Lincoln Prison officers walk out over safety fears

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Around 40 Lincoln Prison officers have stopped working today as part of a national protest over health and safety concerns.

The Prison Officers Association (POA) has instructed branch officials to conduct protest action outside prisons until midnight on Tuesday, November 15.

A group representing what one person has described as most of the Lincoln Prison officers’ work force is taking action outside the prison on Greetwell Road.

Action follows the union’s previous decision to halt planned action and allow talks to take place with governments to address concerns.

The POA said discussions have not addressed fears or provided sufficient safeguards. As a result, a protest began at midnight.

Frontline prison officer and regional POA spokesperson Paul Wray. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Frontline prison officer and regional POA spokesperson Paul Wray. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Lincoln prison officer Paul Wray told The Lincolnite: “We’re severely understaffed and we’re trying to do what we can to make it work. But enough is enough. It’s just not safe.

“Nationally and locally assaults are up.  It’s happening on a very regular basis. Sometimes on a daily basis. We just haven’t got the staff to look after everyone in our care properly.

“There should be around 120 frontline prison officers at Lincoln Prison and at the moment we are about 20% short on that.

“I’d like the government to listen to us and stop sacrificing our safety for the sake of saving pounds.”

The union said in a statement: “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.

“The continued surge in violence and unprecedented levels of suicide and acts of self harm, coupled with the recent murder and escapes demonstrate that the service is in meltdown.

“The POA as a responsible trades union will ensure every prison has minimum cover arrangements in place to protect prisoner wellbeing security and safety, during this protest. The union is seeking urgent meetings with the government to secure a safe and sensible resolution to these issues.”

‘Unlawful action’

The Ministry of Justice has fiercely condemned the action, blasting it as “unlawful”.

An MOJ spokesman, said: “There is no justification for this action.

“We have been engaged in constructive talks with the POA over the last two weeks and have provided a comprehensive response to a range of health and safety concerns.

“The government has announced an additional 2,500 frontline officers to help reduce violence in prisons.

“We have well established contingencies in place to manage prisons and keep the public safe but we are clear that this constitutes unlawful industrial action, and we will seek remedy in the courts.”

In September, Lincoln Prison was placed under a 24-hour lockdown after prisoners began rioting, causing significant damage to cells.

Some 30 inmates were forcibly removed from the Category B men’s prison. They are subject to an ongoing police investigation.