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union members protest over HMP Hewell safety

“DEGRADING” jail conditions and assaults on prison officers – which left one with a broken leg – have led union members at HMP Hewell to join protests over health and safety concerns.

Around 60 prison officers have staged a 24-hour protest outside the Tardebigge jail today (November 15) after talks between the Prison Officers Association (POA) and the government broke down.

Protesters claim Hewell suffers from ease of drug and drone use, prison officers being assaulted and spat on, and inmates left “virtually dying on the floor”.

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), condemned the action, which the Ministry of Justice said was “unlawful”.

Yet a POA Hewell branch official said: “We are highlighting prison violence, misuse of drugs and the menaces we deal with every day and the lack of support we get from Michael Spurr.

“On Monday we had two female members of staff assaulted, spat on, and one punched in the head. Two weeks ago we had a broken leg.

“These are prison officers doing their jobs and NOMS refuse to acknowledge the scale of the issue.

“Conditions we are asked to put prisoners in are unsafe, degrading, and embarrassing and that is because of what we are given to work with.

“We have got people threatening people, drug misuse, we have seen people virtually dying on the floor and that is organised crime that has been allowed to go on

“We need to address staff-to-prisoner ratios and the repairing of damaged cells.

“We need mobile phone and drone blockers which would probably cost less than Michael Spurr’s bonus for the last year.

“The technology is there and they are not expensive either. You can go to Maplins and get drone blockers for a couple 100 quid.

“We would all club together and pay for it ourselves as the difference it would make to the safety of this establishment would be huge.

“We cannot guarantee the safety of prisoners in there and that’s down to how we have been cut back over successive years.

“They have cut too much and haven’t even consulted us.

“If we don’t do anything about it now when are we going to do it? How bad has it got to be? Has one of us got to die? Have we got to wait for that before something happens?

“These things have been going on for a couple of years and staff are so fed up. Some here today are not even union members – that’s how strong we feel about it.”

The protests come just weeks after Justice Secretary Liz Truss announced £104 million per year reforms for an extra 2,500 prison officers in jails across the country.

Glenn Travis, assistant secretary of POA, told the Advertiser the reforms were “not enough”.

But speaking on 5 Live this morning, Michael Spurr said staging protests with “unnecessary and dangerous” industrial action could “more likely make things worse”.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman added: “There is no justification for this action.

“We have been engaged in constructive talks with the POA over the last two weeks and have provided a comprehensive response to a range of health and safety concerns.

“The Government has announced an additional 2,500 frontline officers to help reduce violence in prisons.

“We have well established contingencies in place to manage prisons and keep the public safe but we are clear that this constitutes unlawful industrial action, and we will seek remedy in the courts.”

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