Prison crisis: Cuts in officer numbers at Milton Keynes prison ‘puts lives at risk’

HMP Woodhill Prison
HMP Woodhill Prison
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Staff cuts at Woodhill have contributed to a “crisis”in the prison system, according to a prisoner welfare charity.

Figures published by The Howard League for Penal Reform revealed the number of frontline officers working at HMP Woodhill has been cut by 36 per cent in four years.

But Prisons Minister, Andrew Selous MPslammed the research and accused the charity of deliberately misleading the public – despite the fact the figures has were released by the Ministry of Justice itself.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at Howard League, said: “We asked a parliamentary question in 2012 about the numbers of frontline officers in each prison in each year since 2010 and compared the Ministry of Justice answer with the data it has published in 2014.

“We can do nothing more than rely on figures provided to us by the MoJ.

“Things have got so bad that the MoJ is trying to rehire staff it made redundant.

“If this doesn’t constitute a prisons crisis, what does?”

Howard League’s research shows a 41 per cent decline in officers in England and Wales over four years.

It leaves Woodhill jail with just 290 officers to control its 810 prisoners, in comparison to 452 in August 2010.

The Ministry of Justice claims the figures are not a fair comparison because they are not “like for like”, but were unable to provide individual prison figures.

Instead they say is a 27 per cent decrease in the number of officers nationally.

The research follows a report by the Citizen in August which revealed one in seven self inflicted deaths of prisoners nationally happens at Woodhill.

Howard League argues the 69 per cent rise in suicide rate in 12 months is a result of not having enough officers.

Andrew Selous MP said: “It’s beyond me why the Howard League go out of their way to deliberately mislead the public on the state of our prisons.

“They are less overcrowded than they have been for a decade and they are well-run, due to the dedication of the hard-working staff in them. Consistently trying to claim otherwise helps no one.

“We have seen a rapid improvement in the labour market in the south-east, which has led to temporary staff shortages in some prisons.

“However, we are conducting an ongoing recruitment campaign and establishing a reserve force of staff who can be called on when needed.”

Andrew Pakes, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Milton Keynes South, said: “This looks like more difficult news for Woodhill which is already operating under a stretched budget.

“It is incredible that the government have cut the number of prison officers at Woodhill by over a third in less than four years, but don’t think it will impact on the service.”

Andrew Selous MP said: “It’s beyond me why the Howard League go out of their way to deliberately mislead the public on the state of our prisons.

“They are less overcrowded than they have been for a decade and they are well-run, due to the dedication of the hard-working staff in them. Consistently trying to claim otherwise helps no one.

“We have seen a rapid improvement in the labour market in the South East, which has led to temporary staff shortages in some prisons.

“However, we are conducting an ongoing recruitment campaign and establishing a reserve force of staff who can be called on when needed.”