Lancaster Farms Prison has strengthened its workforce over the last year, as part of a recruitment drive to tackle increasing violence across England and Wales’s prisons.
The Howard League for Penal Reform has welcomed the boost to prison workforces, saying the Government has recognised the need to “ease the pressure on the prison system”.
Home Office figures show that there were the equivalent of 261 full-time members of staff at Lancaster Farms Prison in December.
It was 33 more than the previous year, an increase of 14% – but still 19 fewer than in 2013.
Deaths, violence and self-harm cases hit record levels in England and Wales’s prisons during the first nine months of 2018.
The overall size of the workforce in the prison service increased by 12%, from 35,700 staff in December 2017 to 39,900 a year later.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said: “Ministers have rightly identified that we must ease pressure on the prison system, and the rising levels of violence and self-injury behind bars show why change is so urgently needed.
“A larger, and refreshed, workforce ought to have a positive impact in the long run but, ultimately, reducing the number of prisoners is the key to protecting staff, saving lives and making the public safer.
“Legislation to abolish short prison sentences would be an important first step.”
Of the staff in Lancaster Farms Prison at the end of 2018, 64% were operational prison officers – a total of 168, an increase of 23 compared to a year earlier.
Altogether, 208 were considered operational staff, including management and other operational support.
The Ministry of Justice said that they are investing £70 million to improve safety and security across prisons, and that they had recruited 4,300 additional prison officers since October 2016.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Violence and self-harm in our prisons is unacceptably high and these figures underline why we are spending an extra £70 million to fight the drugs plaguing prisons and boost security, while also training over 4,000 new prison officers in handling the complex offender population.
“Clearly there is huge amount yet to be done but I am determined to cut the violence so prisons can focus on rehabilitating the offenders who will be back out at some point.
“I am optimistic that the measures we have been putting in place will help us to reduce violence and ultimately better protect the public.”