THE BLOG
14/09/2018 12:14 BST | Updated 14/09/2018 12:14 BST

Prison Officers Are Facing Unprecedented Violence - Today's Walkout Must Be A Warning To Government

If action is not taken now to protect workers, stop overcrowding and bring safety back to the prison system, I fear a return to dark days

Hannah Mckay / Reuters
Prison officers stage a protest walkout outside Wormwood Scrubs Prison in London, Britain, September 14, 2018

Prison Officers Association (POA) membership has suffered year-on-year as the unprecedented levels of violence continue to undermine prison staff confidence, with morale at an all-time low.

The prison watchdog’s latest Urgent Notification letter to the justice department, which outlined the catalogue of failures at HMP Bedford, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Today’s protest action, will see up to 5,000 workers take part. Called for by the POA’s General Secretary Steve Gillan despite the live court injunction, the action is supported by members in prisons throughout England and Wales and has given hope to myself and fellow workers within the criminal justice system.

This protest action demonstrates that the POA will not allow the Government to abdicate their responsibility to provide safe prisons, nor will we sit on our hands whilst the employer watches us being used as daily punchbags.

I was at the 150th TUC Congress when many unions talked about the problems in our prisons: Violence, drugs, prisoner debt, self-harm and suicides.

I witness and learn of life-changing injuries following vicious unprovoked assaults on a daily basis.

I deal with members and their families who are coming to terms with both physical and mental injuries and the prospect of never being able to return to work.

I hear of horrifying incidents of self-harm as prisoners fail to cope with the bullying and threats from other prisoners as organised drug crime spirals out of control.

This protest action will hopefully make the employer and Government heed the
warnings and not ignore them.

I have attended the riot at HMP Manchester (Strangeways) in April 1990 and others. If action is not taken now to protect workers, stop overcrowding and bring safety back to the prison system, I fear we will return to those
dark days.