The prison officers’ union, the POA, took protest action over the huge rise in violence in Britain’s prisons. It was triggered by a letter from Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke to the Secretary of State issuing an Urgent Notification Notice at HMP Bedford following a catalogue of failure.
There has been a 70 per cent increase in the number of assaults on prison officers in the three years to 2017. The protests were only called off after the Prisons Minister, Rory Stewart gave a commitment to instruct the Government to meet the POA and agree a plan of action to address the concerns of the union.
The POA has been asking that the Government provide safer prisons, including improved Personal Protective Equipment and reduced levels of violence and overcrowding. Before the action, POA General Secretary 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 and 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 and 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.”