Blundeston prison staffing worries monitoring board

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Media captionThe prison's commitment to rehabilitation has been praised by the Independent Monitoring Board

Cuts at Blundeston prison in Suffolk are adversely affecting rehabilitation provision, a report says.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) said the number of officers had dropped from 140 to 104 in the past two years.

The IMB said that, while the jail was well-run, further cuts would mean less time for training the 524 inmates.

The Ministry of Justice said it would respond to the board's report in due course, adding it was committed to prisoner rehabilitation.

The IMB said further spending cuts of 3% have been suggested for 2014-15, and these needed to be reviewed.

'More for less'

Michael Cadman, chairman of the IMB, said: "If you're looking for something that's constructive for prisoners and is going to work you need to put funding into it and, if you're not doing that, then you're not doing what you promised to do.

Image caption Staff numbers at HMP Blundeston have dropped from 140 to 104 over two years

"If there are any further cuts, then rehabilitation work is going to suffer and prisons become more about containment and staff have less time to interact positively with prisoners."

Dean Acaster, area representative for the Prison Officers Association (POA), said: "We're pleased the IMB have come out and said this and we share their concerns and fear that staff will not be able to provide services in terms of rehabilitation, security and decency.

"We're just being asked to do more for less and within a prison environment, that's just very difficult to maintain."

The report praised the prison for the work that does take place and noted its welding workshop won a trophy for being the best workshop in the Prison Service.

Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney which includes Blundeston, said: "There is a concern that with the cuts, there is too thin a covering of uniformed staff which might mean if there was a major disturbance, then resources could be stretched."

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "The report by the IMB will be fully considered by ministers and we will respond in due course.

"We are determined to reduce reoffending by rehabilitating offenders.

"The protection of the public and security at HMP Blundeston is an absolute priority and we are committed to ensuring staffing levels reflect this."

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