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Wednesday 11th
posted by Will Stone in Britain

by Will Stone at POA conference in Southport

VIOLENCE in prisons has become so bad that staff in some jails are being attacked almost every day.

The shocking statistic was flagged up yesterday by Prison Officers’ Association (POA) delegates at the union’s annual conference.

Nottingham branch’s Pete Rosindell said there had been 23 assaults on staff at HMP Nottingham in April alone.

“That’s almost one assault every day,” he said. “And they’re not just minor injuries — some officers have required stitches.”

And delegates warned the true figure was much higher, as many attacks go unreported by prison officers.

Swinfen Hall’s Phil Seager highlighted that assaults on staff have almost doubled since 2012.

“By my maths, every member will have been assaulted in six years’ time,” he said.

He argued that securing a clear zero-tolerance commitment from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is more urgent than ever, given recent incidents at Wormwood Scrubs.

Two “seriously injured” prison officers were rushed to hospital after an attack there on Sunday.

Around 50 prison officers at Wormwood Scrubs walked out on Friday over health and safety concerns due to recent attacks.

However, executive member Terry Fullerton rubbished zero tolerance as “all talk with very little action.”

Waving a zero-tolerance guideline leaflet, he pointed out that it would not be much use in the face of a prisoner about to attack.

“You can’t hold up a leaflet and expect it to stop violence,” Mr Fullerton said.

He demanded that the government reinstate the 3,000 prison officer posts that have been cut if it is serious about stopping violence.

And it’s not just prisoners attacking prison officers, executive member Ian Carson explained, saying that as he had witnessed one inmate trying to decapitate another with a table tennis bat at HMP Holme House.

“This problem is about unsupported staff working unsafely,” he warned.

Delegates stressed the importance of routine searching of inmates to help remove drugs and weapons.

Another deterrent is the use of cameras worn by prison officers, argued Birmingham branch’s Brian Clarke.

“Nine out of 10 prisoners will back down if they know you’re wearing one,” he said.

However, other delegates warned that the cameras were a “double-edged sword” because footage from them can be used by management to carry out reviews of staff performance.

Executive member Mark Fairhurst suggested that the tactical use of Tasers and pepper spray could be another response to violence.