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20 October 2014, 16:42
The Howard League for Penal Reform say the numbers of prison officers in the public-sector - across the East of England - has been cut by 30 per cent.
The number of officers at public-sector prisons in the East of England region has been cut by 30 per cent in less than four years, figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today.
Research published by the charity shows that, across England and Wales, there were only 14,170 officer grade staff working in prisons run by the state at the end of June 2014. There were more than 24,000 at the end of August 2010.
This includes 1,375 officer posts that were lost when 15 public-sector prisons were closed during the period.
In the East of England region, officer numbers have been cut from 2,274 to 1,590.
The drop in officer numbers has coincided with a deepening prison overcrowding crisis and an alarming rise in the number of self-inflicted deaths in custody.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:
"The prison system is in crisis, and these figures reveal why. While the prison population has grown, officer numbers have been cut without any thought for the consequences. A shortage of governors makes matters even worse, because officers are being taken off the wings and asked to 'act up' to fill vacancies.
Having made prison officers redundant, the Ministry of Justice is now apparently struggling to recruit. These are desperate times, and ministers are resorting to desperate measures."
In July 2014, the Howard League warned that prisons were at breaking point as it revealed figures showing officer numbers had been cut in all prisons - public and private - by 30 per cent in three years.
The charity's findings were supported by the Prison Governors' Association and the prison officers' union, the POA, who urged the government to act.
Since then, the damaging impact of staff cuts has been highlighted in a series of inspection reports published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons. Safety concerns were raised in reports on Ranby, Glen Parva, Hindley, Isis, Wormwood Scrubs, and Swaleside prisons.
Today's figures show how staffing levels are getting worse, not better - and how public-sector prisons have borne the brunt of the cuts."
Prisons Minister Andrew Selous 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."