Prison officers took their fight to save the service from "absolute meltdown" to Westminster today.
Over 100 POA members took part in a mass lobby of Parliament to demand the government stop its triple-pronged assault of sell-offs, cuts and closures.
Since 2010 the prison estate has lost 5,000 places and in January Justice Minister Chris Grayling said seven jails would close.
At the same time the prison population has risen above 80,000.
The POA said ministers are "playing fast and loose" with the safety of inmates, staff and the public.
General secretary Steve Gillan told the Morning Star: "The government is playing smoke and mirrors."
He said the prison population was 4,700 over the limit "for safe and decent accommodation.
"We could be reaching a point where the justice system is heading for absolute meltdown due to cuts to prisons, policing and probation."
One of the prisons due to close is HMP Bullwood Hall in Essex.
POA committee member for the jail Phil Stanbridge told the Morning Star: "The National Offender Management Service is preaching about decency and respect but we are one of the top-performing prisons and we are being closed."
Staff had been given 74 days notice of the closure, he said.
"How can you decide your future in 74 days?"
POA member Jackie Marshall, from Stoke Heath prison, said the closures were devastating morale.
"There is so much happening at once and no-one knows what the future holds," she said.
Earlier in the day the POA had set up shop so MPs could drop by and get the true facts on the prisons crisis.
Ian Lavery MP, who has backed the POA's campaign, said: "The unprecedented attack on the prison service is continuing and shows no sign of abating.
"Privatisation, prison closures plus staff reductions and increasing prisoner numbers does not bode well for the future.
"The prison service should be run by the state, for the state in the best interests of the state.
"It is preposterous to have private companies making a profit from crime."
Fellow Labour MP John McDonnell told the rally that they must warn the public and MPs of the dangers of the government's privatisation plans.
"We all know what privatisation means for members - cuts to wages and conditions and the union's ability to defend its members," he said.
He urged members to use the union's political muscle in the run-up to the next election to tell the coalition that its plans are unacceptable.
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond believes himself vindicated by the High Court ruling that his Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) is independent.
A look at the causes and possible outcomes of Silvio Berlusconi and his right-wing coalition's lead in the polls.
Attacks such as yesterday's horrific murder in Woolwich didn't happen before the 'war on terror.' It's time we recognised the consequences of the conflicts we've unleashed