England and Wales we’ve seen an alarming rise in the number of violent incidents in prisons, as well as self-harm and suicides by prisoners.

“It should surprise no one if prisoners who are locked up in their cells for inappropriate lengths of time act violently when they do get out.”

Earlier this month the Citizen reported how the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) had also highlighted the issue of staff shortages at Woodhill.

The IMB’s 2014 report said that staff shortages had necessitated restricting prison life for inmates “in order to maintain a secure environment

While 239 officers are being moved to 50 prisons on detached duty, Woodhill has more staff coming from elsewhere than any other.

Staff are coming to Woodhill from as far afield as HMP Frankland in County Durham.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “This is another example of the Howard League twisting the facts to try and paint a picture of disarray in the prison system.

“Sending prison officers on detached duty is a sensible and proportionate way of managing temporary staffing shortfalls and is something the service has used for over 20 years.

“Prison staff have done a fantastic job maintaining safe and decent prison regimes during a period of significant change and I would like to thank them all for their dedication.”