Prison guards are demanding body armour and police-style uniformsJune 3, 2023
Prison guards are demanding body armour and police-style uniforms amid an epidemic of violence in jails
- Prison officers branded their current white shirt and trousers uniform a ‘joke’
- The Prison Officers Association has now asked for stab-proof vest protection
Prison officers are demanding body armour and police-style uniforms amid an epidemic of violence in jails.
The officers have branded their current uniform – plain white shirts or polo shirts, and black trousers – a ‘joke’.
By comparison, police are equipped with stab-proof vests and other safety equipment.
A trade union boss has warned that the lack of body armour puts prison officers at risk as they deal with potentially life-threatening incidents on the wings.
‘We have asked for stab vests and the employer (HM Prison and Probation Service) is very reluctant to issue them,’ said Prison Officers Association chairman Mark Fairhurst.
Prison officers are demanding body armour and police-style uniforms amid an epidemic of violence in jails. Pictured: HMP Lincoln
‘We have asked for stab vests and the employer (HM Prison and Probation Service) is very reluctant to issue them,’ said Prison Officers Association chairman Mark Fairhurst (pictured)
‘They are worried about us intimidating prisoners if we are wearing stab vests. But I don’t feel intimidated when I see a traffic warden or a Tesco security guard wearing one. So the Prison Service should just give us what we need.’
He added: ‘We are sending prison officers in to break up knife fights with no more than a polo shirt and a body-worn camera.
‘The current uniform is a joke. The police aren’t expected to intervene in a dangerous situation like that when it takes place on the streets.
‘But prison officers are required to do so when exactly the same thing happens behind bars.’
The union is now making a formal request to HMPPS for stab vests and upgraded uniforms.
Officers working in more volatile jails could wear the gear at all times on the wings, one union official suggested.
The union is now making a formal request to HMPPS for stab vests and upgraded uniforms. Pictured: HMP Wandsworth
READ MORE: Shocking moment inmate lunges at prison guard with sharpened plastic knife
Latest Ministry of Justice figures show there were 20,993 assaults recorded in prisons in England and Wales last year, up 7 per cent annually.
More than 2,400 of those were classed as ‘serious’ assaults – a rise of almost a fifth year-on-year.
There were also 7,229 assaults committed by prisoners against staff, down 4 per cent year-on-year.
However, the number of assaults on staff classed as ‘serious’ rose by 2 per cent to 709. Officers have also demanded that ceramic crockery and tinned food should be banned from prison wings to prevent them from being used as improvised weapons.
The Prison Officers Association will renew pressure on jail bosses to stop the items being purchased by inmates through a mail order ‘canteen’ scheme.
Ceramic crockery is smashed and used to slash prison officers, other inmates or self-harm, the union said.
Canned goods are either placed in a sock to use as a cosh, or the opened lid is used as a blade.
Mr Fairhurst said: ‘We read daily reports of staff being attacked with shards of ceramic cups and plates.
‘These items have already been banned from some prisons but we want them removed from all jails.
‘Tinned food that can be purchased by inmates should be replaced by plastic pouches and containers.’
A Prison Service spokesman said: ‘We have a zero-tolerance approach to violence and as a result of the hard work of our staff and our £100million investment in prison security – including X-ray body scanners and new body-worn cameras – assaults are nearly 30 per cent lower than they were in 2019.’
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