Extra officers at Wigan prison boost security and wellbeing

A prison cell
A prison cell

Hindley Prison has strengthened its workforce significantly over the last year, as part of a recruitment drive to tackle increasing violence across England and Wales’s prisons.

The Howard League for Penal Reform has welcomed the boost to prison workforces, saying the Government has recognised the need to “ease the pressure on the prison system”.

Home Office figures show that there were the equivalent of 308 full-time members of staff at Hindley Prison in December, an increase of 47.

Staffing levels are now 49 more than the previous year, but, worryingly, still 22 fewer than in 2013.

Deaths, violence and self-harm cases hit record levels in England and Wales’s prisons during the first nine months of 2018.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said: “Ministers have rightly identified we must ease pressure on prisons, and the rising levels of violence and self-injury behind bars show why change is so needed.

“A larger workforce ought to have a positive impact but, ultimately, reducing the number of prisoners is the key to protecting staff, saving lives and making the public safer. Legislation to abolish short prison sentences would be an important first step.”

Of the staff in Hindley Prison at the end of 2018, 65% were operational prison officers – a total of 200, an increase of 47 compared to a year earlier.

Altogether, 249 were considered operational staff, including management and other operational support.

When the recruitment was first announced, Steve Douglas, the chair of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) at Hindley, said: “We need to recruit as many staff as we can because we are struggling.

“We cannot continue with the staffing levels we’ve got and retaining prison officers these days is hard. Across the country we’ve got staff doing 80 or 90 hours a week just to maintain a decent standard of living and people actually going to foodbanks, while the Government sits back and allows it to happen.”

The 50 posts advertised offered a salary of £22,396 a year for a 37-hour week, with the possibility of opting in to do an extra two hours.

No formal qualifications are needed.