Prison jobs fears highlighted

HMP Northumberland.
HMP Northumberland.

A prison officer has warned that staff will not be able to cope if job cuts are enforced after two serious incidents took place.

Last week, three prisoners gained access to the roof of HMP Northumberland and refused to come down for five hours, in what was believed to be an attempted break-out.

The inmates got up onto the top of the building at around 2.30pm and were coaxed down buy national teams at 7.30pm.

And a source told the Gazette that the day before a prisoner was hit with ‘a 17 kilo dumb-bell’ in the gym. He said: “He was admitted to hospital with a concave skull, broken eye socket and cheekbone, has fragments of skull pressing against his eye and needs surgery to plate and pin it.”

The incidents have caused concerns for staff as it was announced earlier this month that up to 200 jobs could be axed when the jail is privatised from the beginning of December.

If positions are lost, staff feel that they could be put in difficult situations.

The officer said: “All of this has been going on and staff were needed and managed to cope.

“But with the cuts coming, there will not be enough staff to respond to incidents like this.”

MP for the Berwick constituency, Sir Alan Beith, said: “Safety and security are essential in any prison, and I have already met Sodexo management to warn them of concerns that a reduction in officer numbers at HMP Northumberland may undermine safety.

“The onus is on the company to show how they can run a safe prison with fewer officers than the public-sector bid, which was drawn up by people with experience of running this prison.”

A prison service spokesman said: “On Thursday, October 17, three prisoners at HMP Northumberland gained access to the roof at approximately 2.30pm.

“The incident was successfully resolved by 7.30pm without injuries to either staff or prisoners.”

The Gazette contacted the prison service for a comment on the effect of job losses on such incidents, but by deadline no response had been received.