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HMP Berwyn prison officers join widespread walk out over “unprecedented levels of violence”

Update: Sky News have reported at 12:51pm protests have been ‘called off’.

Original information below…

Prison officers at Wrexham’s HMP Berwyn have joined prisons across England and Wales in a walkout over “unprecedented levels of violence” and overcrowding.

Dozens of staff members at the prison walked out at 7am this morning after the Prison Officers Association (POA) called for members to take “protest action outside their workplaces from 7am until instructed otherwise”.

The decision comes as a result of the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke’s letter to the Secretary of State issuing an urgent notification notice at HMP Bedford following a catalogue of failure.

The POA say that the “unprecedented levels of violence and the failure of this government and employer to provide safe prisons has been headline news for some considerable time”.

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the association, said: “The POA has engaged with the employers 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 with 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.

“We will now be demanding that the Government provide safe prisons, meet our demands to improve Personal Protective Equipment, reduce levels of violence and overcrowding as set out by Lord Justice Woolf in his report into the riots of 1990.”

However the POA has been called “irresponsible: for encouraging members to take part in in “this unlawful action”, by Prisons Minister, Rory Stewart.

Mr 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 unlawful 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 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 £40 million 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.”

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