UK

Liz Truss to resume Prison Officers Association talks

Prison officer

Justice Secretary Liz Truss will restart talks with the prison officers' union later amid claims the service in England and Wales is "in meltdown".

On Tuesday, up to 10,000 prison officers in England and Wales stopped work over claims of a "surge in violence" among inmates.

Prison Officers Association members were ordered back to work after the government won a High Court injunction.

The Ministry of Justice said Ms Truss had now asked the POA to resume talks.

The National Offender Management Service, which is responsible for correctional services in England and Wales, said it had contacted the POA to offer a meeting with Ms Truss on Thursday.

A MoJ spokesman said the government welcomed the union's decision to end Tuesday's "unlawful industrial action".

"We are committed to improving safety across the prison estate and are already taking action.

"This includes tackling the use of drugs, mobile phones and drones while recruiting new staff and improving protection for staff.

"The justice secretary already met with the POA earlier this month but would not do so again until they called off their unlawful action.

"Now that prison officers are back at work she will meet the POA and invites them to resume talks with her team."

Earlier this month, Ms Truss unveiled a White Paper detailing £1.3bn investment in new prisons over the next five years, including plans for 2,100 extra prison officers, drug tests for inmates on entry and exit from prisons, and more autonomy for governors.

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The POA ended Tuesday's protests by saying it had achieved its aim of securing a meeting with Ms Truss.

The protests began at midnight on Tuesday and came after multiple high-profile incidents at prisons across England.

Two men were arrested on suspicion of murder after Jamal Mahmoud died after being stabbed at Pentonville jail on 18 October in an attack which left two others injured.

Earlier this month prisoners caused almost £1m of damage during a riot at Bedford prison.

Days later at HMP Isle of Wight, an inmate cut a prison officer's throat with a razor blade on the way back to his cell.

It is illegal for officers to strike, but the POA had directed its members to stop working after talks with the government over health and safety concerns broke down.

Announcing the action, it said: "The POA has consistently raised the volatile and dangerous state of prisons, as chronic staff shortages and impoverished regimes has resulted in staff no longer being safe, a lack of discipline and prisoners taking control of areas."

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