Nottingham Prison 'dangerous' due to budget cuts

Nottingham Prison
Image caption Nottingham had the most "incidents at height"

Officers at Nottingham Prison are "getting assaulted on a regular basis" because of budget cuts, overcrowding and a lack of staff, a union claims.

The POA union says HMP Nottingham is "extremely tense and dangerous" and has asked for a review of staffing levels.

Disturbances known as "incidents at height" increased from 11 in 2011 to 48 last year, recorded figures show.

In response, the Prison Service said it is ensuring "best value for the taxpayer".

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the POA, formerly the Prison Officers' Association, said: "Nottingham has been on our radar as a trade union for quite some time.

"Nottingham, we would say, is a powder keg prison. We are continually getting reports of issues and incidents at Nottingham."

An incident at height is defined as any incident taking place over three feet from ground level and includes where prisoners have gained access to safety netting.

Mr Gillan said: "Prisoners are getting onto nettings, they are scaling heights to protest and to disrupt regimes, and it means prison officers have got to negotiate to get them down, and it does disrupt the regime."

Figures obtained by the BBC show the total number of incidents at height in prisons across the East Midlands rose from 25 in 2011 to 169 last year.

Nottingham recorded more incidents at height than any other prison.

'Never complacent'

Mr Gillan said: "We are concerned not just about incidents at height, we are concerned about assaults, passive demonstrations, barricades and a whole range of issues, and it's on the increase.

"There has been a prison closure programme, and one of the major problems is that Nottingham has got a certified normal accommodation of around 700, and it's holding over 1,000 prisoners, so it's actually 50% overcrowded."

The latest disruption happened on Wednesday, when prisoners refused to return to their cells for six hours, but the Prison Service said no staff or prisoners were injured.

Mr Gillan added: "The budget cuts at Nottingham have been severe and the lack of staff is prohibiting, we would say, proper rehabilitation of prisoners."

In a statement, the Prison Service said: "We are never complacent about the safety of staff or the security within our prisons.

"We are reforming and modernising the prison estate to ensure best value for the taxpayer while also providing safe and secure prisons that deliver effective rehabilitation.

"Staffing levels remain appropriate to run a safe and efficient prison and are in line with national guidelines."

Incidents at height at prisons in the East Midlands
2011 2012 2013
Foston Hall 0 1 3
Sudbury 0 0 0
Totals 0 1 3
Leicestershire and Rutland
Gartee 0 1 0
Glen Parva 0 3 8
Leicester 1 3 7
Stocken 3 9 24
Totals 4 16 39
Lowdham Grange 1 1 25
Nottingham 11 40 48
Ranby 4 18 27
Whatton 0 0 0
Totals 16 59 99
Lincoln 5 37 27
Morton Hall 0 5 1
North Sea Camp 0 0 0
Totals 5 42 28
East Midlands total 25 118 169

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