Unions state concern for health and safety of prison staff

UNISON signs joint letter to prisons minister

The Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance (JUPA) today wrote to Prisons Minister Lucy Frazer QC, raising the urgent issue of health and safety conditions for prison staff.

The letter, co-signed by UNISON, reads: “Our members are raising growing concerns about threats to their health and safety at work, and the impact this has on their ability to perform their professional roles safely and effectively.”

JUPA brings together nine national unions representing staff working across the prison system in England and Wales. JUPA’s ‘Safe Inside’ report on the health and safety of prison staff found that:

  • 78% of all respondents had experienced verbal abuse in the past 12 months;
  • 26% of all respondents had experienced physical abuse;
  • 53% had experienced exposure to psychoactive substances, in instances where inmates were using them. This resulted in 39% of those people becoming ill and almost all of them reporting feelings of light-headedness, dizziness, confusion and tiredness;
  • Nearly two in three prison workers reported they felt unsafe at work.

National Officer Ben Priestly said: “Prison is a tough and demanding working environment for probation staff. The JUPA report into health and safety violations in prison is a wake-up call to the Ministry of Justice. Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service must work harder to protect our members. This will be on the agenda when we meet with the Prisons and Probation Minister Lucy Fraser next month.”

UNISON believes that prison and probationary staff have a right to work in safety without the fear of being attacked. Government cuts and austerity measures have contributed to a crisis in the prison service, not just for prison staff but supporting services such as probation and education services.

The letter concludes: “As an alliance, we are keen to work with you to find ways to improve the conditions for our members working in prison settings across England and Wales, and ensure a safe and effective prison service.”