Isle of Wight prison officers are joining in with a national protest this morning (Friday), over concerns about health and safety.
Scroll down for video
The Prison Officers Association (POA) called for all its members across England and Wales to walk out of their workplaces ‘until instructed otherwise’.
The POA said it was demanding that the Government improve safety in jails and reduce violence and overcrowding, which it says has drastically increased.
Officers are outside HMP Isle of Wight today and the union expects at least 5,000 prison officers to take part in the protests nationally.
Speaking exclusively to Isle of Wight Radio, Glen Holmes POA chair at Parkhurst, said:
“The reason we are here is for a health and safety protest meeting.
“It is because of assaults and policies not being followed. We have seen a year on year increase on assaults on staff. We feel the Governors don’t want to do anything about it.
“Everyone needs to know that staff aren’t safe, prisoners aren’t safe and the prisons aren’t safe.
“We have skeleton staff in the prison. It is safe as can be expected. But prisoners shouldn’t be unlocked by Governors in there today because they are not trained properly for that.”
Speaking exclusively to Isle of Wight Radio, Neil Yule, POA Chair for Albany, said:
“Every day we are having members of our staff assaulted – and they are nasty, vicious assaults. It’s not being taken seriously.
“This year alone we have seen a 30 per cent increase in assaults on staff and over 60 per cent increase on prisoner on prisoner assaults. This is about safety for everyone – not just prison officers.
“The problem is the Government and the relevant departments have made promises that have not been followed through with.
“We need actions and we need them now to protect our officers.”
LISTEN: Isle of Wight Radio’s Jamie White speaking to Glen and Neil:
Isle of Wight Radio has asked the Ministry of Justice for a comment.
*Prisons Minister Rory Stewart 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 (Thursday) 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.”
If you are on the go, the Isle of Wight Radio app helps bring you closer to the latest news. Our push notifications help highlight the biggest stories to you, first. Download our FREE app here.