HMP Isle of Wight officers stage mass walkout

Prison officers at HMP Isle of Wight have staged a mass walkout on Friday (September 14). 

They are protesting against conditions at HMP Bedford.

Officers say they are angered at the high levels of violence staff are experiencing at Bedford.

Staff stood outside HMP Isle of Wight

They are also protesting in solidarity with other prison officers across the UK who have similar complaints about working conditions.

The POA general secretary Steve Gillan said: “The POA has engaged with the Employer and Ministers in an attempt to resolve issues, but they are paying lip service to the Health & 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.”

POA Demands

  • The roll out of Pava (an incapacitant spray), an increase in drug and patrol dogs, drone and mobile phone blockers, daily perimeter checks and searching, reduction in the prisoner to staff ratio in all prisons, dedicated search teams, the introduction of ridged cuffs to all staff.
  • Body Scanners, tougher sentencing for assaults on prison staff; and
  • The full implementation of recommendation seven of Lord Justice Woolf report into the 1990 riots and a new Prison Rule that no establishment should hold more prisoners than is provided for in its certified normal level of accommodation, with provisions for parliament to be informed if exceptionally there is to be a material departure from that rule (paragraphs 1.192and 1.193)

A POA spokesman added: “The unprecedented levels of violence in prisons following the government’s austerity measures in 2010 can’t be ignored any longer.

“Psychoactive substances have been recognised as a “game changer” despite promises by minister’s to address this, POA members are being affected physically and mentally on a daily basis, due to the effects and second hand exposure of these substances.

“Furthermore, prisoners are being bullied, assaulted and forced into debt as gangs continue to operate illegal activities in prison.”

Julian Critchley

Julian Critchley, Island Labour Chair, said: “Our prison officers here on the Isle of Wight are dedicated public servants. They are resilient and robust, and they have to be in order to do their job.

“So when those good people are telling us that there is a serious and dangerous problem in our prisons, and that they are unsafe as a result, then we should all listen.

“The crisis in our prison system has taken another turn for the worst – our prison staff are facing extraordinary levels of violence and poor conditions.

“Cuts to prison budgets by this Conservative government have created this unprecedented crisis.”

“We support of the prison officers and staff at HMP Isle of Wight, and their colleagues in the prison service across the country.”

“A Labour government would recruit 3000 more prison officers, publish prisoner-officer ratios, and lift the public sector pay cap to help increase recruitment and retention of prison and probation officers.”