London’s prisons only see an extra 22 officers in 18 months

Prison officer in Wormwood Scrubs

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A number of prisons have recorded a drop in staffing despite a recruitment drive

A recruitment drive to employ more prison officers has seen just 22 extra staff in government-run prisons in London since September 2016.

HMP Belmarsh, Pentonville and Wormwood Scrubs have all seen staff numbers fall despite the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) recruiting 4,563 officers in 2017.

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has raised concerns over retaining staff after hundreds quit last year.

The MoJ claims it has a strategy to help keep experienced staff in the job.

Data seen by the BBC shows nearly 2,000 prison officers left in 2017, 487 of which were new recruits in the first year of their service.

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Rachel Long believes people are put off by conditions in the prison service

Rachel Long, who worked as a prison officer at HMP Wandsworth for nearly 18 months, felt the recruitment process was “fine” but echoed the POA’s worries over keeping its employees.

“On my training we had about 30 people for those six weeks,” she said.

“Out of all of them I think there are only five left in the prison service which is insane considering the training was about three years ago.

“I do not think the problem is recruitment, I think the problem is that no-one stays once they are in they see what the conditions are like.”

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Wormwood Scrubs lost 15 prison officers between September 2016 and December 2017

Statistics show in September 2016 there were 1,832 officers working as custodial managers, supervising officers and prison officers in HMP Belmarsh, Brixton, Pentonville, Isis, Wormwood Scrubs, Feltham and Downview.

By December 2017, this total figure had risen to 1,854.

However, during that time period only Brixton (+34) and Wandsworth (+21) prisons gained staff.

A number of prisons lost employees, including Belmarsh (-22), Pentonville (-20), Isis (-1), Wormwood Scrubs (-15) and Feltham (-3).

Commenting on the data, Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Staffing is the golden thread that links the solutions we need to put in place to drive improvement, so I am delighted our recruitment efforts are working.”

The POA claimed the government’s recruitment campaign was “nothing more than smoke and mirrors”.

A spokesman said: “These statistics clearly demonstrate that enticing new staff into the job in the London area is simply not happening.

“A new pay structure and a return to a retirement age of 60 would encourage people to not only join but to stay in the job.”

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