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14 September 2018, 08:10 | Updated: 14 September 2018, 09:50
We could see prison staff protest outside jails in Herts, Beds, Bucks and Northants - after Bedford Jail was condemned as failing yesterday.
The head of the Prison Officers Association has just called for all members to protest outside their respective jails today to demand the government and prison providers offer safe places to work. It's after a rise in violence against staff in prisons across the country - the latest offical inspection at Bedford jail found very high levels of violence.
The POA General Secretary Steve Gillan has today called for all POA members in England and Wales prisons to take protest action outside their workplaces from 7am until instructed otherwise.
This decision follows the Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke letter to the Secretary of State issuing an Urgent Notification Notice at HMP Bedford following a catalogue of failure.
In a news release the PoA says: The unprecedented levels of violence, and failure of this Government and employer to provide safe prisons has been headline news for some considerable time.
The rise in violence against staff in prisons is laid firmly at the feet of Government and HMPPS, who have overseen the demise of the Prison Service over the last eight years.
Steve Gillan said: 'The POA has engaged with the Employer and Ministers in an attempt to resolve issues, but they are paying lip service to the Health & Safety of my members their Human Rights, that of other workers in prisons and of course the prisoners in our care. Earlier this year the POA commenced legal proceedings due to the Government’s failure to provide safe prisons. Bedford with other prisons was placed into Special Measures and commitments made to this union from Government and HMPPS.
These commitments were not met and we have issued a further Pre-Action Protocol Letter as part of the Judicial Review process because of their failings to provide safe prisons. We will now be demanding that the Government provide safe prisons, meet our demands to improve Personal Protective Equipment, reduce levels of violence and overcrowding as set out by Lord Justice Woolf in his report into the riots of 1990."
Rory Stewart has 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.
It’s 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. We’ve 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 we’ve now got 3,500 new officers to help ease the burden.
We are taking the action that needs to be taken."