Majority of prison staff feel unsafe with one in four the victim of violence

One in four staff working in prisons has been the victim of physical violence in the last year, new research suggests.

A study by a coalition of nine trade unions and professional organisations indicated that one in seven of those victims said they have been assaulted more than 10 times in the past year.

Most of those who reported a physical assault were dissatisfied with the action taken by their employer.

In a fifth of cases, respondents said no action was taken at all.

Almost two-thirds of those questioned reported feeling unsafe at work in the last 12 months.

The survey also looked at the effect of exposure to psychoactive substances – including spice – on staff.

More than half said they had been exposed to substances such as spice, leaving many with light-headedness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Paul Cottrell, acting general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Prison educators play a vital role in rehabilitating offenders and should not have to run the gauntlet of violence and drug exposure when they go to work.

“This survey shows that not only is violence against staff in prisons shockingly frequent, they are also routinely subjected to the harmful effects of psychoactive substances.

“It is appalling that two-thirds of staff in prisons report feeling unsafe in their workplace, and that so many say their concerns aren’t being dealt with properly.

“We urgently need much tougher action from the Government and prison employers to improve the safety and working conditions of staff in our prisons.”

The survey was carried out among 1,643 staff at more than 100 prisons in England and Wales.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Our staff should be able to carry out their work safely and we have invested an extra £70 million to tackle issues such as the drugs that fuel violence behind bars.

“We introduced the Emergency Workers’ Bill to increase the punishment for those who assault staff and have recruited an additional 4,700 officers since 2016.

“Violence in prisons remains unacceptably high but fell in the final quarter of 2018.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Michael Cooper / PA Wire.